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Judas Iscariot

 
 A sicari - the Latin word sicarii translates to "dagger-wielders", from the root secare Latin for "to slice"; in Roman legal Latin it is the standard plural form of the term for a murderer, or for putting a murderer on trial (see e.g. the Lex Cornelia de Sicariis et Veneficiis passed in 82 BCE) during that period of legal Latin.
 
The literary device of Judas Iscariot is one of the more powerful within the textual tradition:

Judas Iscariot (Hebrewיהודה‎, Yəhûḏāh) was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve original apostles of Jesus Christ, and the son of Simon Iscariot. He is notoriously known for his kiss and betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief Sanhedrin priests in exchange for a payment of thirty silver coins. His name is often invoked to accuse someone of betrayal, and is sometimes confused with Jude Thaddeus.

Though there are varied accounts of his death, the traditional version sees him as having hanged himself out of remorse following his betrayal. His place among the Twelve Apostles was later filled by Matthias. He was the first apostle to die, and the only apostle not to achieve sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Tradition holds he and John are the only apostles not to die a martyr's death.


He is a parody of the Sicarii, a group described by Josephus:
a. Now as soon as Albinus was come to the city of Jerusalem, he used all his endeavors and care that the country might be kept in peace, and this by destroying many of the Sicarii.

b. But now the Sicarii went into the city by night, just before the festival, which was now at hand, and took the scribe belonging to the governor of the temple, whose name was Eleazar, who was the son of Ananus [Ananias] the high priest, and bound him, and carried him away with them; after which they sent to Ananias, and said that they would send the scribe to him, if he would persuade Albinus to release ten of those prisoners which he had caught of their party; so Ananias was plainly forced to persuade Albinus, and gained his request of him. This was the beginning of greater calamities; for the robbers perpetually contrived to catch some of Ananias's servants; and when they had taken them alive, they would not let them go, till they thereby recovered some of their own Sicarii. And as they were again become no small number, they grew bold, and were a great affliction to the whole country.
(Josephus - Antiquities of the Jews - Book XX CHAPTER 9)
Lucceius Albinus was Roman Procurator of Judea, 62 - 64.

According to Josephus, these Sicarii terrorised the Greco-Romans of Judea, hiding their knives beneath their robes, roaming the streets to attack non-believers:
This Felix took Eleazar the arch-robber, and many that were with him, alive, when they had ravaged the country for twenty years together, and sent them to Rome; but as to the number of the robbers whom he caused to be crucified, and of those who were caught among them, and whom he brought to punishment, they were a multitude not to be enumerated.

3. When the country was purged of these, there sprang up another sort of robbers in Jerusalem, which were called Sicarii, who slew men in the day time, and in the midst of the city; this they did chiefly at the festivals, when they mingled themselves among the multitude, and concealed daggers under their garments, with which they stabbed those that were their enemies; and when any fell down dead, the murderers became a part of those that had indignation against them; by which means they appeared persons of such reputation, that they could by no means be discovered. The first man who was slain by them was Jonathan the high priest, after whose death many were slain every day, while the fear men were in of being so served was more afflicting than the calamity itself;and while every body expected death every hour, as men do in war, so men were obliged to look before them, and to take notice of their enemies at a great distance; nor, if their friends were coming to them, durst they trust them any longer; but, in the midst of their suspicions and guarding of themselves, they were slain. Such was the celerity of the plotters against them, and so cunning was their contrivance.

4. There was also another body of wicked men gotten together, not so impure in their actions, but more wicked in their intentions, which laid waste the happy state of the city no less than did these murderers. These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense of Divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government; and these prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty. But Felix thought this procedure was to be the beginning of a revolt; so he sent some horsemen and footmen both armed, who destroyed a great number of them.

Eisenman has suggested (The Sociology of MMT and the Conversions of King Agbarus and Queen) that, based on later testimoney, these Sicarii-Essenes "will kill anyone they hear discussing the Law who is not circumcized" - that is not just any Greek or Roman, but those converted by Saul, which is further evidence for Saul, Josephus, Felix and the court of Herod Agrippa II working in league (i.e. being Chrestian).

We should look at this section of Eisenman's argument in detail because as well as describing how the Sicarii are misrepresented, we see how this parody includes both Helen and Izates in this regard:
Conveniently this "eunuch" is reading Isaiah rather than Gen 17 on Abraham's circumcision. In fact, it is Is 53, "the Suffering Servant," one of the most basic of all early Christian proof texts. But the parody on circumcision from the Izates/Monobazus conversion episode in Josephus and Talmudic literature should be clear -- though this with rather malevolent intent -- circumcision being for the Romans a form of bodily mutilation in the manner of castration ( cf. Origen castrating himself in the manner of a "Sicarios" and the Roman ~ex Cornelia de Sicarius, fairly extensively expounded in James the Brother of Jesus). The Queen's eunuch immediately steps down from his chariot and requests baptism -- an important element in the story in linking it to other "baptist" groups further east, whereupon Philip immediately dematerializes and disappears to another place.

Not only is the conversion episode involving Queen Helen's sons being parodied, but so are her Famine relief operations, she having sent her Treasury agents to buy grain as far as Egypt and Cyprus. Of course, the Book of Acts is showing knowledge of these episodes and transforming them in a consistent, if somewhat tendentious manner. In every instance, the point is to get away from the "zeal" of those insisting on circumcision -- whom in the sense of the Roman Lex Cornelia de Sicarius of the First and Second Centuries CE can also be called "Sicarii" after the circumcizer's knife -- into the area of simple baptism or ritual immersion. In this instance, too, the "Ethiopian" Queen's name, "Kandakes," probably can be seen as another parody of one of Queen Helen's martyred descendants in the next generation, "Kenedaeos," one of the leaders of the first successful military operation against the Romans at the Pass at Beit Horon.

The usage of parody, then, is not limited to the Christian textual tradition, and includes the Rabbinic; it began with Josephus.

Despite what Josephus claims, there is no difference between Zealots and Sicarii - these labels actually describe the same people:

The lengthy account given by Josephus for the siege and fall of Masada, at the end of the 1st Jewish-Roman War, has Zealots and Sicraii fighting each other, then the Sicarii flee Jerusalem to Herod the Great's refuge-palace atop Masada, where after a lengthy siege, they commit suicide. This is another parody:
The suicide of Judas Iscariot (originally "the Sicarius") represents a mixing of elements that make more sense in their presumably earlier setting in the life of James and Jude. The suicide element (as well as the drawing of lots in the adjacent context in Acts 1) comes from the drawing of lots to begin the suicides of the Sicarii at Masada. The falling headlong comes from James' being pushed from the pinnacle of the temple, while the gushing out of his bowels reflects the dashing out of James' brains by the evil launderer. Like James, Acts' Judas is buried where he fell. (Price reviewing Eisenman)

Archaeological study of Masada contradicts Josephus:
But even without the benefit of the archaeological discoveries we would know that something is wrong with Josephus' story. According to the historian, when the Jews saw that the Roman ram was about to breach the wall, they hurriedly built an inner wall out of wood and earth which could absorb the force of the ram. When they broke through the outer wall, the Romans tried the ram on the inner wall but without success. Therefore they set it on fire. So far the narrative is plausible and probably true. The use of soft pliable material to blunt the effects of a ram and the construction of an inner wall to replace an outer one which is about to be destroyed were standard techniques in ancient siege warfare. The fact that the combination of these two techniques (the construction of an inner wall out of pliable material) is not readily paralleled elsewhere is double testimony to its veracity. Josephus cannot be accused of enriching his narrative with a tactic cribbed from a poliorketic manual and the Sicarii are credited with a manoeuvre which befits their inexperience in siege warfare--who builds a wall out of wood? Further confirmation may come from archaeology. Some large wooden beams were stripped from the Herodian palace before its destruction by fire perhaps to be used in the construction of this futile gesture. Confirmed or not the story is at least credible.

But the story soon loses its plausibility. After being blown about by the wind, the fire takes hold of the inner wall. At this point the Roman assault should have begun. The wall was breached, the inner wall was rapidly being consumed, the army was ready. Instead, the Romans withdraw, postponing the assault until the following morning. Their only activity that night was to maintain a careful watch lest any of the Jews escape. This is incredible. Why withdraw when victory was so close? Even if it was late afternoon or evening when the fire finally took to the wall, a point which Josephus does not make clear, Silva could have stormed the fortress by night, just as Vespasian did at Jotapata. Why wait? Furthermore, since the wall was breached, the Romans will have had to maintain a careful guard not only in their camps but especially on the ramp, in order to prevent the Jews from attacking the tower and the other siege machines. And yet, according to Josephus, the Roman soldiers positioned both on the ramp and on the tower, the former only a few feet from the inside of the fortress, the latter able to survey all of Masada, were oblivious to the activities of that eventful night. They did not notice that 960 men, women, and children were slain, and that at least two large fires were set, one destroying the accumulated possessions of the Sicarii, the other destroying the palace and cremating the corpses. They did not hear the shrieks of the women and children or see that the plateau was ablaze or sense that anything unusual was afoot. When the Romans stormed the fortress the next morning, they suspected nothing. They expected a battle but found silence. Very dramatic but utterly incredible.
Masada: Literary Tradition, Archaeological Remains, and the Credibility of Josephus by Shaye Cohen Journal of Jewish Studies: Essays in honour of Yigael Yadin Vol. XXXIII, pp. 385-405 Spring-Autumn 1982

The Sicarii parody began with Josephus writing in the 1st century and took full form with Judas Iscariot: "Terrorist Jew" to be portrayed as an archetype "treacherous Jew" in the sacred texts which found their way into the New Testament.

Josephus also confuses the Sicarii with Zealots:
Zealotry was originally a political movement in 1st century Second Temple Judaism which sought to incite the people of Judaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land by force of arms, most notably during the Great Jewish Revolt (66-70). Zealotry was the term used by Josephus for a "fourth sect" during this period.
The term "zealot", in Hebrew kanai (קנאי, frequently used in plural form, קנאים (kana'im)), means one who is zealous on behalf of God. The term derives from Greek ζηλωτής (zelotes), "emulator, zealous admirer or follower".
JosephusJewish Antiquities states that there were three main Jewish sects at this time, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The Zealots were a "fourth sect", founded by Judas of Galilee (also called Judas of Gamala) and Zadok the Pharisee in the year 6 against Quirinius' tax reform, shortly after the Roman Empire declared what had most recently been the tetrarchy of Herod Archelaus to be a Roman province, and that they "agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord." (18.1.6)

But as we know better the identity of The Poor/Essenes/Nazirites and their Sicarii, they cannot be differentiated from Zealots, for they are all zealous for the Law; this is why they all oppose the innovations of the Idumaean monarchs ruling Judea and emperor cult of Rome. This was obvious to everyone in that period, so those reading how Josephus kept describing insurrectionists as "innovators" understood his use of language.

[As the historical framework of the New Testament is provided by the works of Josephus, it must be probable that the idea of parody, twisting everything around, originated from readers of his chronicles. We can imagine the hilarity these lies must have caused among the Herodian readers safely ensconced in their Roman palaces and, after the 1st war, back on huge estates across Judea. They would never have imagined how later generations could be so simple. or ignorant, to have taken it all at face value.]

So maybe the Judas attached to Iscariot comes from Judas of Galilee:
Josephus does not relate the death of Judas, although he does report that Judas' sons James and Simon were executed by procurator Tiberius Julius Alexander in about 46 CE.
Judas is mentioned in the New Testament Book of Acts of the Apostles. The author has Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhedrin, describe him as an example of a failed Messianic leader.

So we don't lose track of the Chrestians in this, there is a prominent one: procurator Tiberius Julius Alexander - Jew-hating son of the Alabarch in Alexandria (estate manager of Antonia Minor) and nephew of Philo the Jew.

Archaeological study of interments at Qumran support the contemporaneous, historical claims that the community was composed of clerical and secular sections, with the secular (men and women) living as normal, Observant Jews across Judea - these take arms and become, first, the insurrectionists against the monarchy and then the army fighting Rome. Sicarii, Zealots, they are the same.


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John Bartram,
26 May 2014, 06:35
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