Judas receiving thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, by Mattia Preti, c. 1640 (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Judas receiving thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, by Mattia Preti, c. 1640 (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2019
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The following article is what I understand of Dr Robert Eisenman’s exposition[1] on the “whore’s wages” (Micah 1:7) in relation to Temple donations received from those accused of “fornication” in the first century CE, and Judas Iscariot’s “thirty pieces of silver” solicited as “blood money” from the Chief Priests (Matthew 27:3-10). Please note that the specific focus of this article is not on assessing the moral grounds for the Jewish legal prescriptions, but simply on clarifying some of the associated beliefs, perceptions and history of the time.

One of the more familiar charges of “fornication” that the Jewish Tsaddiqim (Righteous Ones) and Notsrim (Nazarenes)—as Notsrei Brito “Keepers of His (YHWH’s) Covenant”, or Shomrei ha Brit “Keepers of the Covenant”)[2]—had brought against the Herodians in the first century, was in response to these Herodians marrying their nieces,[3] for which they were duly accused of wrongdoing and incest. From the Dead Sea Scrolls we read:

…and each man takes (to wife) the daughter of his brother and the daughter of his sister.
— Damascus Document v.7-8

…each man has sinned against the flesh of his own flesh [that is ‘near relatives’], approaching them for fornication.
— Damascus Document viii.5-7

Also under the general charge of fornication was the accusation that the Herodians and Romans were engaging in sexual relations with women during the time of their menstrual period. In the case of those accused who attended the Temple, this was additionally regarded as a “pollution of the Temple”:

…They also pollute the Temple, because they do not separate as (prescribed by) Torah [meaning the ‘separation’ of ‘clean’ from ‘unclean’ in the Temple], but rather they lie with a woman during the blood of her period…
— Damascus Document v.6-7

As we will see in due course, the latter charge of polluting the Temple was linked—in association with fornication and Temple donations—to earlier biblical proscriptions and infractions relating to the Temple, such as:

You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the Lord your God to pay any vow, because the Lord your God detests them both.
— Deuteronomy 23:18

All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.
— Micah 1:7

According to the Keepers of the Covenant, anyone in violation of Jewish Halakha was considered unfit to perform the customary Temple practices or to convert to Judaism—unless first fulfilling certain Nazirite compensations beforehand. Following Deuteronomy 23:18 and Micah 1:7, the prohibitions associated with fornication also included the giving of donations to the Jerusalem Temple—hence the Qumran reminder (CD v.6-7) about the Torah prescription to separate the clean from the unclean in the Temple.

In a comprehensive and erudite analysis,[4] Robert Eisenman argues that this issue of blood violations (viz. menstrual taboos) in association with Temple donations given by non-Torah-observant foreigners (and accepted by) the Herodian-installed (accomodationist ‘Sadducee’) priests has been inverted and obfuscated in the gospel episode of the “blood money” that was offered to and accepted by Judas. That there was a reversal of roles and an attempt to invert and sully the character of this person (under the fictitious guise of “Judas Iscariot” in the Christian tradition) and to obfuscate the doctrinal underpinnings of the historical event, can also be seen in a later rabbinical account in the Talmud Bavli (Avodah Zarah, 16b-17a). Note in this account how the reversal, in a nonsensical manner, shifts the infraction and charge of heresy away from those in violation of the Jewish laws (including the Establishment priests in their acceptance of these monies) and onto a key Nazarene-thus-“Keeper” of the laws, Jacob, who quite possibly is James the Righteous as Opposition high priest and leader of the Nazarenes:

Now, when Rabbi Eliezer came home [after being arrested and facing imprisonment for alleged heresy] his disciples presented themselves to console him, but he admitted no consolation. Then Rabbi Akiba said to him: Permit me to tell you something of what you have taught me. Rabbi Eliezer answered: Go on. Rabbi Akiba then said: Perchance you have once given ear to a heresy, which pleased you; on account of which you were now about to be imprisoned for heresy. Eliezer replied: Akiba, you remind me. I was once walking in the upper street of Sepphoris [a town associated with Judas of Galilee, see Josephus Wars I.33.2]; there I met with one of the disciples of Yeshu ha-Notsri [Jesus the Nazarene], by name Jacob of Kephar Sechania [James?], who said to me: “It is found in your Law (Deuteronomy 23:18): ‘You shalt not bring the hire of a whore … into the house of … thy God.’ May a retiring place for the high-priest be made out of such gifts?” I knew not what to answer him to this. Then he said to me: “Thus Yeshu ha-Notsri taught me: ‘Of the hire of an harlot has she gathered them, and unto the hire of an harlot shall they return’ (Micah 1:7). From a place of filth it has come; to the place of filth shall it go [i.e. the construction of a latrine—a different sort of “retirement place”—for the Establishment high priest was suggested as an alternate option for the tainted donations; in another Talmud version, the construction of public latrines are suggested—and these were likely intended to be associated with the law-breaking foreigners=‘strangers’].” This explanation pleased me, and on this account have I been impeached for heresy, because I transgressed the Scripture: ‘Remove thy way far from her’ (Proverbs 5:8), i.e., from heresy.

Assuming I’m reading this Talmudic account correctly, these seemingly contrived charges and polemic against Eliezer—presumably through his association with Jacob/James who was the “disciple” of “Yeshu the Nazarene”—are a reversal of roles (with regard to those who keep the laws and those who transgress them) and an attempted obfuscation of the Nazarene proscriptions (which are similar to those outlined in the Qumran scrolls). This Jacob’s or James’ admonition of the Herodian-installed Sadducee priests because of their acceptance of donations from non-Torah-observant “strangers” was directly related to the Jewish legal rulings pertaining to menstrual “periodicity” and the “keeping/observing” of the laws (thus a Notsri is a Nazarene as Keeper or Observer—the antithesis of a law-breaking heretic).

This Tsaddiq/Nazarene criticism of the Herodian-installed ‘Sadducee’ Establishment, in addition to the Temple Wall Affair involving the Herodian King Agrippa II (i.e. a wall was built by the Zealot priests to block King Agrippa II’s dining-room view of the sacrifices being conducted in the Temple), was later avenged by a plot conspired between King Agrippa II and the Establishment high priest Ananus ben Ananus to falsely accuse and murder—by way of a stoning—the Opposition high priest James the Righteous for supposedly not observing Temple periodicity (i.e. celebrating Yom Kippur on the ‘wrong’ day, and this was likely simply because the Nazarenes and the Essenes in general followed a different calendar to the Herodian-installed ‘Sadducees’). The persecution of the “Righteous One” or “Righteous Teacher” and his murder after performing a prayer of atonement “on behalf of the people” during Yom Kippur can be followed in the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QpHab xi:4-8), Jerome (On Illustrious Men 2), Clement of Alexandria (via Eusebius, Ecclesiastial History II.1.4) and Hegesippus (via Eusebius, Ecclesiastial History II.23.7-18). According to Eisenman:

It is this Temple Wall Affair that immediately preceded the stoning of James. Alongside the consolidation of relations between Agrippa II and Ananus in Rome and the attempt by one Simon ‘the Head of a Church of his own in Jerusalem’ to have Agrippa’s father, Agrippa I, barred from the Temple as a foreigner in the 40’s, it provides something of a backdrop to the devastating and catastrophic events that are to follow.[5]

The “impeachment for heresy” as recorded in the Talmud is presumably intended to distract us from the actual underlying event (Jacob the Nazarene admonishing the Establishment high priests for their acceptance of donations from those who transgress the menstrual taboos) as well as the contrived nature of the charges that led to the stoning and death of James following his Yom Kippur atonement rite in the Temple. Compare, in relation to the death of “Judas Iscariot”, the gospel portrayal of the later-rejectedblood money” (yet earlier exchanged and accepted in the Temple) that was instead allocated by the “high priests” to finance the “Potter’s Field”—supposedly named as such because it was to be used as a burial place for foreigners (as “strangers”), the economically poor and for criminals. The Gospel of Matthew also calls it Akeldama (“field of blood”) because of its association with the bloody death of Judas, but we should not lose sight of the fact that the underlying and primary historical association is the alternate destination point suggested (by Jacob/James) for the Temple donations received from those who transgressed the Jewish laws, particularly the legal proscriptions pertaining to menstrual taboos.

There is an important combination of details that we need to keep in mind when looking at further evidence of scriptural parallels. In The Second Apocalypse of James, the beloved James is similarly stoned and then supposedly “stretched out”, whereupon his executors “placed a stone on his abdomen (presumably crushing his internal organs and intestines). Interestingly, in The Protoevangelium of James, it is now the high priest Zacharias who—similar to the high priest James—is murdered in the Temple, and in this account Zacharias’ blood has supposedly turned into a stone! This not only parallels James’ bloody stoning to death—his head subsequently bludgeoned and then him being “cast down from the pinnacle of the Temple—but it also parallels the “stoning” of Judas (as per Judas’ dream in the Gospel of Judas) and, following his supposed suicide by hanging, him “falling headlong from the tree whereby “he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out (Acts 1:18). The incident with Judas was said to have occurred in the “field of blood” (Matthew 27:8, Acts 1:19) also called the “Potter’s Field” (i.e. a burial ground for “strangers” and the “poor”[6]), which was the same area where James—who was the leader of the community of Ebionim (the “Poor”)—was said to have landed after his fall and been buried (according to some reports).

Eisenman further suggests that the supposed suicide of “Judas Iscariot” is an assimilation of the mass suicide of the resident Jewish families and the Sicarri rebels at the hilltop fortress of Masada circa 74 CE (Josephus, The Jewish Wars, IV.7.2). There are other assimilations of mentionable note; for example in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (III.11) we read that following the death of James, the apostles and disciples had convened to choose Simeon bar Cleophas as his successor; and in the Protevangelium of James we read that following the death of Zacharias, “the priests” had convened to choose a successor, “and the lot fell upon Simeon”.

Other key details pertaining to Judas’ “blood money” and his unceremonious death parallel how the Idumaean dissidents—as fervent supporters of the messianic Jewish uprising—had killed, dumped and desecrated the body of the Herodian-installed high priest Ananus ben Ananus, who was “corrupted by bribes” (Josephus, Vita 39) and who was the main conspirator responsible for the murder of the much-loved James (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XX.9.1; compare 1QpHab, 4QPs Psalm 32ff and 4QPs Psalm 37:14ff). According to Jerome in Commentary on Galatians 1:19 (396): “So holy was James that the people zealously tried to touch the fringes of his garment;” and according to Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History II.23.19: “So remarkable a person must James have been, so universally esteemed for Righteousness, that even the most intelligent of Jews felt this was why his martyrdom was immediately followed by the siege of Jerusalem.”

Regarding the actions, punishment and death of Judas Iscariot, it seems that the Christian account of the “field of blood” or “Potter’s Field”—in addition to being typologically dependent on Exodus 21:32, Jeremiah (various) and Zechariah 11:12, especially in relation to the “thirty pieces of silver”, the “pot”, the “potter”, the “casting/throwing down”, and the “stoning” as punishment—has also assimilated two key elements relevant to the aforementioned controversy in the Temple in the first century CE:

  1. Jacob the Nazarene’s suggestion of an alternate destination point for the “unlawful” monies received from non-Torah-observant “strangers” who were transgressing “blood” taboos (compare the estranged Judas and his “blood money”).
  2. The place of James the Nazarene’s fall and/or burial (preceded by a bloody stoning, then beating to death on the head, and being “cast down” from the pinnacle of the Temple) in the same area as the potter’s field. In the Judas version he “falls head-long down” from the tree he supposedly hanged himself on and this occurs in what is subsequently named “(the) field of blood”.

To reiterate: Jacob the Nazarene (or James the Tsaddiq), in a scathing criticism on the source of Temple donations and the character of those accused who attended the Temple, had suggested that the Temple treasury instead use the funds to build a latrine for either the high priest or those in the general public who seemed oblivious (“strangers”) to the Jewish Halakha. Here the infractions and the accusations of unlawfulness in the Temple context can be naturally understood in relation to the Jewish legal rulings on menstrual proscriptions (as also reflected in the Qumran scrolls); whereas in Matthew 27:6 the “unlawfulness” is now related to the contrived “blood money” that was exchanged in the Temple. Reading from the Talmud account of Jacob the Nazarene (or James the Nazarene): “From a place of filth it has come; to the place of filth it shall go” (i.e. the latrines)—a conservative mindset that is consistent with that of e.g Judas Maccabee, Judas the Galilean, Judas the Zealot and the Tsaddiqim/Notsrim in general. From the perspective of keeping the Halakha and doing what is prescribed in the Torah, recall also the Letter of James the Righteous 1:22: “But prove yourselves Doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Compare this in the context of 1QpHab viii.1-3: “Its interpretation concerns all the Doers of the Torah [ʿOseh ha-Torah[7] =ʿOsim as “Doers” = Ossaeans = Essenes] in the House of Judah, whom God will save from the House of Judgement because of their Works and their Faith in the Righteous Teacher”).

What we are seeing in the Christian account of Judas Iscariot and the rabbinical account of Jacob the Nazarene respectively are an inversion of character and a reversal of roles, whereby the honorable, reverential, righteous, faithful, uncompromising and unfaltering “Keepers of the Covenant” and “the Poor” in the House of Judah (and in the manner of the arch Jewish hero Judah Maccabee) have subsequently been transmogrified into the fictitious guise of the compromised, pathetic, pitiful, faltering, greedy, vacillating and disloyalJudah Iscariot”—a portrait that certainly suited not only Rome, but also the Herodian-installed ‘Sadducees’ (so-called) and the Pharisees. In such way, “Yehudah/Judas” can be seen as a moniker for the Jewish messianic movement (and by doctrinal association, Jacob/James ha-Tsaddiq) who were railing against the violations of Jewish Law. In the Qumran scrolls these violations were categorised under the “Three Nets of Belial”: “fornication”, “riches” and “pollution of the Temple” (CD iv.14–21)—especially in relation to the giving (by “fornicators”) and receiving (by corrupt Herodian-installed High Priests) of donations to the Temple treasury (CD v.6–7, Talmud Bavli Avodah Zarah 16b–17a). In the Christian traditions this was rewritten and recast in the inverse with “Judas Iscariot” now receiving “blood money” from the corrupt Temple Priests; and according to the Talmud, the revered Opposition high priest Jacob/James was now suddenly a “heretic”, which is clearly a distortion of the facts and a survival of the trumped-up charge pertaining to the Yom Kippur incident in the Temple involving James.

These are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg; there are many other parallels between the persecution and death of James (as well as Judas the Galilean, Judas the Zealot and the Nazarenes in general) and the death and persecution of this “Judas Iscariot”. For example: the issue of the succession of leadership after the death of James, which finds a parallel in the succession issues following the death of Judas Iscariot; also the Nationalist-Messianic “Sons of Yesha=Salvation” aspiring to “see YHWH’s salvation (yeshuato)” in “the Land of Damascus” versus the more spiritual-heavenly Yeshua whom Saul-Paul reportedly saw “on the road to Damascus”; also Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus, which in some sense parallels Saul-Paul’s betrayal of James and the Nazarenes.

Furthermore, the description of Judas Iscariot as recorded by the Bishop Papias of Hierapolis—claiming that after Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, Judas was reduced to a series of grotesque bodily ailments and a physical deformity—is conspicuously reminiscent of Josephus’ description of the arch-Herodian and Roman client king of Judea, King Herod the Great’s sickly health and eventual demise, notably at the time (c. 4 BCE) when he arrested and imprisoned the Jewish revolutionaries Judas the Galilean and Matthias the high priest.

Papias in his Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord (c. 130 CE) writes that Judas Iscariot…

…went about in this world as a great model of impiety. He became so bloated in the flesh that he could not pass through a place that was easily wide enough for a wagon – not even his swollen head could fit. They say that his eyelids swelled to such an extent that he could not see the light at all; and a doctor could not see his eyes even with an optical device, so deeply sunken they were in the surrounding flesh. And his genitals became more disgusting and larger than anyone’s; simply by relieving himself, to his wanton shame, he emitted pus and worms that flowed through his entire body. And they say that after he suffered numerous torments and punishments, he died on his own land, and that land has been, until now, desolate an uninhabited because of the stench. Indeed, even to this day no one can pass by the place without holding his nose. This was how great an outpouring he made from his flesh on the ground.

Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews (XVII.6.5) writes of King Herod the Great:

But now Herod’s distemper greatly increased upon him, after a severe manner; and this by God’s judgment upon him for his sins. For a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly. For it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also exulcerated; and the chief violence of his pain lay in his colon. An aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled it self about his feet: and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay farther, his privy member was putrified, and produced worms. And when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns. He had also convulsions in all parts of his body: which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endued with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the King on account of his great impiety.

In his earlier works, The Jewish Wars (I.33.5), Josephus cites Herod’s persecution of “the rabbins” (i.e. likely Judas the Galilean and Matthias the high priest) as the reason for Herod’s terrible afflictions:

After this, the destemper seized upon his [Herod’s] whole body, and greatly disordered all its parts with various symptoms; for there was a gentle fever upon him, and an intolerable itching over all the surface of his body, and continual pains in his colon, and dropsical tumours about his feet, and an inflammation of the abdomen, and a putrefaction of his privy member, that produced worms. Besides which, he had a difficulty of breathing upon him, and could not breathe but when he sat upright, and had a convulsion of all his members, insomuch that the diviners said, those diseases were a punishment upon him for what he had done to the rabbins.

Papias’ account of Judas, when juxtaposed with Josephus’ accounts of King Herod the Great, seemingly indicates another case of role reversal, character inversion and an attempted obfuscation of the Jewish messianic uprising in the first century that was undoubtedly inspired by both Yehudah Maccabee (c. 167 BC) and Yehudah of Galilee (c. 6 CE). Ironically, it was this messianic uprising—simultaneously a “Judas” (Yehudah/Yehudim) movement, specifically inaugurated by Judas of Galilee in 6 CE (Josephus, Wars II.8.1)—who were persecuted by the Herodians and Romans, and later betrayed not only by Saul-Paul but also the turncoat “Flavius” Josephus himself.

The extent of these parallels, inversions and reversals are best followed in the detailed and rigorous analysis by Dr Robert Eisenman whose key publications are referenced below.

Endnotes:

[1] See “James’ Burial Marker, Judas Iscariot’s Fall, and the Field of Blood” in: Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: Recovering the True History of Early Christianity, London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1997, pp.454-460.
See also “Jacob of Kfar Sechania’s Curious Tradition about ‘Jesus the Nazarene’ and Judas Iscariot’s Bloody Suicide,” and, “A Prostitute’s Hire, the Rechabite Introduction of James, and the Construction of a Latrine for the High Priests” in: Robert Eisenman, The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ, London: Watkins, 2006, pp.162-172.

[2] Regarding the designation Notsrei Brito “Keepers of His (YHWH’s) Covenant”, see Psalm 25:10 and 1QS v.2ff. Regarding the homologue Shomrei ha-Brit “Keepers of the Covenant” see 1QS v.2ff, also the Nostrei/Shomrei in Psalm 119:2ff.
[3] See also: “approaching near kin for fornication” in Robert Eisenman, 2013, “Internal Evidence vs. External Evidence like Carbon Testing in the Dead Sea Scrolls”, The Eisenman Line (Retrieved 2019-01-11).
[4] See the first note.
[5] Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus, p.514.
[6] As proposed by Eisenman, this might be a pun on “the Poor” = Ebionim who were one of the communities of James the Righteous (cf. Epiphanius’ mention of the leader of the Ebionim named as “Ebion” = “the Poor”).
[7] See also 1QpHab vii.11.

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