‘Judah’ and ‘Judas’ Are the Same Name

by Chad Ashby

The history of Bible translation has placed a huge stumbling block in our path.  It’s not a Gospel issue, but it is an issue of immense symbolism, allusion, and typology.  I’m speaking of course of the name translated ‘Judas Iscariot’.

If you have ever read the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint), you probably already know what I’m talking about.  When names are translated from Hebrew to Greek, they often go through a few changes: Elijah becomes Elias, Isaiah becomes Isaias, Josiah becomes Josias, Joshua becomes Jesus (you weren’t expecting that last one, were you?).  It’s kind of like writing Charles as Carlos in Spanish.  Both names refer to the same person, they are just pronounced a bit differently in Hebrew and Greek.

The name Judah is pronounced Judas in Greek.  Here are five reasons why this matters.

If Judas Iscariot was actually transliterated as Judah Iscariot, then…

1. …we would see the connection to Genesis 37.

Do you remember the story of Joseph, the precocious teenager who dreamed dreams of prestige and blessing?  Out of jealousy, his brothers conspired together, plotting how they might put him to death.  However, while he was down in the pit, a band of Ishmaelite traders passed by.  It was Judah who spoke up to his brothers saying, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?  Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.”  So they sold Joseph, the child of blessing, to Ishmaelite traders for twenty shekels of silver.  It is hardly a leap to see Judas Iscariot, ‘one of the twelve’ (Matt. 26:14), acting out this same role play as he betrays the son of Joseph, Jesus, into the hands of the conspiring religious leaders for thirty pieces of silver.

2. …we would recognize greater irony in the title ‘King of the Jews’.

In the first three Gospels, the term ‘King of the Jews’ is repeated 12 times.  Each time it appears, we are supposed to sense irony.  We know that Jesus is the King of the Jews, however, the term always seems to appear in scenes where Jesus is being rejected by the Jews.  The title ‘King of the Jews’ almost gets Jesus killed in Matthew 2 when the Magi roll into Jerusalem, and in the passion narrative, it becomes the basis for his crucifixion.  His charges are hung over his head on the cross: ‘King of the Jews’.  For the Greek reader, however, the irony is even greater when Jesus is betrayed by a man named Judah–i.e., ‘Jew’.  The word ‘Jews’ is an Anglicizing of the word ‘Judeans’ or ‘Judahites’.  When Judas turns on Jesus, he joins the rest of the Judahites who have already determined to reject Jesus as their King.

3. …we would see that Jesus is truly King of the Nations.

Matthew’s Gospel is often summed up by the theme ‘Jesus is the King’.  In many ways, this is accurate.  However, the irony and beauty of Matthew’s Gospel is that Jesus is not merely the King of the Jews–read ‘Judahites’.  He is the King of the Gentiles–read ‘Nations’.  Matthew introduces Jesus as the Anointed Son of David who begins his ministry as a light to the Gentiles in Galilee (Matthew 4).  In Matthew, Jesus’ ministry takes place exclusively outside of Jerusalem.  When he finally comes riding toward the city of Jerusalem on a donkey in Matthew 21, it is his first and final visit.  He is celebrated by his fellow Galilean pilgrims outside of the city gates, but when he enters the city, Jerusalem’s response is, “Who is this?!”  They are deeply disturbed by the uproar the Galilean leader has caused.  Judas acts as an agent of the Jerusalem establishment, and he embodies their resentment and rejection of Jesus as a people.  After Jesus’ resurrection, he does not march to the castle in Jerusalem, he meets with his disciples in Galilee of the Gentiles. ‘Judah’ is sadly absent (after a suicide).  There he proclaims himself to have “all authority in heaven and on earth”, sending them to make disciples of all nations.

4. …we would see Judas as a national representative.

I touched on this some in the last point.  Judas is not merely a minor character in the Gospels.  As ‘Judah’, he represents the sentiments and the rejection of the entire people of ‘Judah’.  He is not acting in a federal sense, but the Gospels present him as acting in concert with the rest of the Jewish nation, personifying the statement John writes in his opening chapter: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11).  The way ‘Judah’ acted toward Jesus is the way the ‘Judahite’ nation in general responded to their Messiah.

5. …Judas is the New Absalom.

Do you remember the story of David’s exile from the throne in Jerusalem beginning in 2 Samuel 14?  His son Absalom wins the hearts of the people and usurps the throne, chasing his father David out of Jerusalem and sending him on the run for his life.  Betraying his own father, Absalom leads the people in Jerusalem to reject David as their King.  After a few years of rebellion, he ends up dead, hanging from a tree by his hair.  In similar fashion, Judas betrays the heir to the throne of David, playing the leading role with all of Jerusalem in rejecting Jesus from being their king.  Like Absalom, Judas himself ends hanging dead from a tree.  One has to wonder whether his fate is more symbolic of the fate of the entire city of Jerusalem (see 70 A.D.).

P.S.–Judas is usually depicted in iconography as a redhead.  Sorry, that was a low blow.

– Chad Ashby, http://chadashby.com/2014/06/09/judah-and-judas-are-the-same-name/

Pastor, Get Off Your Butt and Exercise

by Chad Ashby

When I took my first pastorate, the comment I heard most frequently was, “You’re too skinny to be Southern Baptist.  We’ll do something about that.”  The sad thing is that pastors have a reputation for being some of the worse offenders when it comes to physical health.  Long hours sitting at a desk and attendance at too many free pastors’ lunches and prayer breakfasts work against vocational ministers. From the deep recesses of their studies they cry, “I’m called to the ministry of the Word and to prayer!  Both are sedentary.  Being out of shape–or even obese–is just an occupational hazard.”

Really?

Do pastors get to pass Go and collect $200 when it comes to exercise?  Are these excuses really valid?  Below are five reasons pastors–and all Christians–should include exercise as a regular part of their weekly activities.

1. It Builds Mental Toughness.

When writing to the young pastor Timothy, Paul says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Now, some would say, “See, Paul says we should focus on training for godliness, not training for physical health.” Not so!  True, Paul does say the greater good is training for godliness because it lasts for eternity.  However, he asserts bodily training “is of some value.”  Godliness and physical health are not either/or.  Just because training for godliness is more important does not mean exercise is unimportant.  When dealing with greater and lesser goods, Jesus said, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).

In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul describes his relationship with his physical body: “But I beat my body and make it my slave, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”  Exercise is a very practical way of telling your flesh who is boss.  When your lungs are crying out for you to quit at Mile 3 and you choose to push through for two more miles, you are building a mental toughness that bears fruit in all areas of life.

When ministry gets discouraging, or members are complaining, or obstacles keep piling up, you will be better prepared to navigate these difficulties because of the miles spent toiling in the extremes of summer heat and chillingly dark winter.

2. It Sets an Example.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).  As pastors, we are to live our lives as an example to brothers and sisters in the faith.  Paul’s exhortation essentially encompasses all of life.

A pastor who chooses not to make exercise a priority is setting an example, consciously or unconsciously, to the rest of his congregation about the value of our bodies.  Exercise is all about self-denial.  Jesus, Paul, the prophets, and the apostles all knew a thing or two about that.  A pastor who chooses to exercise sets an example to his congregation that self-denial is an all-of-life attitude, not just a “spiritual” attitude.

3. Jim Elliot Syndrome.

I trust you are familiar with Jim Elliot, the famous missionary who was martyred in Ecuador in 1956.  Perhaps what you didn’t know about Jim was that he was preparing for his missionary expeditions all the way back in college–by joining the wrestling team.  Here’s why: “I wrestle solely for the strength and co-ordination of muscle tone that the body receives while working out, with the ultimate end that of presenting a more useful body as a living sacrifice” (p. 16, Through Gates of Splendor).

Jim knew he wanted to be a missionary, and he realized regular exercise would better fit him for that ministry.  Pastors, missionaries, heck, all Christians have a lot of daily demands.  If we are going to be able service God will all of our might, to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices, we need to condition them for the work.  If you don’t practice, how will you succeed come game time?  The demands of ministry will destroy you if you do not prepare both physically and spiritually for the rigorous gauntlet of Christian life.

4. It Aids Unconscious Communication.

I have a close friend who weighed over 300 lbs. less than three years ago.  As a youth minister, his ministry was going okay.  However, he came to a point where he realized, “I’m asking these kids to exercise self-control in their lives when it comes to sex, school, and other things, but look at me!  Why would they listen to a guy who clearly has no self-control?”

Three years later, he is on a regimented diet, he runs dozens of miles a week, and he does extensive weighlifting.  He has dropped 150 lbs.  Why?  So that his kids will be impressed with his physique?  No.  He realized that his appearance was undermining his message–whether he liked it or not.  I believe God will reward this man’s ministry for the hard work and discipline he put in for the sake of his work in God’s Kingdom.

5. It Provides Ministry Opportunities.

A physically fit pastor opens doors that were previously closed.  He can meet non-Christians at the gym and build relationships for sharing the gospel.  He can run for 40 minutes with a ministry partner, church member, or non-Christian and use it as a time for mutual encouragement and discipleship.  The time you spend exercising shouldn’t be seen as time lost.  You can exercise and do ministry at the same time.  It just takes intentionality and discipline.

A healthy pastor can become all things to all people–he can sit with the elderly, and he can keep up with the younger generation.  For all believers, physical health is not about being able to post exercise times on Facebook, having more attractive selfies, or impressing the ladies at church.  It’s about treating your body as a gift–a gift that God expects you to maximize for his Kingdom’s sake.

-Chad Ashby, http://chadashby.com/2014/05/14/pastor-get-off-your-butt-and-exercise/