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The Mammas and the Papias...

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

The death of Judas has been the subject of many apologetic discussions about the reliability of the Bible, since it appears that Matthew 27v3-10 has Judas hanging himself, while Acts 1v15-20 has him falling headlong in his field and bursting open. Most people attempt to harmonise the two somehow, and others frankly have no idea what to make of it.

It wasn't money Judas wanted, but pies...well at least according to Papias!

One of the most entertaining (if not entirely reliable) contributions comes from Papias in the early part of the second century who tells us that Judas survived his hanging and died later because he became extraordinarily obese, thus splitting open. Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis and a disciple of John. His 'Interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord' is one of the Apostolic Fathers. He's not always taken terribly seriously (for example, Eusebius makes comments about his lack of intelligence) yet the man clearly had a special gift for prose. Here's his rather graphic description of the late Judas. 


"Judas was a terrible walking example of ungodliness in this world. His flesh so bloated he was not able to pass through a place where a wagon passes easily; not even his bloated head by itself. For his eyelids, they say, were so swollen that he could not see the light at all, and his eyes could not be seen even by a doctor using an optical instrument, so far had they sunk below the outer surface. His genitals appeared more loathsome and larger than anyone else's and when he relieved himself, there passed through it puss and worms from every part of his body, much to his shame.

After much agony and punishment, they say, he finally died in his own place and because of the stench the area is deserted and uninhabitable even now. In fact even to this day, no one can pass that place without holding one's nose- so great was the discharge from his body and so far did it spread over the ground."

Whether Papias' account is a trustworthy or just a big fat porkie is really impossible to say. Whatever we make of him, he's great proof that historical theology is far from boring, but often merrie and sometimes morbid.