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Rehabilitating Judas

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Although Matthew does present Judas as remorseful for his actions in 27:3-4, Judas is pretty much unanimously condemned in the Gospel tradition (cf. Mark 14:21 and parallels) and even demonized (John 6:70; 13:27; Luke 22:3). The opposite tendency is at work in popular culture with the fascination in rehabilitating this literary character. The reason may be that, while ancient biographers tended to view character as static and exemplified by deeds, modern biographers are interested in the complex, internal, psychological motivations of their subjects. Plus, we all like to root for the underdog. Kim Paffenroth wrote an article entitled “Film Depictions of JesusJournal of Religion & Film 5.2 (2001): 1-11 where he compares seven different film portrayals of Judas (i.e. The King of Kings, King of Kings, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Godspell, Jesus of Nazareth, The Last Temptation of Christ) that is an interesting case in point. One might also remember how the scholarly debate over the characterization of Judas in the Gospel of Judas captured popular media attention (see here, here, here, here).

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