[20 July 1987]
he Judas story is inconsistent. It is said that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, which implies an attempt to keep Judas’ part in the business unknown—but since Judas led the arresting officials there, such secrecy was impossible. Make no mistake about it—there is no reason for the Judas kiss if Judas openly led the officers there. Conversely, if Judas betrayed Jesus with such a secret sign, then his coming with the arresting officials was fatal to the scheme.
Further, it is worth noting that in the synoptic account Judas never leaves the last supper; as far as one can tell he is present from Jesus’ announcement of the betrayal to the scene at Gethsemane. This at least is more consistent with the kiss; one might picture the officers lurking at the Mount of Olives, Judas giving the pre-arranged signal, the arrest and all that. Against this we may ask, could Jesus’ prediction of the betrayal be an added element in Mark? In Mark’s source was Judas even at the Last Supper? (On the other hand, the direction of this element is away from having Judas present; witness John’s contortions.)
What about the kiss? Mark has it, Matthew has it, but Luke downplays it. John has an entirely consistent story that omits the kiss altogether, and he makes sure Judas leaves the Last Supper directly after Jesus’ announcement of the betrayal, giving time for him to bring the soldiers and officers to the appointed place.
So the direction of the kiss element in the synoptics is toward its elimination. But John has no trace of it (or does it?). Is John an example of its final elimination, or is it a witness to a presynoptic version that lacked the kiss? Does either version have prophetic fulfillment significance?