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The Mammas and the Papias…

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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.

4 comments on “The Mammas and the Papias…

  1. While it would be impossible to say which part of this is my favorite, I would at least like to highlight the following and add some useful commentary of my own. I’ll begin with this quote: “His genitals appeared more loathsome and larger than anyone else’s…” I draw your attention to the word “anyone.” This shows the comprehensive nature of Papias’ research. Just imagine all the years of painstaking data collecting that would have gone on. All I can say is, wow! Looking further we find, “…when he relieved himself, there passed through it puss and worms from every part of his body…” Which is followed – and rightly so I might add – by this gem, “…much to his shame.”  Well, I should say so!

  2. Sounds incredible! I can’t believe one person can talk so much nonsense. Do you have a citation where you’ve got Papias’ quote from?

  3. As an official distributor of Iscariot Products LTD, I strongly object to the slanderous half-truths of Papias. Under normal circumstances I would not approve of the so-called “Merrie” Theologiane trumpeting these libelous writings, but now – what with the credit crunch and all – jobs are being lost in my industry. Why, I mean to say, even our Judas Iscariot miniatures aren’t selling the way they once did.  Let’s think through the far-reaching implications of our “theology” before sharing it with everyone, what do you say??? Signed, P. Randolph Finklebottom

  4. I believe that the main objective of Judas’ ending is suicide. If I need to tell a story on how a person killed him/her-self I would tell the detail, but that is not the case in Matthew and Acts, these books give account of what kind of death Judas went through, not how he went through killing himself.

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