Judas Iscariot and Others by Leonid Andreyev
Jesus Christ had often been warned that Judas Iscariot was a man of very
evil repute, and that He ought to beware of him. Some of the disciples,
who had been in Judaea, knew him well, while others had heard much about
him from various sources, and there was none who had a good word for him.
If good people in speaking of him blamed him, as covetous, cunning, and
inclined to hypocrisy and lying, the bad, when asked concerning him,
inveighed against him in the severest terms.
"He is always making mischief among us," they would say, and spit in
contempt. "He always has some thought which he keeps to himself. He creeps
into a house quietly, like a scorpion, but goes out again with an
ostentatious noise. There are friends among thieves, and comrades among
robbers, and even liars have wives, to whom they speak the truth; but
Judas laughs at thieves and honest folk alike, although he is himself a
clever thief. Moreover, he is in appearance the ugliest person in Judaea.
No! he is no friend of ours, this foxy-haired Judas Iscariot," the bad
would say, thereby surprising the good people, in whose opinion there was
not much difference between him and all other vicious people in Judaea.
They would recount further that he had long ago deserted his wife, who was
living in poverty and misery, striving to eke out a living from the
unfruitful patch of land which constituted his estate. He had wandered for
many years aimlessly among the people, and had even gone from one sea to
the other,—no mean distance,—and everywhere he lied and
grimaced, and would make some discovery with his thievish eye, and then
suddenly disappear, leaving behind him animosity and strife. Yes, he was
as inquisitive, artful and hateful as a one-eyed demon. Children he had
none, and this was an additional proof that Judas was a wicked man, that
God would not have from him any posterity.
None of the disciples had noticed when it was that this ugly, foxy-haired
Jew first appeared in the company of Christ: but he had for a long time
haunted their path, joined in their conversations, performed little acts
of service, bowing and smiling and currying favour. Sometimes they became
quite used to him, so that he escaped their weary eyes; then again he
would suddenly obtrude himself on eye and ear, irritating them as
something abnormally ugly, treacherous and disgusting. They would drive
him away with harsh words, and for a short time he would disappear, only
to reappear suddenly, officious, flattering and crafty as a one-eyed
There was no doubt in the minds of some of the disciples that under his
desire to draw near to Jesus was hidden some secret intention—some
malign and cunning scheme.
But Jesus did not listen to their advice; their prophetic voice did not
reach His ears. In that spirit of serene contradiction, which ever
irresistibly inclined Him to the reprobate and unlovable, He deliberately
accepted Judas, and included him in the circle of the chosen. The
disciples were disturbed and murmured under their breath, but He would sit
still, with His face towards the setting sun, and listen abstractedly,
perhaps to them, perhaps to something else. For ten days there had been no
wind, and the transparent atmosphere, wary and sensitive, continued ever
the same, motionless and unchanged. It seemed as though it preserved in
its transparent depths every cry and song made during those days by men
and beasts and birds—tears, laments and cheerful song, prayers and
curses—and that on account of these crystallised sounds the air was
so heavy, threatening, and saturated with invisible life. Once more the
sun was sinking. It rolled heavily downwards in a flaming ball, setting
the sky on fire. Everything upon the earth which was turned towards it:
the swarthy face of Jesus, the walls of the houses, and the leaves of the
trees—everything obediently reflected that distant, fearfully
pensive light. Now the white walls were no longer white, and the white
city upon the white hill was turned to red.
And lo! Judas arrived. He arrived bowing low, bending his back, cautiously
and timidly protruding his ugly, bumpy head—just exactly as his
acquaintances had described. He was spare and of good height, almost the
same as that of Jesus, who stooped a little through the habit of thinking
as He walked, and so appeared shorter than He was. Judas was to all
appearances fairly strong and well knit, though for some reason or other
he pretended to be weak and somewhat sickly. He had an uncertain voice.
Sometimes it was strong and manly, then again shrill as that of an old
woman scolding her husband, provokingly thin, and disagreeable to the ear,
so that ofttimes one felt inclined to tear out his words from the ear,
like rough, decaying splinters. His short red locks failed to hide the
curious form of his skull. It looked as if it had been split at the nape
of the neck by a double sword-cut, and then joined together again, so that
it was apparently divided into four parts, and inspired distrust, nay,
even alarm: for behind such a cranium there could be no quiet or concord,
but there must ever be heard the noise of sanguinary and merciless strife.
The face of Judas was similarly doubled. One side of it, with a black,
sharply watchful eye, was vivid and mobile, readily gathering into
innumerable tortuous wrinkles. On the other side were no wrinkles. It was
deadly flat, smooth, and set, and though of the same size as the other, it
seemed enormous on account of its wide-open blind eye. Covered with a
whitish film, closing neither night nor day, this eye met light and
darkness with the same indifference, but perhaps on account of the
proximity of its lively and crafty companion it never got full credit for
When in a paroxysm of joy or excitement, Judas would close his sound eye
and shake his head. The other eye would always shake in unison and gaze in
silence. Even people quite devoid of penetration could clearly perceive,
when looking at Judas, that such a man could bring no good....
And yet Jesus brought him near to Himself, and once even made him sit next
to Him. John, the beloved disciple, fastidiously moved away, and all the
others who loved their Teacher cast down their eyes in disapprobation. But
Judas sat on, and turning his head from side to side, began in a somewhat
thin voice to complain of ill-health, and said that his chest gave him
pain in the night, and that when ascending a hill he got out of breath,
and when he stood still on the edge of a precipice he would be seized with
a dizziness, and could scarcely restrain a foolish desire to throw himself
down. And many other impious things he invented, as though not
understanding that sicknesses do not come to a man by chance, but as a
consequence of conduct not corresponding with the laws of the Eternal.
Thus Judas Iscariot kept on rubbing his chest with his broad palm, and
even pretended to cough, midst a general silence and downcast eyes.
John, without looking at the Teacher, whispered to his friend Simon Peter—
"Aren't you tired of that lie? I can't stand it any longer. I am going
Peter glanced at Jesus, and meeting his eye, quickly arose.
"Wait a moment," said he to his friend.
Once more he looked at Jesus; sharply as a stone torn from a mountain, he
moved towards Judas, and said to him in a loud voice, with expansive,
"You will come with us, Judas."
He gave him a kindly slap on his bent back, and without looking at the
Teacher, though he felt His eye upon him, resolutely added in his loud
voice, which excluded all objection, just as water excludes air—
"It does not matter that you have such a nasty face. There fall into our
nets even worse monstrosities, and they sometimes turn out very tasty
food. It is not for us, our Lord's fishermen, to throw away a catch,
merely because the fish have spines, or only one eye. I saw once at Tyre
an octopus, which had been caught by the local fishermen, and I was so
frightened that I wanted to run away. But they laughed at me. A fisherman
from Tiberias gave me some of it to eat, and I asked for more, it was so
tasty. You remember, Master, that I told you the story, and you laughed,
too. And you, Judas, are like an octopus—but only on one side."
And he laughed loudly, content with his joke. When Peter spoke, his words
resounded so forcibly, that it seemed as though he were driving them in
with nails. When Peter moved, or did anything, he made a noise that could
be heard afar, and which called forth a response from the deafest of
things: the stone floor rumbled under his feet, the doors shook and
rattled, and the very air was convulsed with fear, and roared. In the
clefts of the mountains his voice awoke the inmost echo, and in the
morning-time, when they were fishing on the lake, he would roll about on
the sleepy, glittering water, and force the first shy sunbeams into
For this apparently he was loved: when on all other faces there still lay
the shadow of night, his powerful head, and bare breast, and freely
extended arms were already aglow with the light of dawn.
The words of Peter, evidently approved as they were by the Master,
dispersed the oppressive atmosphere. But some of the disciples, who had
been to the seaside and had seen an octopus, were disturbed by the
monstrous image so lightly applied to the new disciple. They recalled the
immense eyes, the dozens of greedy tentacles, the feigned repose—and
how all at once: it embraced, clung, crushed and sucked, all without one
wink of its monstrous eyes. What did it mean? But Jesus remained silent,
He smiled with a frown of kindly raillery on Peter, who was still telling
glowing tales about the octopus. Then one by one the disciples
shame-facedly approached Judas, and began a friendly conversation, with
him, but—beat a hasty and awkward retreat.
Only John, the son of Zebedee, maintained an obstinate silence; and Thomas
had evidently not made up his mind to say anything, but was still weighing
the matter. He kept his gaze attentively fixed on Christ and Judas as they
sat together. And that strange proximity of divine beauty and monstrous
ugliness, of a man with a benign look, and of an octopus with immense,
motionless, dully greedy eyes, oppressed his mind like an insoluble
He tensely wrinkled his smooth, upright forehead, and screwed up his eyes,
thinking that he would see better so, but only succeeded in imagining that
Judas really had eight incessantly moving feet. But that was not true.
Thomas understood that, and again gazed obstinately.
Judas gathered courage: he straightened out his arms, which had been bent
at the elbows, relaxed the muscles which held his jaws in tension, and
began cautiously to protrude his bumpy head into the light. It had been
the whole time in view of all, but Judas imagined that it had been
impenetrably hidden from sight by some invisible, but thick and cunning
veil. But lo! now, as though creeping out from a ditch, he felt his
strange skull, and then his eyes, in the light: he stopped and then
deliberately exposed his whole face. Nothing happened; Peter had gone away
somewhere or other. Jesus sat pensive, with His head leaning on His hand,
and gently swayed His sunburnt foot. The disciples were conversing
together, and only Thomas gazed at him attentively and seriously, like a
conscientious tailor taking measurement. Judas smiled; Thomas did not
reply to the smile; but evidently took it into account, as he did
everything else, and continued to gaze. But something unpleasant alarmed
the left side of Judas' countenance as he looked round. John, handsome,
pure, without a single fleck upon his snow-white conscience, was looking
at him out of a dark corner, with cold but beautiful eyes. And though he
walked as others walk, yet Judas felt as if he were dragging himself along
the ground like a whipped cur, as he went up to John and said: "Why are
you silent, John? Your words are like golden apples in vessels of silver
filigree; bestow one of them on Judas, who is so poor."
John looked steadfastly into his wide-open motionless eye, and said
nothing. And he looked on, while Judas crept out, hesitated a moment, and
then disappeared in the deep darkness of the open door.
Since the full moon was up, there were many people out walking. Jesus went
out too, and from the low roof on which Judas had spread his couch he saw
Him going out. In the light of the moon each white figure looked bright
and deliberate in its movements; and seemed not so much to walk as to
glide in front of its dark shadow. Then suddenly a man would be lost in
something black, and his voice became audible. And when people reappeared
in the moonlight, they seemed silent—like white walls, or black
shadows—as everything did in the transparent mist of night. Almost
every one was asleep when Judas heard the soft voice of Jesus returning.
All in and around about the house was still. A cock crew; somewhere an
ass, disturbed in his sleep, brayed aloud and insolently as in daytime,
then reluctantly and gradually relapsed into silence. Judas did not sleep
at all, but listened surreptitiously. The moon illumined one half of his
face, and was reflected strangely in his enormous open eye, as on the
frozen surface of a lake.
Suddenly he remembered something, and hastily coughed, rubbing his
perfectly healthy chest with his hairy hand: maybe some one was not yet
asleep, and was listening to what Judas was thinking!
They gradually became used to Judas, and ceased to notice his ugliness.
Jesus entrusted the common purse to him, and with it there fell on him all
household cares: he purchased the necessary food and clothing, distributed
alms, and when they were on the road, it was his duty to choose the place
where they were to stop, or to find a night's lodging.
All this he did very cleverly, so that in a short time he had earned the
goodwill of some of the disciples, who had noticed his efforts. Judas was
an habitual liar, but they became used to this, when they found that his
lies were not followed by any evil conduct; nay, they added a special
piquancy to his conversation and tales, and made life seem like a comic,
and sometimes a tragic, tale.
According to his stories, he seemed to know every one, and each person
that he knew had some time in his life been guilty of evil conduct, or
even crime. Those, according to him, were called good, who knew how to
conceal their thoughts and acts; but if one only embraced, flattered, and
questioned such a man sufficiently, there would ooze out from him every
untruth, nastiness, and lie, like matter from a pricked wound. He freely
confessed that he sometimes lied himself; but affirmed with an oath that
others were still greater liars, and that if any one in this world was
ever deceived, it was Judas.
Indeed, according to his own account, he had been deceived, time upon
time, in one way or another. Thus, a certain guardian of the treasures of
a rich grandee once confessed to him, that he had for ten years been
continually on the point of stealing the property committed to him, but
that he was debarred by fear of the grandee, and of his own conscience.
And Judas believed him—and he suddenly committed the theft, and
deceived Judas. But even then Judas still trusted him—and then he
suddenly restored the stolen treasure to the grandee, and again deceived
Judas. Yes, everything deceived him, even animals. Whenever he pets a dog
it bites his fingers; but when he beats it with a stick it licks his feet,
and looks into his eyes like a daughter. He killed one such dog, and
buried it deep, laying a great stone on the top of it—but who knows?
Perhaps just because he killed it, it has come to life again, and instead
of lying in the trench, is running about cheerfully with other dogs.
All laughed merrily at Judas' tale, and he smiled pleasantly himself,
winking his one lively, mocking eye—and by that very smile confessed
that he had lied somewhat; that he had not really killed the dog. But he
meant to find it and kill it, because he did not wish to be deceived. And
at these words of Judas they laughed all the more.
But sometimes in his tales he transgressed the bounds of probability, and
ascribed to people such proclivities as even the beasts do not possess,
accusing them of such crimes as are not, and never have been. And since he
named in this connection the most honoured people, some were indignant at
the calumny, while others jokingly asked:
"How about your own father and mother, Judas—were they not good
Judas winked his eye, and smiled with a gesture of his hands. And the
fixed, wide-open eye shook in unison with the shaking of his head, and
looked out in silence.
"But who was my father? Perhaps it was the man who used to beat me with a
rod, or may be—a devil, a goat or a cock.... How can Judas tell? How
can Judas tell with whom his mother shared her couch. Judas had many
fathers: to which of them do you refer?"
But at this they were all indignant, for they had a profound reverence for
parents; and Matthew, who was very learned in the scriptures, said
severely in the words of Solomon:
"'Whoso slandereth his father and his mother, his lamp shall be
extinguished in deep darkness.'"
But John the son of Zebedee haughtily jerked out: "And what of us? What
evil have you to say of us, Judas Iscariot?"
But he waved his hands in simulated terror, whined, and bowed like a
beggar, who has in vain asked an alms of a passer-by: "Ah! they are
tempting poor Judas! They are laughing at him, they wish to take in the
poor, trusting Judas!" And while one side of his face was crinkled up in
buffooning grimaces, the other side wagged sternly and severely, and the
never-closing eye looked out in a broad stare.
More and louder than any laughed Simon Peter at the jokes of Judas
Iscariot. But once it happened that he suddenly frowned, and became silent
and sad, and hastily dragging Judas aside by the sleeve, he bent down, and
asked in a hoarse whisper—
"But Jesus? What do you think of Jesus? Speak seriously, I entreat you."
Judas cast on him a malign glance.
"And what do you think?"
Peter whispered with awe and gladness—
"I think that He is the son of the living God."
"Then why do you ask? What can Judas tell you, whose father was a goat?"
"But do you love Him? You do not seem to love any one, Judas."
And with the same strange malignity, Iscariot blurted out abruptly and
sharply: "I do."
Some two days after this conversation, Peter openly dubbed Judas "my
friend the octopus"; but Judas awkwardly, and ever with the same
malignity, endeavoured to creep away from him into some dark corner, and
would sit there morosely glaring with his white, never-closing eye.
Thomas alone took him quite seriously. He understood nothing of jokes,
hypocrisy or lies, nor of the play upon words and thoughts, but
investigated everything positively to the very bottom. He would often
interrupt Judas' stories about wicked people and their conduct with short
"You must prove that. Did you hear it yourself? Was there any one present
besides yourself? What was his name?"
At this Judas would get angry, and shrilly cry out, that he had seen and
heard everything himself; but the obstinate Thomas would go on
cross-examining quietly and persistently, until Judas confessed that he
had lied, or until he invented some new and more probable lie, which
provided the others for some time with food for thought. But when Thomas
discovered a discrepancy, he would immediately come and calmly expose the
Usually Judas excited in him a strong curiosity, which brought about
between them a sort of friendship, full of wrangling, jeering, and
invective on the one side, and of quiet insistence on the other. Sometimes
Judas felt an unbearable aversion to his strange friend, and, transfixing
him with a sharp glance, would say irritably, and almost with entreaty—
"What more do you want? I have told you all."
"I want you to prove how it is possible that a he-goat should be your
father," Thomas would reply with calm insistency, and wait for an answer.
It chanced once, that after such a question, Judas suddenly stopped
speaking and gazed at him with surprise from head to foot. What he saw was
a tall, upright figure, a grey face, honest eyes of transparent blue, two
fat folds beginning at the nose and losing themselves in a stiff,
evenly-trimmed beard. He said with conviction:
"What a stupid you are, Thomas! What do you dream about—a tree, a
wall, or a donkey?"
Thomas was in some way strangely perturbed, and made no reply. But at
night, when Judas was already closing his vivid, restless eye for sleep,
he suddenly said aloud from where he lay—the two now slept together
on the roof—
"You are wrong, Judas. I have very bad dreams. What think you? Are people
responsible for their dreams?"
"Does, then, any one but the dreamer see a dream?" Judas replied.
Thomas sighed gently, and became thoughtful. But Judas smiled
contemptuously, and firmly closed his roguish eye, and quickly gave
himself up to his mutinous dreams, monstrous ravings, mad phantoms, which
rent his bumpy skull to pieces.
When, during Jesus' travels about Judaea, the disciples approached a
village, Iscariot would speak evil of the inhabitants and foretell
misfortune. But almost always it happened that the people, of whom he had
spoken evil, met Christ and His friends with gladness, and surrounded them
with attentions and love, and became believers, and Judas' money-box
became so full that it was difficult to carry. And when they laughed at
his mistake, he would make a humble gesture with his hands, and say:
"Well, well! Judas thought that they were bad, and they turned out to be
good. They quickly believed, and gave money. That only means that Judas
has been deceived once more, the poor, confiding Judas Iscariot!"
But on one occasion, when they had already gone far from a village, which
had welcomed them kindly, Thomas and Judas began a hot dispute, to settle
which they turned back, and did not overtake Jesus and His disciples until
the next day. Thomas wore a perturbed and sorrowful appearance, while
Judas had such a proud look, that you would have thought that he expected
them to offer him their congratulations and thanks upon the spot.
Approaching the Master, Thomas declared with decision: "Judas was right,
Lord. They were ill-disposed, stupid people. And the seeds of your words
has fallen upon the rock." And he related what had happened in the
After Jesus and His disciples left it, an old woman had begun to cry out
that her little white kid had been stolen, and she laid the theft at the
door of the visitors who had just departed. At first the people had
disputed with her, but when she obstinately insisted that there was no one
else who could have done it except Jesus, many agreed with her, and even
were about to start in pursuit. And although they soon found the kid
straying in the underwood, they still decided that Jesus was a deceiver,
and possibly a thief.
"So that's what they think of us, is it?" cried Peter, with a snort.
"Lord, wilt Thou that I return to those fools, and—"
But Jesus, saying not a word, gazed severely at him, and Peter in silence
retired behind the others. And no one ever referred to the incident again,
as though it had never occurred, and as though Judas had been proved
wrong. In vain did he show himself on all sides, endeavouring to give to
his double, crafty, hooknosed face an expression of modesty. They would
not look at him, and if by chance any one did glance at him, it was in a
very unfriendly, not to say contemptuous, manner.
From that day on Jesus' treatment of him underwent a strange change.
Formerly, for some reason or other, Judas never used to speak directly
with Jesus, who never addressed Himself directly to him, but nevertheless
would often glance at him with kindly eyes, smile at his rallies, and if
He had not seen him for some time, would inquire: "Where is Judas?"
But now He looked at him as if He did not see him, although as before, and
indeed more determinedly than formerly, He sought him out with His eyes
every time that He began to speak to the disciples or to the people; but
He was either sitting with His back to him, so that He was obliged, as it
were, to cast His words over His head so as to reach Judas, or else He
made as though He did not notice him at all. And whatever He said, though
it was one thing one day, and then next day quite another, although it
might be the very thing that Judas was thinking, it always seemed as
though He were speaking against him. To all He was the tender, beautiful
flower, the sweet-smelling rose of Lebanon, but for Judas He left only
sharp thorns, as though Judas had neither heart, nor sight, nor smell, and
did not understand, even better than any, the beauty of tender, immaculate
"Thomas! Do you like the yellow rose of Lebanon, which has a swarthy
countenance and eyes like the roe?" he inquired once of his friend, who
"Rose? Yes, I like the smell. But I have never heard of a rose with a
swarthy countenance and eyes like a roe!"
"What? Do you not know that the polydactylous cactus, which tore your new
garment yesterday, has only one beautiful flower, and only one eye?"
But Thomas did not know this, although only yesterday a cactus had
actually caught in his garment and torn it into wretched rags. But then
Thomas never did know anything, though he asked questions about
everything, and looked so straight with his bright, transparent eyes,
through which, as through a pane of Phoenician glass, was visible a wall,
with a dismal ass tied to it.
Some time later another occurrence took place, in which Judas again proved
to be in the right.
At a certain village in Judaea, of which Judas had so bad an opinion, that
he had advised them to avoid it, the people received Christ with
hostility, and after His sermon and exposition of hypocrites they burst
into fury, and threatened to stone Jesus and His disciples. Enemies He had
many, and most likely they would have carried out their sinister
intention, but for Judas Iscariot. Seized with a mad fear for Jesus, as
though he already saw the drops of ruby blood upon His white garment,
Judas threw himself in blind fury upon the crowd, scolding, screeching,
beseeching, and lying, and thus gave time and opportunity to Jesus and His
disciples to escape.
Amazingly active, as though running upon a dozen feet, laughable and
terrible in his fury and entreaties, he threw himself madly in front of
the crowd and charmed it with a certain strange power. He shouted that the
Nazarene was not possessed of a devil, that He was simply an impostor, a
thief who loved money as did all His disciples, and even Judas himself:
and he rattled the money-box, grimaced, and beseeched, throwing himself on
the ground. And by degrees the anger of the crowd changed into laughter
and disgust, and they let fall the stones which they had picked up to
throw at them.
"They are not fit to die by the hands of an honest person," said they,
while others thoughtfully followed the rapidly disappearing Judas with
Again Judas expected to receive congratulations, praise, and thanks, and
made a show of his torn garments, and pretended that he had been beaten;
but this time, too, he was greatly mistaken. The angry Jesus strode on in
silence, and even Peter and John did not venture to approach Him: and all
whose eyes fell on Judas in his torn garments, his face glowing with
happiness, but still somewhat frightened, repelled him with curt, angry
It was just as though he had not saved them all, just as though he had not
saved their Teacher, whom they loved so dearly.
"Do you want to see some fools?" said he to Thomas, who was thoughtfully
walking in the rear. "Look! There they go along the road in a crowd, like
a flock of sheep, kicking up the dust. But you are wise, Thomas, you creep
on behind, and I, the noble, magnificent Judas, creep on behind like a
dirty slave, who has no place by the side of his masters."
"Why do you call yourself magnificent?" asked Thomas in surprise.
"Because I am so," Judas replied with conviction, and he went on talking,
giving more details of how he had deceived the enemies of Jesus, and
laughed at them and their stupid stones.
"But you told lies," said Thomas.
"Of course I did," quickly assented Iscariot. "I gave them what they asked
for, and they gave me in return what I wanted. And what is a lie, my
clever Thomas? Would not the death of Jesus be the greatest lie of all?"
"You did not act rightly. Now I believe that a devil is your father. It
was he that taught you, Judas."
The face of Judas grew pale, and something suddenly came over Thomas, and
as if it were a white cloud, passed over and concealed the road and Jesus.
With a gentle movement Judas just as suddenly drew Thomas to himself,
pressed him closely with a paralysing movement, and whispered in his ear—
"You mean, then, that a devil has instructed me, don't you, Thomas? Well,
I saved Jesus. Therefore a devil loves Jesus and has need of Him, and of
the truth. Is it not so, Thomas? But then my father was not a devil, but a
he-goat. Can a he-goat want Jesus? Eh? And don't you want Him yourselves,
and the truth also?"
Angry and slightly frightened, Thomas freed himself with difficulty from
the clinging embrace of Judas, and began to stride forward quickly. But he
soon slackened his pace as he endeavoured to understand what had taken
But Judas crept on gently behind, and gradually came to a standstill. And
lo! in the distance the pedestrians became blended into a parti-coloured
mass, so that it was impossible any longer to distinguish which among
those little figures was Jesus. And lo! the little Thomas, too, changed
into a grey spot, and suddenly—all disappeared round a turn in the
Looking round, Judas went down from the road and with immense leaps
descended into the depths of a rocky ravine. His clothes blew out with the
speed and abruptness of his course, and his hands were extended upwards as
though he would fly. Lo! now he crept along an abrupt declivity, and
suddenly rolled down in a grey ball, rubbing off his skin against the
stones; then he jumped up and angrily threatened the mountain with his
"You too, damn you!"
Suddenly he changed his quick movements into a comfortable, concentrated
dawdling, chose a place by a big stone, and sat down without hurry. He
turned himself, as if seeking a comfortable position, laid his hands side
by side on the grey stone, and heavily sank his head upon them. And so for
an hour or two he sat on, as motionless and grey as the grey stone itself,
so still that he deceived even the birds. The walls of the ravine rose
before him, and behind, and on every side, cutting a sharp line all round
on the blue sky; while everywhere immense grey stones obtruded from the
ground, as though there had been at some time or other, a shower here, and
as though its heavy drops had become petrified in endless split, upturned
skull, and every stone in it was like a petrified thought; and there were
many of them, and they all kept thinking heavily, boundlessly, stubbornly.
A scorpion, deceived by his quietness, hobbled past, on its tottering
legs, close to Judas. He threw a glance at it, and, without lifting his
head from the stone, again let both his eyes rest fixedly on something—both
motionless, both veiled in a strange whitish turbidness, both as though
blind and yet terribly alert. And lo! from out of the ground, the stones,
and the clefts, the quiet darkness of night began to rise, enveloped the
motionless Judas, and crept swiftly up towards the pallid light of the
sky. Night was coming on with its thoughts and dreams.
That night Judas did not return to the halting-place. And the disciples,
forgetting their thoughts, busied themselves with preparations for their
meal, and grumbled at his negligence.
Once, about mid-day, Jesus and His disciples were walking along a stony
and hilly road devoid of shade, and, since they had been more than five
hours afoot, Jesus began to complain of weariness. The disciples stopped,
and Peter and his friend John spread their cloaks and those of the other
disciples, on the ground, and fastened them above between two high rocks,
and so made a sort of tent for Jesus. He lay down in the tent, resting
from the heat of the sun, while they amused Him with pleasant conversation
and jokes. But seeing that even talking fatigued Him, and being themselves
but little affected by weariness and the heat, they went some distance off
and occupied themselves in various ways. One sought edible roots among the
stones on the slope of the mountain, and when he had found them brought
them to Jesus; another, climbing up higher and higher, searched musingly
for the limits of the blue distance, and failing, climbed up higher on to
new, sharp-pointed rocks. John found a beautiful little blue lizard among
the stones, and smiling brought it quickly with tender hands to Jesus. The
lizard looked with its protuberant, mysterious eyes into His, and then
crawled quickly with its cold body over His warm hand, and soon swiftly
disappeared with tender, quivering tail.
But Peter and Philip, not caring about such amusements, occupied
themselves in tearing up great stones from the mountain, and hurling them
down below, as a test of their strength. The others, attracted by their
loud laughter, by degrees gathered round them, and joined in their sport.
Exerting their strength, they would tear up from the ground an ancient
rock all overgrown, and lifting it high with both hands, hurl it down the
slope. Heavily it would strike with a dull thud, and hesitate for a
moment; then resolutely it would make a first leap, and each time it
touched the ground, gathering from it speed and strength, it would become
light, furious, all-subversive. Now it no longer leapt, but flew with
grinning teeth, and the whistling wind let its dull round mass pass by.
Lo! it is on the edge—with a last, floating motion the stone would
sweep high, and then quietly, with ponderous deliberation, fly downwards
in a curve to the invisible bottom of the precipice.
"Now then, another!" cried Peter. His white teeth shone between his black
beard and moustache, his mighty chest and arms were bare, and the sullen,
ancient rocks, dully wondering at the strength which lifted them,
obediently, one after another, precipitated themselves into the abyss.
Even the frail John threw some moderate-sized stones, and Jesus smiled
quietly as He looked at their sport.
"But what are you doing, Judas? Why do you not take part in the game? It
seems amusing enough?" asked Thomas, when he found his strange friend
motionless behind a great grey stone.
"I have a pain in my chest. Moreover, they have not invited me."
"What need of invitation! At all events, I invite you; come! Look what
stones Peter throws!"
Judas somehow or other happened to glance sideward at him, and Thomas
became, for the first time, indistinctly aware that he had two faces. But
before he could thoroughly grasp the fact, Judas said in his ordinary
tone, at once fawning and mocking—
"There is surely none stronger than Peter? When he shouts, all the asses
in Jerusalem think that their Messiah has arrived, and lift up their
voices too. You have heard them before now, have you not, Thomas?"
Smiling politely; and modestly wrapping his garment round his chest, which
was overgrown with red curly hairs, Judas stepped into the circle of
And since they were all in high good humour, they met him with mirth and
loud jokes, and even John condescended to vouchsafe a smile, when Judas,
pretending to groan with the exertion, laid hold of an immense stone. But
lo! he lifted it with ease, and threw it, and his blind, wide-open eye
gave a jerk, and then fixed itself immovably on Peter; while the other
eye, cunning and merry, was overflowing with quiet laughter.
"No! you throw again!" said Peter in an offended tone.
And lo! one after the other they kept lifting and throwing gigantic
stones, while the disciples looked on in amazement. Peter threw a great
stone, and then Judas a still bigger one. Peter, frowning and
concentrated, angrily wielded a fragment of rock, and struggling as he
lifted it, hurled it down; then Judas, without ceasing to smile, searched
for a still larger fragment, and digging his long fingers into it, grasped
it, and swinging himself together with it, and paling, sent it into the
gulf. When he had thrown his stone, Peter would recoil and so watch its
fall; but Judas always bent himself forward, stretched out his long
vibrant arms, as though he were going to fly after the stone. Eventually
both of them, first Peter, then Judas, seized hold of an old grey stone,
but neither one nor the other could move it. All red with his exertion,
Peter resolutely approached Jesus, and said aloud—
"Lord! I do not wish to be beaten by Judas. Help me to throw this stone."
Jesus made answer in a low voice, and Peter, shrugging his broad shoulders
in dissatisfaction, but not daring to make any rejoinder, came back with
"He says: 'But who will help Iscariot?'"
Then glancing at Judas, who, panting with clenched teeth, was still
embracing the stubborn stone, he laughed cheerfully—
"Look what an invalid he is! See what our poor sick Judas is doing!"
And even Judas laughed at being so unexpectedly exposed in his deception,
and all the others laughed too, and even Thomas allowed his pointed, grey,
overhanging moustache to relax into a smile.
And so in friendly chat and laughter, they all set out again on the way,
and Peter, quite reconciled to his victor, kept from time to time digging
him in the ribs, and loudly guffawed—
"There's an invalid for you!"
All of them praised Judas, and acknowledged him victor, and all chatted
with him in a friendly manner; but Jesus once again had no word of praise
for Judas. He walked silently in front, nibbling the grasses, which He
plucked. And gradually, one by one, the disciples craved laughing, and
went over to Jesus. So that in a short time it came about, that they were
all walking ahead in a compact body, while Judas—the victor, the
strong man—crept on behind, choking with dust.
And lo! they stood still, and Jesus laid His hand on Peter's shoulder,
while with His other He pointed into the distance, where Jerusalem had
just become visible in the smoke. And the broad, strong back of Peter
gently accepted that slight sunburnt hand.
For the night they stayed in Bethany, at the house of Lazarus. And when
all were gathered together for conversation, Judas thought that they would
now recall his victory over Peter, and sat down nearer. But the disciples
were silent and unusually pensive. Images of the road they had traversed,
of the sun, the rocks and the grass, of Christ lying down under the
shelter, quietly floated through their heads, breathing a soft
pensiveness, begetting confused but sweet reveries of an eternal movement
under the sun. The wearied body reposed sweetly, and thought was merged in
something mystically great and beautiful—and no one recalled Judas!
Judas went out, and then returned. Jesus was discoursing, and His
disciples were listening to Him in silence.
Mary sat at His feet, motionless as a statue, and gazed into His face with
upturned eyes. John had come quite close, and endeavoured to sit so that
his hand touched the garment of the Master, but without disturbing Him. He
touched Him and was still. Peter breathed loud and deeply, repeating under
his breath the words of Jesus.
Iscariot had stopped short on the threshold, and contemptuously letting
his gaze pass by the company, he concentrated all its fire on Jesus. And
the more he looked the more everything around Him seemed to fade, and to
become clothed with darkness and silence, while Jesus alone shone forth
with uplifted hand. And then, lo! He was, as it were, raised up into the
air, and melted away, as though He consisted of mist floating over a lake,
and penetrated by the light of the setting moon, and His soft speech began
to sound tenderly, somewhere far, far away. And gazing at the wavering
phantom, and drinking in the tender melody of the distant dream-like
words, Judas gathered his whole soul into his iron fingers, and in its
vast darkness silently began building up some colossal scheme. Slowly, in
the profound darkness, he kept lifting up masses, like mountains, and
quite easily heaping them one on another: and again he would lift up and
again heap them up; and something grew in the darkness, spread noiselessly
and burst its bounds. His head felt like a dome, in the impenetrable
darkness of which the colossal thing continued to grow, and some one,
working on in silence, kept lifting up masses like mountains, and piling
them one on another and again lifting up, and so on and on... whilst
somewhere in the distance the phantom-like words tenderly sounded.
Thus he stood blocking the doorway, huge and black, while Jesus went on
talking, and the strong, intermittent breathing of Peter repeated His
words aloud. But on a sudden Jesus broke off an unfinished sentence, and
Peter, as though waking from sleep, cried out exultingly—
"Lord! to Thee are known the words of eternal life!"
But Jesus held His peace, and kept gazing fixedly in one direction. And
when they followed His gaze they perceived in the doorway the petrified
Judas with gaping mouth and fixed eyes. And, not understanding what was
the matter, they laughed. But Matthew, who was learned in the Scriptures,
touched Judas on the shoulder, and said in the words of Solomon—
"'He that looketh kindly shall be forgiven; but he that is met within the
gates will impede others.'"
Judas was silent for a while, and then fretfully and everything about him,
his eyes, hands and feet, seemed to start in different directions, as
those of an animal which suddenly perceives the eye of man upon him. Jesus
went straight to Judas, as though words trembled on His lips, but passed
by him through the open, and now unoccupied, door.
In the middle of the night the restless Thomas came to Judas' bed, and
sitting down on his heels, asked—
"Are you weeping, Judas?"
"No! Go away, Thomas."
"Why do you groan, and grind your teeth? Are you ill?"
Judas was silent for a while, and then fretfully there fell from his lips
distressful words, fraught with grief and anger—
"Why does not He love me? Why does He love the others? Am I not handsomer,
better and stronger than they? Did not I save His life while they ran away
like cowardly dogs?"
"My poor friend, you are not quite right. You are not good-looking at all,
and your tongue is as disagreeable as your face. You lie and slander
continually; how then can you expect Jesus to love you?"
But Judas, stirring heavily in the darkness, continued as though he heard
"Why is He not on the side of Judas, instead of on the side of those who
do not love Him? John brought Him a lizard; I would bring him a poisonous
snake. Peter threw stones; I would overthrow a mountain for His sake. But
what is a poisonous snake? One has but to draw its fangs, and it will coil
round one's neck like a necklace. What is a mountain, which it is possible
to dig down with the hands, and to trample with the feet? I would give to
Him Judas, the bold, magnificent Judas. But now He will perish, and
together with him will perish Judas."
"You are speaking strangely, Judas!"
"A withered fig-tree, which must needs be cut down with the axe, such am
I: He said it of me. Why then does He not do it? He dare not, Thomas! I
know him. He fears Judas. He hides from the bold, strong, magnificent
Judas. He loves fools, traitors, liars. You are a liar, Thomas; have you
never been told so before?"
Thomas was much surprised, and wished to object, but he thought that Judas
was simply railing, and so only shook his head in the darkness. And Judas
lamented still more grievously, and groaned and ground his teeth, and his
whole huge body could be heard heaving under the coverlet.
"What is the matter with Judas? Who has applied fire to his body? He will
give his son to the dogs. He will give his daughter to be betrayed by
robbers, his bride to harlotry. And yet has not Judas a tender heart? Go
away, Thomas; go away, stupid! Leave the strong, bold, magnificent Judas
Judas had concealed some denarii, and the deception was discovered, thanks
to Thomas, who had seen by chance how much money had been given to them.
It was only too probable that this was not the first time that Judas had
committed a theft, and they all were enraged. The angry Peter seized Judas
by his collar and almost dragged him to Jesus, and the terrified Judas
paled but did not resist.
"Master, see! Here he is, the trickster! Here's the thief. You trusted
him, and he steals our money. Thief! Scoundrel! If Thou wilt permit, I'll—"
But Jesus held His peace. And attentively regarding him, Peter suddenly
turned red, and loosed the hand which held the collar, while Judas shyly
rearranged his garment, casting a sidelong glance on Peter, and assuming
the downcast look of a repentant criminal.
"So that's how it's to be," angrily said Peter, as he went out, loudly
slamming the door. They were all dissatisfied, and declared that on no
account would they consort with Judas any longer; but John, after some
consideration, passed through the door, behind which might be heard the
quiet, almost caressing, voice of Jesus. And when in the course of time he
returned, he was pale, and his downcast eyes were red as though with
"The Master says that Judas may take as much money as he pleases." Peter
laughed angrily. John gave him a quick reproachful glance, and suddenly
flushing, and mingling tears with anger, and delight with tears, loudly
"And no one must reckon how much money Judas receives. He is our brother,
and all the money is as much his as ours: if he wants much let him take
much, without telling any one, or taking counsel with any. Judas is our
brother, and you have grievously insulted him—so says the Master.
Shame on you, brother!"
In the doorway stood Judas, pale and with a distorted smile on his face.
With a light movement John went up to him and kissed him three times.
After him, glancing round at one another, James, Philip and the others
came up shamefacedly; and after each kiss Judas wiped his mouth, but gave
a loud smack as though the sound afforded him pleasure. Peter came up
"We were all stupid, all blind, Judas. He alone sees, He alone is wise.
May I kiss you?"
"Why not? Kiss away!" said Judas as in consent.
Peter kissed him vigorously, and said aloud in his ear—
"But I almost choked you. The others kissed you in the usual way, but I
kissed you on the throat. Did it hurt you?"
"I will go and tell Him all. I was angry even with Him," said Peter sadly,
trying noiselessly to open the door.
"And what are you going to do, Thomas?" asked John severely. He it was who
looked after the conduct and the conversation of the disciples.
"I don't know yet. I must consider."
And Thomas thought long, almost the whole day. The disciples had dispersed
to their occupations, and somewhere on the other side of the wall, Peter
was shouting joyfully—but Thomas was still considering. He would
have come to a decision more quickly had not Judas hindered him somewhat
by continually following him about with a mocking glance, and now and
again asking him in a serious tone—
"Well, Thomas, and how does the matter progress?"
Then Judas brought his money-box, and shaking the money and pretending not
to look at Thomas, began to count it—
"Twenty-one, two, three.... Look, Thomas, a bad coin again. Oh! what
rascals people are; they even give bad money as offerings. Twenty-four...
and then they will say again that Judas has stolen it... twenty-five,
Thomas approached him resolutely... for it was already towards evening,
"He is right, Judas. Let me kiss you."
"Will you? Twenty-nine, thirty. It's no good. I shall steal again.
"But how can you steal, when it is neither yours nor another's? You will
simply take as much as you want, brother."
"It has taken you a long time to repeat His words! Don't you value time,
you clever Thomas?"
"You seem to be laughing at me, brother."
"And consider, are you doing well, my virtuous Thomas, in repeating His
words? He said something of His own, but you do not. He really kissed me—you
only defiled my mouth. I can still feel your moist lips upon mine. It was
so disgusting, my good Thomas. Thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty. Forty
denarii. Thomas, won't you check the sum?"
"Certainly He is our Master. Why then should we not repeat the words of
"Is Judas' collar torn away? Is there now nothing to seize him by? The
Master will go out of the house, and Judas will unexpectedly steal three
more denarii. Won't you seize him by the collar?"
"We know now, Judas. We understand."
"Have not all pupils a bad memory? Have not all masters been deceived by
their pupils? But the master has only to lift the rod, and the pupils cry
out, 'We know, Master!' But the master goes to bed, and the pupils say:
'Did the Master teach us this?' And so, in this case, this morning you
called me a thief, this evening you call me brother. What will you call me
Judas laughed, and lifting up the heavy rattling money-box with ease, went
"When a strong wind blows it raises the dust, and foolish people look at
the dust and say: 'Look at the wind!' But it is only dust, my good Thomas,
ass's dung trodden underfoot. The dust meets a wall and lies down gently
at its foot, but the wind flies farther and farther, my good Thomas."
Judas obligingly pointed over the wall in illustration of his meaning, and
"I am glad that you are merry," said Thomas, "but it is a great pity that
there is so much malice in your merriment."
"Why should not a man be cheerful, who has been kissed so much, and who is
so useful? If I had not stolen the three denarii would John have known the
meaning of delight? Is it not pleasant to be a hook, on which John may
hang his damp virtue out to dry, and Thomas his moth-eaten mind?"
"I think that I had better be going."
"But I am only joking, my good Thomas. I merely wanted to know whether you
really wished to kiss the old obnoxious Judas—the thief who stole
the three denarii and gave them to a harlot."
"To a harlot!" exclaimed Thomas in surprise. "And did you tell the Master
"Again you doubt, Thomas. Yes, to a harlot. But if you only knew, Thomas,
what an unfortunate woman she was. For two days she had had nothing to
"Are you sure of that?" said Thomas in confusion.
"Yes! Of course I am. I myself spent two days with her, and saw that she
ate and drank nothing except red wine. She tottered from exhaustion, and I
was always falling down with her."
Thereupon Thomas got up quickly, and, when he had gone a few steps away,
he flung out at Judas:
"You seem to be possessed of Satan, Judas."
And as he went away, he heard in the approaching twilight how dolefully
the heavy money-box rattled in Judas' hands. And Judas seemed to laugh.
But the very next day Thomas was obliged to acknowledge that he had
misjudged Judas, so simple, so gentle, and at the same time so serious was
Iscariot. He neither grimaced nor made ill-natured jokes; he was neither
obsequious nor scurrilous, but quietly and unobtrusively went about his
work of catering. He was as active as formerly, as though he did not have
two feet like other people, but a whole dozen of them, and ran noiselessly
without that squeaking, sobbing, and laughter of a hyena, with which he
formerly accompanied his actions. And when Jesus began to speak, he would
seat himself quickly in a corner, fold his hands and feet, and look so
kindly with his great eyes, that many observed it. He ceased speaking evil
of people, but rather remained silent, so that even the severe Matthew
deemed it possible to praise him, saying in the words of Solomon:
"'He that is devoid of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of
understanding holdeth his peace.'"
And he lifted up his hand, hinting thereby at Judas' former evil-speaking.
In a short time all remarked this change in him, and rejoiced at it: only
Jesus looked on him still with the same detached look, although he gave no
direct indication of His dislike. And even John, for whom Judas now showed
a profound reverence, as the beloved disciple of Jesus, and as his own
champion in the matter of the three denarii, began to treat him somewhat
more kindly, and even sometimes entered into conversation with him.
"What do you think, Judas," said he one day in a condescending manner,
"which of us, Peter or I, will be nearest to Christ in His heavenly
Judas meditated, and then answered—
"I suppose that you will."
"But Peter thinks that he will," laughed John.
"No! Peter would scatter all the angels with his shout; you have heard him
shout. Of course, he will quarrel with you, and will endeavour to occupy
the first place, as he insists that he, too, loves Jesus. But he is
already advanced in years, and you are young; he is heavy on his feet,
while you run swiftly; you will enter there first with Christ? Will you
"Yes, I will not leave Jesus," John agreed.
On the same day Simon Peter referred the very same question to Judas. But
fearing that his loud voice would be heard by the others, he led Judas out
to the farthest corner behind the house.
"Well then, what is your opinion about it?" he asked anxiously. "You are
wise; even the Master praises you for your intellect. And you will speak
"You, of course," answered Iscariot without hesitation. And Peter
exclaimed with indignation, "I told him so!"
"But, of course, he will try even there to oust you from the first place."
"But what can he do, when you already occupy the place? Won't you be the
first to go there with Jesus? You will not leave Him alone? Has He not
named you the ROCK?"
Peter put his hand on Judas' shoulder, and said with warmth: "I tell you,
Judas, you are the cleverest of us all. But why are you so sarcastic and
malignant? The Master does not like it. Otherwise you might become the
beloved disciple, equally with John. But to you neither," and Peter lifted
his hand threateningly, "will I yield my place next to Jesus, neither on
earth, nor there! Do you hear?"
Thus Judas endeavoured to make himself agreeable to all, but, at the same
time, he cherished hidden thoughts in his mind. And while he remained ever
the same modest, restrained and unobtrusive person, he knew how to make
some especially pleasing remark to each. Thus to Thomas he said:
"The fool believeth every word: but the prudent taketh heed to his paths."
While to Matthew, who suffered somewhat from excess in eating and
drinking, and was ashamed of his weakness, he quoted the words of Solomon,
the sage whom Matthew held in high estimation:
"'The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the
wicked shall want.'"
But his pleasant speeches were rare, which gave them the greater value.
For the most part he was silent, listening attentively to what was said,
and always meditating.
When reflecting, Judas had an unpleasant look, ridiculous and at the same
time awe-inspiring. As long as his quick, crafty eye was in motion, he
seemed simple and good-natured enough, but directly both eyes became fixed
in an immovable stare, and the skin on his protruding forehead gathered
into strange ridges and creases, a distressing surmise would force itself
on one, that under that skull some very peculiar thoughts were working. So
thoroughly apart, peculiar, and voiceless were the thoughts which
enveloped Iscariot in the deep silence of secrecy, when he was in one of
his reveries, that one would have preferred that he should begin to speak,
to move, nay, even, to tell lies. For a lie, spoken by a human tongue, had
been truth and light compared with that hopelessly deep and unresponsive
"In the dumps again, Judas?" Peter would cry with his clear voice and
bright smile, suddenly breaking in upon the sombre silence of Judas'
thoughts, and banishing them to some dark corner. "What are you thinking
"Of many things," Iscariot would reply with a quiet smile. And perceiving,
apparently, what a bad impression his silence made upon the others, he
began more frequently to shun the society of the disciples, and spent much
time in solitary walks, or would betake himself to the flat roof and there
sit still. And more than once he startled Thomas, who has unexpectedly
stumbled in the darkness against a grey heap, out of which the hands and
feet of Judas suddenly started, and his jeering voice was heard.
But one day, in a specially brusque and strange manner, Judas recalled his
former character. This happened on the occasion of the quarrel for the
first place in the kingdom of heaven. Peter and John were disputing
together, hotly contending each for his own place nearest to Jesus. They
reckoned up their services, they measured the degrees of their love for
Jesus, they became heated and noisy, and even reviled one another without
restraint. Peter roared, all red with anger. John was quiet and pale, with
trembling hands and biting speech. Their quarrel had already passed the
bounds of decency, and the Master had begun to frown, when Peter looked up
by chance on Judas, and laughed self-complacently: John, too, looked at
Judas, and also smiled. Each of them recalled what the cunning Judas had
said to him. And foretasting the joy of approaching triumph, they, with
silent consent, invited Judas to decide the matter.
Peter called out, "Come now, Judas the wise, tell us who will be first,
nearest to Jesus, he or I?"
But Judas remained silent, breathing heavily, his eyes eagerly questioning
the quiet, deep eyes of Jesus.
"Yes," John condescendingly repeated, "tell us who will be first, nearest
Without taking his eyes off Christ, Judas slowly rose, and answered
quietly and gravely:
Jesus let His gaze fall slowly. And quietly striking himself on the breast
with a bony finger, Iscariot repeated solemnly and sternly: "I, I shall be
nearest to Jesus!" And he went out. Struck by his insolent freak, the
disciples remained silent; but Peter suddenly recalling something,
whispered to Thomas in an unexpectedly gentle voice:
"So that is what he is always thinking about! See?"
Just at this time Judas Iscariot took the first definite step towards the
Betrayal. He visited the chief priest Annas secretly. He was very roughly
received, but that did not disturb him in the least, and he demanded a
long private interview. When he found himself alone with the dry, harsh
old man, who looked at him with contempt from beneath his heavy
overhanging eyelids, he stated that he was an honourable man who had
become one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth with the sole purpose of
exposing the impostor, and handing Him over to the arm of the law.
"But who is this Nazarene?" asked Annas contemptuously, making as though
he heard the name of Jesus for the first time.
Judas on his part pretended to believe in the extraordinary ignorance of
the chief priest, and spoke in detail of the preaching of Jesus, of His
miracles, of His hatred for the Pharisees and the Temple, of His perpetual
infringement of the Law, and eventually of His wish to wrest the power out
of the hands of the priesthood, and to set up His own personal kingdom.
And so cleverly did he mingle truth with lies, that Annas looked at him
more attentively, and lazily remarked: "There are plenty of impostors and
madmen in Judah."
"No! He is a dangerous person," Judas hotly contradicted. "He breaks the
law. And it were better that one man should perish, rather than the whole
Annas, with an approving nod, said—
"But He, apparently, has many disciples."
"And they, it seems probable, have a great love for Him?"
"Yes, they say that they love Him, love Him much, more than themselves."
"But if we try to take Him, will they not defend Him? Will they not raise
Judas laughed long and maliciously. "What, they? Those cowardly dogs, who
run if a man but stoop down to pick up a stone. They indeed!"
"Are they really so bad?" asked Annas coldly.
"But surely it is not the bad who flee from the good; is it not rather the
good who flee from the bad? Ha! ha! They are good, and therefore they
flee. They are good, and therefore they hide themselves. They are good,
and therefore they will appear only in time to bury Jesus. They will lay
Him in the tomb themselves; you have only to execute Him."
"But surely they love Him? You yourself said so."
"People always love their teacher, but better dead than alive. While a
teacher's alive he may ask them questions which they will find difficult
to answer. But, when a teacher dies, they become teachers themselves, and
then others fare badly in turn. Ha! ha!"
Annas looked piercingly at the Traitor, and his lips puckered—which
indicated that he was smiling.
"You have been insulted by them. I can see that."
"Can one hide anything from the perspicacity of the astute Annas? You have
pierced to the very heart of Judas. Yes, they insulted poor Judas. They
said he had stolen from them three denarii—as though Judas were not
the most honest man in Israel!"
They talked for some time longer about Jesus, and His disciples, and of
His pernicious influence on the people of Israel, but on this occasion the
crafty, cautious Annas gave no decisive answer. He had long had his eyes
on Jesus, and in secret conclave with his own relatives and friends, with
the authorities, and the Sadducees, had decided the fate of the Prophet of
Galilee. But he did not trust Judas, who he had heard was a bad,
untruthful man, and he had no confidence in his flippant faith in the
cowardice of the disciples, and of the people. Annas believed in his own
power, but he feared bloodshed, feared a serious riot, such as the
insubordinate, irascible people of Jerusalem lent itself to so easily; he
feared, in fact, the violent intervention of the Roman authorities. Fanned
by opposition, fertilised by the red blood of the people, which vivifies
everything on which it falls, the heresy would grow stronger, and stifle
in its folds Annas, the government, and all his friends. So, when Iscariot
knocked at his door a second time Annas was perturbed in spirit and would
not admit him. But yet a third and a fourth time Iscariot came to him,
persistent as the wind, which beats day and night against the closed door
and blows in through its crevices.
"I see that the most astute Annas is afraid of something," said Judas when
at last he obtained admission to the high priest.
"I am strong enough not to fear anything," Annas answered haughtily. And
Iscariot stretched forth his hands and bowed abjectly.
"What do you want?"
"I wish to betray the Nazarene to you."
"We do not want Him."
Judas bowed and waited, humbly fixing his gaze on the high priest.
"But I am bound to return. Am I not, revered Annas?"
"You will not be admitted. Go away!"
But yet again and again Judas called on the aged Annas, and at last was
Dry and malicious, worried with thought, and silent, he gazed on the
Traitor, and, as it were, counted the hairs on his knotted head. Judas
also said nothing, and seemed in his turn to be counting the somewhat
sparse grey hairs in the beard of the high priest.
"What? you here again?" the irritated Annas haughtily jerked out, as
though spitting upon his head.
"I wish to betray the Nazarene to you."
Both held their peace, and continued to gaze attentively at each other.
Iscariot's look was calm; but a quiet malice, dry and cold, began slightly
to prick Annas, like the early morning rime of winter.
"How much do you want for your Jesus?"
"How much will you give?"
Annas, with evident enjoyment, insultingly replied: "You are nothing but a
band of scoundrels. Thirty pieces—that's what we will give."
And he quietly rejoiced to see how Judas began to squirm and run about—agile
and swift as though he had a whole dozen feet, not two.
"Thirty pieces of silver for Jesus!" he cried in a voice of wild madness,
most pleasing to Annas. "For Jesus of Nazareth! You wish to buy Jesus for
thirty pieces of silver? And you think that Jesus can be betrayed to you
for thirty pieces of silver?" Judas turned quickly to the wall, and
laughed in its smooth, white fence, lifting up his long hands. "Do you
hear? Thirty pieces of silver! For Jesus!"
With the same quiet pleasure, Annas remarked indifferently:
"If you will not deal, go away. We shall find some one whose work is
And like old-clothes men who throw useless rags from hand to hand in the
dirty market-place, and shout, and swear and abuse each other, so they
embarked on a rabid and fiery bargaining. Intoxicated with a strange
rapture, running and turning about, and shouting, Judas ticked off on his
fingers the merits of Him whom he was selling.
"And the fact that He is kind and heals the sick, is that worth nothing at
all in your opinion? Ah, yes! Tell me, like an honest man!"
"If you—" began Annas, who was turning red, as he tried to get in a
word, his cold malice quickly warming up under the burning words of Judas,
who, however, interrupted him shamelessly:
"That He is young and handsome—like the Narcissus of Sharon, and the
Lily of the Valley? What? Is that worth nothing? Perhaps you will say that
He is old and useless, and that Judas is trying to dispose of an old bird?
"If you—" Annas tried to exclaim; but Judas' stormy speech bore away
his senile croak, like down upon the wind.
"Thirty pieces of silver! That will hardly work out to one obolus for each
drop of blood! Half an obolus will not go to a tear! A quarter to a groan.
And cries, and convulsions! And for the ceasing of His heartbeats? And the
closing of His eyes? Is all this to be thrown in gratis?" sobbed Iscariot,
advancing toward the high priest and enveloping him with an insane
movement of his hands and fingers, and with intervolved words.
"Includes everything," said Annas in a choking voice.
"And how much will you make out of it yourself? Eh? You wish to rob Judas,
to snatch the bit of bread from his children. No, I can't do it. I will go
on to the market-place, and shout out: 'Annas has robbed poor Judas.
Wearied, and grown quite dizzy, Annas wildly stamped about the floor in
his soft slippers, gesticulating: "Be off, be off!"
But Judas on a sudden bowed down, stretching forth his hands submissively:
"But if you really.... But why be angry with poor Judas, who only desires
his children's good. You also have children, young and handsome."
"We shall find some one else. Be gone!"
"But I—I did not say that I was unwilling to make a reduction. Did I
ever say that I could not too yield? And do I not believe you, that
possibly another may come and sell Jesus to you for fifteen oboli—nay,
for two—for one?"
And bowing lower and lower, wriggling and flattering, Judas submissively
consented to the sum offered to him. Annas shamefacedly, with dry,
trembling hand, paid him the money, and silently looking round, as though
scorched, lifted his head again and again towards the ceiling, and moving
his lips rapidly, waited while Judas tested with his teeth all the silver
pieces, one after another.
"There is now so much bad money about," Judas quickly explained.
"This money was devoted to the Temple by the pious," said Annas, glancing
round quickly, and still more quickly turning the ruddy bald nape of his
neck to Judas' view.
"But can pious people distinguish between good and bad money! Only rascals
can do that."
Judas did not take the money home, but went beyond the city and hid it
under a stone. Then he came back again quietly with heavy, dragging steps,
as a wounded animal creeps slowly to its lair after a severe and deadly
fight. Only Judas had no lair; but there was a house, and in the house he
perceived Jesus. Weary and thin, exhausted with continual strife with the
Pharisees, who surrounded Him every day in the Temple with a wall of
white, shining, scholarly foreheads, He was sitting, leaning His cheek
against the rough wall, apparently fast asleep. Through the open window
drifted the restless noises of the city. On the other side of the wall
Peter was hammering, as he put together a new table for the meal, humming
the while a quiet Galilean song. But He heard nothing; he slept on
peacefully and soundly. And this was He, whom they had bought for thirty
pieces of silver.
Coming forward noiselessly, Judas, with the tender touch of a mother, who
fears to wake her sick child—with the wonderment of a wild beast as
it creeps from its lair suddenly, charmed by the sight of a white
flowerlet—he gently touched His soft locks, and then quickly
withdrew his hand. Once more he touched Him, and then silently crept out.
"Lord! Lord!" said he.
And going apart, he wept long, shrinking and wriggling and scratching his
bosom with his nails and gnawing his shoulders. Then suddenly he ceased
weeping and gnawing and gnashing his teeth, and fell into a sombre
reverie, inclining his tear-stained face to one side in the attitude of
one listening. And so he remained for a long time, doleful, determined,
from every one apart, like fate itself.
. . . . . . . .
Judas surrounded the unhappy Jesus, during those last days of His short
life, with quiet love and tender care and caresses. Bashful and timid like
a maid in her first love, strangely sensitive and discerning, he divined
the minutest unspoken wishes of Jesus, penetrating to the hidden depth of
His feelings, His passing fits of sorrow, and distressing moments of
weariness. And wherever Jesus stepped, His foot met something soft, and
whenever He turned His gaze, it encountered something pleasing. Formerly
Judas had not liked Mary Magdalene and the other women who were near
Jesus. He had made rude jests at their expense, and done them little
unkindnesses. But now he became their friend, their strange, awkward ally.
With deep interest he would talk with them of the charming little
idiosyncrasies of Jesus, and persistently asking the same questions, he
would thrust money into their hands, their very palms—and they
brought a box of very precious ointment, which Jesus liked so much, and
anointed His feet. He himself bought for Jesus, after desperate
bargaining, an expensive wine, and then was very angry when Peter drank
nearly all of it up, with the indifference of a person who looks only to
quantity; and in that rocky Jerusalem almost devoid of trees, flowers, and
greenery he somehow managed to obtain young spring flowers and green
grass, and through these same women to give them to Jesus.
For the first time in his life he would take up little children in his
arms, finding them somewhere about the courts and streets, and unwillingly
kiss them to prevent their crying; and often it would happen that some
swarthy urchin with curly hair and dirty little nose, would climb up on
the knees of the pensive Jesus, and imperiously demand to be petted. And
while they enjoyed themselves together, Judas would walk up and down at
one side like a severe jailor, who had himself, in springtime, let a
butterfly in to a prisoner, and pretends to grumble at the breach of
On an evening, when together with the darkness, alarm took post as sentry
by the window, Iscariot would cleverly turn the conversation to Galilee,
strange to himself but dear to Jesus, with its still waters and green
banks. And he would jog the heavy Peter till his dulled memory awoke, and
in clear pictures in which everything was loud, distinct, full of colour,
and solid, there arose before his eyes and ears the dear Galilean life.
With eager attention, with half-open mouth in child-like fashion, and with
eyes laughing in anticipation, Jesus would listen to his gusty, resonant,
cheerful utterance, and sometimes laughed so at his jokes, that it was
necessary to interrupt the story for some minutes. But John told tales
even better than Peter. There was nothing ludicrous, nor startling, about
his stories, but everything seemed so pensive, unusual, and beautiful,
that tears would appear in Jesus' eyes, and He would sigh softly, while
Judas nudged Mary Magdalene and excitedly whispered to her—
"What a narrator he is! Do you hear?"
"No, be more attentive. You women never make good listeners."
Then they would all quietly disperse to bed, and Jesus would kiss His
thanks to John, and stroke kindly the shoulder of the tall Peter.
And without envy, but with a condescending contempt, Judas would witness
these caresses. Of what importance were these tales and kisses and sighs
compared with what he, Judas Iscariot, the red-haired, misshapen Judas,
begotten among the rocks, could tell them if he chose?
With one hand betraying Jesus, Judas tried hard with the other to
frustrate his own plans. He did not indeed endeavour to dissuade Jesus
from the last dangerous journey to Jerusalem, as did the women; he even
inclined rather to the side of the relatives of Jesus, and of those
amongst His disciples who looked for a victory over Jerusalem as
indispensable to the full triumph of His cause. But he kept continually
and obstinately warning them of the danger, and in lively colours depicted
the threatening hatred of the Pharisees for Jesus, and their readiness to
commit any crime if, either secretly or openly, they might make an end of
the Prophet of Galilee. Each day and every hour he kept talking of this,
and there was not one of the believers before whom Judas had not stood
with uplifted finger and uttered this serious warning:
"We must look after Jesus. We must defend for Jesus, when the hour comes."
But whether it was the unlimited faith which the disciples had in the
miracle-working power of their Master, or the consciousness of their own
uprightness, or whether it was simply blindness, the alarming words of
Judas were met with a smile, and his continual advice provoked only a
grumble. When Judas procured, somewhere or other, two swords, and brought
them, only Peter approved of them, and gave Judas his meed of praise,
while the others complained:
"Are we soldiers that we should be made to gird on swords? Is Jesus a
captain of the host, and not a prophet?"
"But if they attempt to kill Him?"
"They will not dare when they perceive how all the people follow Him."
"But if they should dare! What then?"
John replied disdainfully—
"One would think, Judas, that you were the only one who loved Jesus!"
And eagerly seizing hold of these words, and not in the least offended,
Judas began to question impatiently and hotly, with stern insistency:
"But you love Him, don't you?"
And there was not one of the believers who came to Jesus whom he did not
ask more than once: "Do you love Him? Dearly love Him?"
And all answered that they loved Him.
He used often to converse with Thomas, and holding up his dry, hooked
forefinger, with its long, dirty nail, in warning, would mysteriously say:
"Look here, Thomas, the terrible hour is drawing near. Are you prepared
for it? Why did you not take the sword I brought you?"
Thomas would reply with deliberation:
"We are men unaccustomed to the use of arms. If we were to take issue with
the Roman soldiery, they would kill us all, one after the other. Besides,
you brought only two swords, and what could we do with only two?"
"We could get more. We could take them from the Roman soldiers," Judas
impatiently objected, and even the serious Thomas smiled through his
"Ah! Judas! Judas! But where did you get these? They are like Roman
"I stole them. I could have stolen more, only some one gave the alarm, and
Thomas considered a little, then said sorrowfully—
"Again you acted ill, Judas. Why do you steal?"
"There is no such thing as property."
"No, but to-morrow they will ask the soldiers: 'Where are your swords?'
And when they cannot find them they will be punished though innocent."
The consequence was, that after the death of Jesus the disciples recalled
these conversations of Judas, and determined that he had wished to destroy
them, together with the Master, by inveigling them into an unequal and
murderous conflict. And once again they cursed the hated name of Judas
Iscariot the Traitor.
But the angry Judas, after each conversation, would go to the women and
weep. They heard him gladly. The tender womanly element, that there was in
his love for Jesus, drew him near to them, and made him simple,
comprehensible, and even handsome in their eyes, although, as before, a
certain amount of disdain was perceptible in his attitude towards them.
"Are they men?" he would bitterly complain of the disciples, fixing his
blind, motionless eye confidingly on Mary Magdalene. "They are not men.
They have not an oboles' worth of blood in their veins!"
"But then you are always speaking ill of others," Mary objected.
"Have I ever?" said Judas in surprise. "Oh, yes, I have indeed spoken ill
of them; but is there not room for improvement in them? Ah! Mary, silly
Mary, why are you not a man, to carry a sword?"
"It is so heavy, I could not lift it!" said Mary smilingly.
"But you will lift it, when men are too worthless. Did you give Jesus the
lily that I found on the mountain? I got up early to find it, and this
morning the sun was so beautiful, Mary! Was He pleased with it? Did He
"Yes, He was pleased. He said that its smell reminded Him of Galilee."
"But surely, you did not tell Him that it was Judas—Judas Iscariot—who
got it for Him?"
"Why, you asked me not to tell Him."
"Yes, certainly, quite right," said Judas, with a sigh. "You might have
let it out, though, women are such chatterers. But you did not let it out;
no, you were firm. You are a good woman, Mary. You know that I have a wife
somewhere. Now I should be glad to see her again; perhaps she is not a bad
woman either. I don't know. She said, 'Judas was a liar and malignant,' so
I left her. But she may be a good woman. Do you know?"
"How should I know, when I have never seen your wife?"
"True, true, Mary! But what think you, are thirty pieces of silver a large
sum? Is it not rather a small one?"
"I should say a small one."
"Certainly, certainly. How much did you get when you were a harlot, five
pieces of silver or ten? You were an expensive one, were you not?"
Mary Magdalene blushed, and dropped her head till her luxuriant, golden
hair completely covered her face, so that nothing but her round white chin
"How bad you are, Judas; I want to forget about that, and you remind me of
"No, Mary, you must not forget that. Why should you? Let others forget
that you were a harlot, but you must remember. It is the others who should
forget as soon as possible, but you should not. Why should you?"
"But it was a sin!"
"He fears who never committed a sin, but he who has committed it, what has
he to fear? Do the dead fear death; is it not rather the living? No, the
dead laugh at the living and their fears."
Thus by the hour would they sit and talk in friendly guise, he—already
old, dried-up and misshapen, with his bulbous head and monstrous
double-sided face; she—young, modest, tender, and charmed with life
as with a story or a dream.
But time rolled by unconcernedly, while the thirty pieces of silver lay
under the stone, and the terrible day of the Betrayal drew inevitably
near. Already Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem on the ass's back, and the
people, strewing their garments in the way, had greeted Him with
enthusiastic cries of "Hosanna! Hosanna! He that cometh in the name of the
So great was the exultation, so unrestrainedly did their loving cries rend
the skies, that Jesus wept, but His disciples proudly said:
"Is not this the Son of God with us?"
And they themselves cried out with enthusiasm: "Hosanna! Hosanna! He that
cometh in the name of the Lord!"
That evening it was long before they went to bed, recalling the
enthusiastic and joyful reception. Peter was like a madman, as though
possessed by the demon of merriment and pride. He shouted, drowning all
voices with his leonine roar; he laughed, hurling his laughter at their
heads, like great round stones; he kept kissing John and James, and even
gave a kiss to Judas. He noisily confessed that he had had great fears for
Jesus, but that he feared nothing now, that he had seen the love of the
people for Him.
Swiftly moving his vivid, watchful eye, Judas glanced in surprise from
side to side. He meditated, and then again listened, and looked. Then he
took Thomas aside, and pinning him, as it were, to the wall with his keen
gaze, he asked in doubt and fear, but with a certain confused hopefulness:
"Thomas! But what if He is right? What if He be founded upon a rock, and
we upon sand? What then?"
"Of whom are you speaking?"
"How, then, would it be with Judas Iscariot? Then I should be obliged to
strangle Him in order to do right. Who is deceiving Judas? You or he
himself? Who is deceiving Judas? Who?"
"I don't understand you, Judas. You speak very unintelligently. 'Who is
deceiving Jesus?' 'Who is right?'"
And Judas nodded his head and repeated like an echo:
"Who is deceiving Judas? Who?"
And the next day, in the way in which Judas raised his hand with thumb
bent back, and by the way in which he looked at Thomas, the same
strange question was implied:
"Who is deceiving Judas? Who is right?"
 Does our author refer to the Roman sign of disapprobation, vertere,
or convertere, pollicem?—Tr.
And still more surprised, and even alarmed, was Thomas, when suddenly in
the night he heard the loud, apparently glad voice of Judas:
"Then Judas Iscariot will be no more. Then Jesus will be no more. Then
there will be Thomas, the stupid Thomas! Did you ever wish to take the
earth and lift it? And then, possibly hurl it away?"
"That's impossible. What are you talking about, Judas?"
"It's quite possible," said Iscariot with conviction, "and we will lift it
up some day when you are asleep, stupid Thomas. Go to sleep. I'm enjoying
myself. When you sleep your nose plays the Galilean pipe. Sleep!"
But now the believers were already dispersed about Jerusalem, hiding in
houses and behind walls, and the faces of those that met them looked
mysterious. The exultation had died down. Confused reports of danger found
their way in; Peter, with gloomy countenance, tested the sword given to
him by Judas, and the face of the Master became even more melancholy and
stern. So swiftly the time passed, and inevitably approached the terrible
day of the Betrayal. Lo! the Last Supper was over, full of grief and
confused dread, and already had the obscure words of Jesus sounded
concerning some one who should betray Him.
"You know who will betray Him?" asked Thomas, looking at Judas with his
straight-forward, clear, almost transparent eyes.
"Yes, I know," Judas replied harshly and decidedly. "You, Thomas, will
betray Him. But He Himself does not believe what He says! It is full time!
Why does He not call to Him the strong, magnificent Judas?"
No longer by days, but by short, fleeting hours, was the inevitable time
to be measured. It was evening; and evening stillness and long shadows lay
upon the ground—the first sharp darts of the coming night of mighty
contest—when a harsh, sorrowful voice was heard. It said:
"Dost Thou know whither I go, Lord? I go to betray Thee into the hands of
And there was a long silence, evening stillness, and swift black shadows.
"Thou art silent, Lord? Thou commandest me to go?"
And again silence.
"Allow me to remain. But perhaps Thou canst not? Or darest not? Or wilt
And again silence, stupendous, like the eyes of eternity.
"But indeed Thou knowest that I love Thee. Thou knowest all things. Why
lookest Thou thus at Judas? Great is the mystery of Thy beautiful eyes,
but is mine less? Order me to remain! But Thou art silent. Thou art ever
silent. Lord, Lord, is it for this that in grief and pains have I sought
Thee all my life, sought and found! Free me! Remove the weight; it is
heavier than even mountains of lead. Dost Thou hear how the bosom of Judas
Iscariot is cracking under it?"
And the last silence was abysmal, like the last glance of eternity.
But the evening stillness woke not, neither uttered cry nor plaint, nor
did its subtle air vibrate with the slightest tinkle—so soft was the
fall of the retreating steps. They sounded for a time, and then were
silent. And the evening stillness became pensive, stretched itself out in
long shadows, and then grew dark;—and suddenly night, coming to meet
it, all atremble with the rustle of sadly brushed-up leaves, heaved a last
sigh and was still.
There was a bustle, a jostle, a rattle of other voices, as though some one
had untied a bag of lively resonant voices, and they were falling out on
the ground, by one and two, and whole heaps. It was the disciples talking.
And drowning them all, reverberating from the trees and walls, and
tripping up over itself, thundered the determined, powerful voice of Peter—he
was swearing that never would he desert his Master.
"Lord," said he, half in anger, half in grief: "Lord! I am ready to go
with Thee to prison and to death."
And quietly, like the soft echo of retiring footsteps, came the inexorable
"I tell thee, Peter, the cock will not crow this day before thou dost deny
The moon had already risen when Jesus prepared to go to the Mount of
Olives, where He had spent all His last nights. But He tarried, for some
inexplicable reason, and the disciples, ready to start, were hurrying Him.
Then He said suddenly:
"He that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he
that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say unto
you that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me: 'And he was
reckoned among the transgressors.'"
The disciples were surprised and looked at one another in confusion. Peter
"Lord, we have two swords here."
He looked searchingly into their kind faces, lowered His head, and said
"It is enough."
The steps of the disciples resounded loudly in the narrow streets, and
they were frightened by the sounds of their own footsteps; on the white
wall, illumined by the moon, their black shadows appeared—and they
were frightened by their own shadows. Thus they passed in silence through
Jerusalem, which was absorbed in sleep, and now they came out of the gates
of the city, and in the valley, full of fantastic, motionless shadows, the
stream of Kedron stretched before them. Now they were frightened by
everything. The soft murmuring and splashing of the water on the stones
sounded to them like voices of people approaching them stealthily; the
monstrous shades of the rocks and the trees, obstructing the road,
disturbed them, and their motionlessness seemed to them to stir. But as
they were ascending the mountain and approaching the garden, where they
had safely and quietly passed so many nights before, they were growing
ever bolder. From time to time they looked back at Jerusalem, all white in
the moonlight, and they spoke to one another about the fear that had
passed; and those who walked in the rear heard, in fragments, the soft
words of Jesus. He spoke about their forsaking Him.
In the garden they paused soon after they had entered it. The majority of
them remained there, and, speaking softly, began to make ready for their
sleep, outspreading their cloaks over the transparent embroidery of the
shadows and the moonlight. Jesus, tormented with uneasiness, and four of
His disciples went further into the depth of the garden. There they seated
themselves on the ground, which had not yet cooled off from the heat of
the day, and while Jesus was silent, Peter and John lazily exchanged words
almost devoid of any meaning. Yawning from fatigue, they spoke about the
coolness of the night; about the high price of meat in Jerusalem, and
about the fact that no fish was to be had in the city. They tried to
determine the exact number of pilgrims that had gathered in Jerusalem for
the festival, and Peter, drawling his words and yawning loudly, said that
they numbered 20,000, while John and his brother Jacob assured him just as
lazily that they did not number more than 10,000. Suddenly Jesus rose
"My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here and
watch with Me," He said, and departed hastily to the grove and soon
disappeared amid its motionless shades and light.
"Where did He go?" said John, lifting himself on his elbow. Peter turned
his head in the direction of Jesus and answered fatiguedly:
"I do not know."
And he yawned again loudly, then threw himself on his back and became
silent. The others also became silent, and their motionless bodies were
soon absorbed in the sound sleep of fatigue. Through his heavy slumber
Peter vaguely saw something white bending over him, some one's voice
resounded and died away, leaving no trace in his dimmed consciousness.
"Simon, are you sleeping?"
And he slept again, and again some soft voice reached his ear and died
away without leaving any trace.
"You could not watch with me even one hour?"
"Oh, Master! if you only knew how sleepy I am," he thought in his slumber,
but it seemed to him that he said it aloud. And he slept again. And a long
time seemed to have passed, when suddenly the figure of Jesus appeared
near him, and a loud, rousing voice instantly awakened him and the others:
"You are still sleeping and resting? It is ended, the hour has come—the
Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of the sinners."
The disciples quickly sprang to their feet, confusedly seizing their
cloaks and trembling from the cold of the sudden awakening. Through the
thicket of the trees a multitude of warriors and temple servants was seen
approaching noisily, illumining their way with torches. And from the other
side the disciples came running, quivering from cold, their sleepy faces
frightened; and not yet understanding what was going on, they asked
"What is it? Who are these people with torches?"
Thomas, pale faced, his moustaches in disorder, his teeth chattering from
chilliness, said to Peter:
"They have evidently come after us."
Now a multitude of warriors surrounded them, and the smoky, quivering
light of the torches dispelled the soft light of the moon. In front of the
warriors walked Judas Iscariot quickly, and sharply turning his quick eye,
searched for Jesus. He found Him, rested his look for an instant upon His
tall, slender figure, and quickly whispered to the priests:
"Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He. Take Him and lead Him
cautiously. Lead Him cautiously, do you hear?"
Then he moved quickly to Jesus, who waited for him in silence, and he
directed his straight, sharp look, like a knife, into His calm, darkened
"Hail, Master!" he said loudly, charging his words of usual greeting with
a strange and stern meaning.
But Jesus was silent, and the disciples looked at the traitor with horror,
not understanding how the soul of a man could contain so much evil.
Iscariot threw a rapid glance at their confused ranks, noticed their
quiver, which was about to turn into a loud, trembling fear, noticed their
pallor, their senseless smiles, the drowsy movements of their hands, which
seemed as though fettered in iron at the shoulders—and a mortal
sorrow began to burn in his heart, akin to the sorrow Christ had
experienced before. Outstretching himself into a hundred ringing, sobbing
strings, he rushed over to Jesus and kissed His cold cheek tenderly. He
kissed it so softly, so tenderly, with such painful love and sorrow, that
if Jesus had been a flower upon a thin stalk it would not have shaken from
this kiss and would not have dropped the pearly dew from its pure petals.
"Judas," said Jesus, and with the lightning of His look He illumined that
monstrous heap of shadows which was Iscariot's soul, but he could not
penetrate into the bottomless depth. "Judas! Is it with a kiss you betray
the Son of Man?"
And He saw how that monstrous chaos trembled and stirred. Speechless and
stern, like death in its haughty majesty, stood Judas Iscariot, and within
him a thousand impetuous and fiery voices groaned and roared:
"Yes! We betray Thee with the kiss of love! With the kiss of love we
betray Thee to outrage, to torture, to death! With the voice of love we
call together the hangmen from their dark holes, and we place a cross—and
high over the top of the earth we lift love, crucified by love upon a
Thus stood Judas, silent and cold, like death, and the shouting and the
noise about Jesus answered the cry of His soul. With the rude
irresoluteness of armed force, with the awkwardness of a vaguely
understood purpose, the soldiers seized Him and dragged Him off—mistaking
their irresoluteness for resistance, their fear for derision and mockery.
Like a flock of frightened lambs, the disciples stood huddled together,
not interfering, yet disturbing everybody, even themselves. Only a few of
them resolved to walk and act separately. Jostled from all sides, Peter
drew out the sword from its sheath with difficulty, as though he had lost
all his strength, and faintly lowered it upon the head of one of the
priests—without causing him any harm. Jesus, observing this, ordered
him to throw away the useless weapon, and it fell under foot with a dull
thud, and so evidently had it lost its sharpness and destructive power
that it did not occur to any one to pick it up. So it rolled about under
foot, until several days afterwards it was found on the same spot by some
children at play, who made a toy of it.
The soldiers kept dispersing the disciples, but they gathered together
again and stupidly got under the soldiers' feet, and this went on so long
that at last a contemptuous rage mastered the soldiery. One of them with
frowning brow went up to the shouting John; another rudely pushed from his
shoulder the hand of Thomas, who was arguing with him about something or
other, and shook a big fist right in front of his straightforward,
transparent eyes. John fled, and Thomas and James fled, and all the
disciples, as many as were present, forsook Jesus and fled. Losing their
cloaks, knocking themselves against the trees, tripping up against stones
and falling, they fled to the hills terror-driven, while in the stillness
of the moonlight night the ground rumbled loudly beneath the tramp of many
feet. Some one, whose name did not transpire, just risen from his bed (for
he was covered only with a blanket), rushed excitedly into the crowd of
soldiers and servants. When they tried to stop him, and seized hold of his
blanket, he gave a cry of terror, and took to flight like the others,
leaving his garment in the hands of the soldiers. And so he ran
stark-naked, with desperate leaps, and his bare body glistened strangely
in the moonlight.
When Jesus was led away, Peter, who had hidden himself behind the trees,
came out and followed his Master at a distance. Noticing another man in
front of him, who walked silently, he thought that it was John, and he
called him softly:
"John, is that you?"
"And is that you, Peter?" answered the other, pausing, and by the voice
Peter recognised the traitor. "Peter, why did you not run away together
with the others?"
Peter stopped and said with contempt:
"Leave me, Satan!"
Judas began to laugh, and paying no further attention to Peter, he
advanced where the torches were flashing dimly and where the clanking of
the weapons mingled with the footsteps. Peter followed him cautiously, and
thus they entered the court of the high priest almost simultaneously and
mingled in the crowd of the priests who were warming themselves at the
bonfires. Judas warmed his bony hands morosely at the bonfire and heard
Peter saying loudly somewhere behind him:
"No, I do not know Him."
But it was evident that they were insisting there that he was one of the
disciples of Jesus, for Peter repeated still louder: "But I do not
understand what you are saying."
Without turning around, and smiling involuntarily, Judas shook his head
affirmatively and muttered:
"That's right, Peter! Do not give up the place near Jesus to any one."
And he did not see the frightened Peter walk away from the courtyard. And
from that night until the very death of Jesus, Judas did not see a single
one of the disciples of Jesus near Him; and amid all that multitude there
were only two, inseparable until death, strangely bound together by
sufferings—He who had been betrayed to abuse and torture and he who
had betrayed Him. Like brothers, they both, the Betrayed and the betrayer,
drank out of the same cup of sufferings, and the fiery liquid burned
equally the pure and the impure lips.
Gazing fixedly at the wood-fire, which imparted a feeling of warmth to his
eyes, stretching out his long, shaking hands to the flame, his hands and
feet forming a confused outline in the trembling light and shade, Iscariot
kept mumbling in hoarse complaint:
"How cold! My God, how cold it is!"
So, when the fishermen go away at night leaving an expiring fire of
drift-wood upon the shore, from the dark depth of the sea might something
creep forth, crawl up towards the fire, look at it with wild intentness,
and dragging all its limbs up to it, mutter in hoarse complaint:
"How cold! My God, how cold it is!"
Suddenly Judas heard behind him a burst of loud voices, the cries and
laughter of the soldiers full of the usual sleepy, greedy malice; and
lashes, short frequent strokes upon a living body. He turned round, a
momentary anguish running through his whole frame—his very bones.
They were scourging Jesus.
Has it come to that?
He had seen the soldiers lead Jesus away with them to their guardroom. The
night was already nearly over, the fires had sunk down and were covered
with ashes, but from the guardroom was still borne the sound of muffled
cries, laughter, and invectives. They were scourging Jesus.
As one who has lost his way, Iscariot ran nimbly about the empty
courtyard, stopped in his course, lifted his head and ran on again, and
was surprised when he came into collision with heaps of embers, or with
Then he clung to the wall of the guardroom, stretched himself out to his
full height, and glued himself to the window and the crevices of the door,
eagerly examining what they were doing. He saw a confined stuffy room,
dirty, like all guardrooms in the world, with bespitten floor, and walls
as greasy and stained as though they had been trodden and rolled upon. And
he saw the Man whom they were scourging. They struck Him on the face and
head, and tossed Him about like a soft bundle from one end of the room to
the other. And since He neither cried out nor resisted, after looking
intently, it actually appeared at moments as though it was not a living
human being, but a soft effigy without bones or blood. It bent itself
strangely like a doll, and in falling, knocking its head against the stone
floor it did not give the impression of a hard substance striking against
a hard substance, but of something soft and devoid of feeling. And when
one looked long, it became like some strange, endless game—and
sometimes it became almost a complete illusion.
After one hard kick, the man or effigy fell slowly on its knees before a
sitting soldier, he in turn flung it away, and turning over, it dropped
down before the next, and so on and on. A loud guffaw arose, and Judas
smiled too,—as though the strong hand of some one with iron fingers
had torn his mouth asunder. It was the mouth of Judas that was deceived.
Night dragged on, and the fires were still smouldering. Judas threw
himself from the wall, and crawled to one of the fires, poked up the
ashes, rekindled it, and although he no longer felt the cold, he stretched
his slightly trembling hands over the flames, and began to mutter
"Ah! how painful, my Son, my Son! How painful!"
Then he went again to the window, which was gleaming yellow with a dull
light between the thick grating, and once more began to watch them
scourging Jesus. Once before the very eyes of Judas appeared His swarthy
countenance, now marred out of human semblance, and covered with a forest
of dishevelled hair. Then some one's hand plunged into those locks, threw
the Man down, and rhythmically turning His head from one side to the
other, began to wipe the filthy floor with His face. Right under the
window a soldier was sleeping, his open mouth revealing his glittering
white teeth; and some one's broad back, with naked, brawny neck, barred
the window, so that nothing more could be seen. And suddenly the noise
"What's that? Why are they silent? Have they suddenly divined the truth?"
Momentarily the whole head of Judas, in all its parts, was filled with the
rumbling, shouting and roaring of a thousand maddened thoughts! Had they
divined? They understood that this was the very best of men—it was
so simple, so clear! Lo! He is coming out, and behind Him they are
abjectly crawling. Yes, He is coming here, to Judas, coming out a victor,
a hero, arbiter of the truth, a god....
"Who is deceiving Judas? Who is right?"
But no. Once more noise and shouting. They are scourging Him again. They
do not understand, they have not guessed, they are beating Him harder,
more cruelly than ever. The fires burn out, covered with ashes, and the
smoke above them is as transparently blue as the air, and the sky as
bright as the moon. It is the day approaching.
"What is day?" asks Judas.
And lo! everything begins to glow, to scintillate, to grow young again,
and the smoke above is no longer blue, but rose-coloured. It is the sun
"What is the sun?" asks Judas.
They pointed the finger at Judas, and some in contempt, others with hatred
and fear, said:
"Look, that is Judas the Traitor!"
This already began to be the opprobrious title, to which he had doomed
himself throughout the ages. Thousands of years may pass, nation may
supplant nation, and still the air will resound with the words, uttered
with contempt and fear by good and bad alike:
"Judas the Traitor!"
But he listened imperturbably to what was said of him, dominated by a
feeling of burning, all-subduing curiosity. Ever since the morning when
they led forth Jesus from the guardroom, after scourging Him, Judas had
followed Him, strangely enough feeling neither grief nor pain nor joy—only
an unconquerable desire to see and hear everything. Though he had had no
sleep the whole night, his body felt light; when he was crushed and
prevented from advancing, he elbowed his way through the crowd and
adroitly wormed himself into the front place; and not for a moment did his
vivid quick eye remain at rest. At the examination of Jesus before
Caiaphas, in order not to lose a word, he hollowed his hand round his ear,
and nodded his head in affirmation, murmuring:
"Just so! Thou hearest, Jesus?"
But he was a prisoner, like a fly tied to a thread, which, buzzing, flies
hither and thither, but cannot for one moment free itself from the
tractable but unyielding thread.
Certain stony thoughts lay at the back of his head, and to these he was
firmly bound; he knew not, as it were, what these thoughts were; he did
not wish to stir them up, but he felt them continually. At times they
would come to him all of a sudden, oppress him more and more, and begin to
crush him with their unimaginable weight, as though the vault of a rocky
cavern were slowly and terribly descending upon his head.
Then he would grip his heart with his hand, and strive to set his whole
body in motion, as though he were perishing with cold, and hasten to shift
his eyes to a fresh place, and again to another. When they led Jesus away
from Caiaphas, he met His weary eyes quite close, and, somehow or other,
unconsciously he gave Him several friendly nods.
"I am here, my Son, I am here," he muttered hurriedly, and maliciously
poked to some gaper in the back who stood in his way.
And now, in a huge shouting crowd, they all moved on to Pilate for the
last examination and trial, and with the same insupportable curiosity
Judas searched the faces of the ever swelling multitude. Many were quite
unknown to him; Judas had never seen them before, but some were there who
had cried, "Hosanna!" to Jesus, and at each step the number of them seemed
"Well, well!" thought Judas, and his head spun round as if he were drunk,
"the worst is over. Directly they will be crying: 'He is ours, He is
Jesus! What are you about?' and all will understand, and—"
But the believers walked in silence. Some hypocritically smiled, as if to
say: "The affair is none of ours!" Others spoke with constraint, but their
low voices were drowned in the rumbling of movement, and the loud
delirious shouts of His enemies.
And Judas felt better again. Suddenly he noticed Thomas cautiously
slipping through the crowd not far off, and struck by a sudden thought, he
was about to go up to him. At the sight of the traitor, Thomas was
frightened, and tried to hide himself. But in a little narrow street,
between two walls, Judas overtook him.
"Thomas, wait a bit!"
Thomas stopped, and stretching both hands out in front of him solemnly
pronounced the words:
Iscariot made an impatient movement of the hands.
"What a fool you are, Thomas! I thought that you had more sense than the
others. Satan indeed! That requires proof."
Letting his hands fall, Thomas asked in surprise:
"But did not you betray the Master? I myself saw you bring the soldiers,
and point Him out to them. If this is not treachery, I should like to know
"Never mind that," hurriedly said Judas. "Listen, there are many of you
here. You must all gather together, and loudly demand: 'Give up Jesus. He
is ours!' They will not refuse you, they dare not. They themselves will
"What do you mean! What are you thinking of!" said Thomas, with a decisive
wave of his hands. "Have you not seen what a number of armed soldiers and
servants of the Temple there are here? Moreover, the trial has not yet
taken place, and we must not interfere with the court. Surely he
understands that Jesus is innocent, and will order His release without
"You, then, think so too," said Judas thoughtfully. "Thomas, Thomas, what
if it be the truth? What then? Who is right? Who has deceived Judas?"
"We were all talking last night, and came to the conclusion that the court
cannot condemn the innocent. But if it does, why then—"
"Why, then it is no court. And it will be the worse for them when they
have to give an account before the real Judge."
"Before the real! Is there any 'real' left?" sneered Judas.
"And all of our party cursed you; but since you say that you were not the
traitor, I think you ought to be tried."
Judas did not want to hear him out; but turned right about, and hurried
down the street in the wake of the retreating crowd. He soon, however,
slackened his pace, mindful of the fact that a crowd always travels
slowly, and that a single pedestrian will inevitably overtake it.
When Pilate led Jesus out from his palace, and set Him before the people,
Judas, crushed against a column by the heavy backs of the soldiers,
furiously turning his head about to see something between two shining
helmets, suddenly felt clearly that the worst was over. He saw Jesus in
the sunshine, high above the heads of the crowd, blood-stained, pale with
a crown of thorns, the sharp spikes of which pressed into His forehead.
He stood on the edge of an elevation, visible from His head to His small,
sunburnt feet, and waited so calmly, was so serene in His immaculate
purity, that only a blind man, who perceived not the very sun, could fail
to see, only a madman would not understand. And the people held their
peace—it was so still, that Judas heard the breathing of the soldier
in front of him, and how, at each breath, a strap creaked somewhere about
"Yes, it will soon be over! They will understand immediately," thought
Judas, and suddenly something strange, like the dazzling joy of falling
from a giddy height into a blue sparkling abyss, arrested his heart-beats.
Contemptuously drawing his lips down to his rounded well-shaven chin,
Pilate flung to the crowd the dry, curt words—as one throws bones to
a pack of hungry hounds—thinking to cheat their longing for fresh
blood and living, palpitating flesh:
"You have brought this Man before me as a corrupter of the people, and
behold I have examined Him before you, and I find this Man guiltless of
that of which you accuse Him...."
Judas closed his eyes. He was waiting.
All the people began to shout, to sob, to howl with a thousand voices of
wild beasts and men:
"Put Him to death! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" And as though in
self-mockery, as though wishing in one moment to plumb the very depths of
all possible degradation, madness and shame, the crowd cries out, sobs,
and demands with a thousand voices of wild beasts and men:
"Release unto us Barabbas! But crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
But the Roman had evidently not yet said his last word. Over his proud,
shaven countenance there passed convulsions of disgust and anger. He
understood! He has understood all along! He speaks quietly to his
attendants, but his voice is not heard in the roar of the crowd. What does
he say? Is he ordering them to bring swords, and to smite those maniacs?
"Water? What water? What for?"
Ah, lo! he washes his hands. Why does he wash his clean white hands all
adorned with rings? He lifts them and cries angrily to the people, whom
surprise holds in silence:
"I am innocent of the blood of this Just Person. See ye to it."
While the water is still dripping from his fingers on to the marble
pavement, something soft prostrates itself at his feet, and sharp, burning
lips kiss his hand, which he is powerless to withdraw, glue themselves to
it like tentacles, almost bite and draw blood. He looks down in disgust
and fear, and sees a great squirming body, a strangely twofold face, and
two immense eyes so queerly diverse from one another that, as it were, not
one being but a number of them clung to his hands and feet. He heard a
broken, burning whisper:
"O wise and noble... wise and noble."
And with such a truly satanic joy did that wild face blaze, that, with a
cry, Pilate kicked him away, and Judas fell backwards. And there he lay
upon the stone flags like an overthrown demon, still stretching out his
hand to the departing Pilate, and crying as one passionately enamoured:
"O wise, O wise and noble...."
Then he gathered himself up with agility, and ran away followed by the
laughter of the soldiery. Evidently there was yet hope. When they come to
see the cross, and the nails, then they will understand, and then.... What
then? He catches sight of the panic-stricken Thomas in passing, and for
some reason or other reassuringly nods to him; he overtakes Jesus being
led to execution. The walking is difficult, small stones roll under the
feet, and suddenly Judas feels that he is tired. He gives himself up
wholly to the trouble of deciding where best to plant his feet, he looks
dully around, and sees Mary Magdalene weeping, and a number of women
weeping—hair dishevelled, eyes red, lips distorted—all the
excessive grief of a tender woman's soul when submitted to outrage.
Suddenly he revives, and seizing the moment, runs up to Jesus:
"I go with Thee," he hurriedly whispers.
The soldiers drive him away with blows of their whips, and squirming so as
to avoid the blows, and showing his teeth at the soldiers, he explains
"I go with Thee. Thither. Thou understandest whither."
He wipes the blood from his face, shakes his fist at one of the soldiers,
who turns round and smiles, and points him out to the others. Then he
looks for Thomas, but neither he nor any of the disciples are in the crowd
that accompanies Jesus. Again he is conscious of fatigue, and drags one
foot with difficulty after the other, as he attentively looks out for the
sharp, white, scattered pebbles.
When the hammer was uplifted to nail Jesus' left hand to the tree, Judas
closed his eyes, and for a whole age neither breathed, nor saw, nor lived,
but only listened.
But lo! with a grating sound, iron strikes against iron, time after time,
dull, short blows, and then the sharp nail penetrating the soft wood and
separating its particles is distinctly heard.
One hand. It is not yet too late!
The other hand. It is not yet too late!
A foot, the other foot! Is all lost?
He irresolutely opens his eyes, and sees how the cross is raised, and
rocks, and is set fast in the trench. He sees how the hands of Jesus are
convulsed by the tension, how painfully His arms stretch, how the wounds
grow wider, and how the exhausted abdomen disappears under the ribs. The
arms stretch more and more, grow thinner and whiter, and become dislocated
from the shoulders, and the wounds of the nails redden and lengthen
gradually—lo! in a moment they will be torn away. No. It stopped.
All stopped. Only the ribs move up and down with the short, deep
On the very crown of the hill the cross is raised, and on it is the
crucified Jesus. The horror and the dreams of Judas are realised, he gets
up from his knees on which, for some reason, he has knelt, and gazes
Thus does a stern conqueror look, when he has already determined in his
heart to surrender everything to destruction and death, and for the last
time throws a glance over a rich foreign city, still alive with sound, but
already phantom-like under the cold hand of death. And suddenly, as
clearly as his terrible victory, Iscariot saw its ominous precariousness.
What if they should suddenly understand? It is not yet too late! Jesus
still lives. There He gazes with entreating, sorrowing eyes.
What can prevent the thin film which covers the eyes of mankind, so thin
that it hardly seems to exist at all, what can prevent it from rending?
What if they should understand? What if suddenly, in all their threatening
mass of men, women and children, they should advance, silently, without a
cry, and wipe out the soldiery, plunging them up to their ears in their
own blood, should tear from the ground the accursed cross, and by the
hands of all who remain alive should lift up the liberated Jesus above the
summit of the hill! Hosanna! Hosanna!
Hosanna? No! Better that Judas should lie on the ground. Better that he
should lie upon the ground, and gnashing his teeth like a dog, should
watch and wait until all these should rise up.
But what has come to Time? Now it almost stands still, so that one would
wish to push it with the hands, to kick it, beat it with a whip like a
lazy ass. Now it rushes madly down some mountain, and catches its breath,
and stretches out its hand in vain to stop itself. There weeps the mother
of Jesus. Let them weep. What avail her tears now? nay, the tears of all
the mothers in the world?
"What are tears?" asks Judas, and madly pushes unyielding Time, beats it
with his fists, curses it like a slave. It belongs to some one else, and
therefore is unamenable to discipline. Oh! if only it belonged to Judas!
But it belongs to all these people who are weeping, laughing, chattering
as in the market. It belongs to the sun; it belongs to the cross; to the
heart of Jesus, which is dying so slowly.
What an abject heart has Judas! He lays his hand upon it, but it cries
out: "Hosanna," so loud that all may hear. He presses it to the ground,
but it cries, "Hosanna, Hosanna!" like a babbler who scatters holy
mysteries broadcast through the street.
"Be still! Be still!"
Suddenly a loud broken lamentation, dull cries, the last hurried movements
towards the cross. What is it? Have they understood at last?
No, Jesus is dying. But can this be? Yes, Jesus is dying. His pale hands
are motionless, but short convulsions run over His face, and breast, and
legs. But can this be? Yes, He is dying. His breathing becomes less
frequent. It ceases. No, there is yet one sigh, Jesus is still upon the
earth. But is there another? No, no, no. Jesus is dead.
It is finished. Hosanna! Hosanna!
His horror and his dreams are realised. Who will now snatch the victory
from the hands of Iscariot?
It is finished. Let all people on earth stream to Golgotha, and shout with
their million throats, "Hosanna! Hosanna!" And let a sea of blood and
tears be poured out at its foot, and they will find only the shameful
cross and a dead Jesus!
Calmly and coldly Iscariot surveys the dead, letting his gaze rest for a
moment on that neck, which he had kissed only yesterday with a farewell
kiss; and slowly goes away. Now all Time belongs to him, and he walks
without hurry; now all the World belongs to him, and he steps firmly, like
a ruler, like a king, like one who is infinitely and joyfully alone in the
world. He observes the mother of Jesus, and says to her sternly:
"Thou weepest, mother? Weep, weep, and long will all the mothers upon
earth weep with thee: until I come with Jesus and destroy death."
What does he mean? Is he mad, or is he mocking—this Traitor? He is
serious, and his face is stern, and his eyes no longer dart about in mad
haste. Lo! he stands still, and with cold attention views a new,
It has become small, and he feels the whole of it under his feet. He looks
at the little mountains, quietly reddening under the last rays of the sun,
and he feels the mountains under his feet.
He looks at the sky opening wide its azure mouth; he looks at the small
round disc of the sun, which vainly strives to singe and dazzle, and he
feels the sky and the sun under his feet. Infinitely and joyfully alone,
he proudly feels the impotence of all forces which operate in the world,
and has cast them all into the abyss.
He walks farther on, with quiet, masterful steps. And Time goes neither
forward nor back: obediently it marches in step with him in all its
It is the end.
As an old cheat, coughing, smiling fawningly, bowing incessantly, Judas
Iscariot the Traitor appeared before the Sanhedrin. It was the day after
the murder of Jesus, about mid-day. There they were all, His judges and
murderers: the aged Annas with his sons, exact and disgusting likenesses
of their father, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, devoured by ambition, and
all the other members of the Sanhedrin, whose names have been snatched
from the memory of mankind—rich and distinguished Sadducees, proud
in their power and knowledge of the Law.
In silence they received the Traitor, their haughty faces remaining
motionless, as though no one had entered. And even the very least, and
most insignificant among them, to whom the others paid no attention,
lifted up his bird-like face and looked as though no one had entered.
Judas bowed and bowed and bowed, and they looked on in silence: as though
it were not a human being that had entered, but only an unclean insect
that had crept in, and which they had not observed. But Judas Iscariot was
not the man to be perturbed: they kept silence, and he kept on bowing, and
thought that if it was necessary to go on bowing till evening, he could do
At length Caiaphas inquired impatiently:
"What do you want?"
Judas bowed once more, and said in a loud voice—
"It is I, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed to you Jesus of Nazareth."
"Well, what of that? You have received your due. Go away!" ordered Annas;
but Judas appeared unconscious of the command, and continued bowing.
Glancing at him, Caiaphas asked Annas:
"How much did you give?"
"Thirty pieces of silver."
Caiaphas laughed, and even the grey-bearded Annas laughed, too, and over
all their proud faces there crept a smile of enjoyment; and even the one
with the bird-like face laughed. Judas, perceptibly blanching, hastily
interrupted with the words:
"That's right! Certainly it was very little; but is Judas discontented,
does Judas call out that he has been robbed? He is satisfied. Has he not
contributed to a holy cause—yes, a holy? Do not the most sage people
now listen to Judas, and think: He is one of us, this Judas Iscariot; he
is our brother, our friend, this Judas Iscariot, the Traitor! Does not
Annas want to kneel down and kiss the hand of Judas? Only Judas will not
allow it; he is a coward, he is afraid they will bite him."
"Drive the dog out! What's he barking about?"
"Get along with you. We have no time to listen to your babbling," said
Judas drew himself up and closed his eyes. The hypocrisy, which he had
carried so lightly all his life, suddenly became an insupportable burden,
and with one movement of his eyelashes he cast it from him. And when he
looked at Annas again, his glance was simple, direct, and terrible in its
naked truthfulness. But they paid no attention to this either.
"You want to be driven out with sticks!" cried Caiaphas.
Panting under the weight of the terrible words, which he was lifting
higher and higher, in order to hurl them hence upon the heads of the
judges, Judas hoarsely asked:
"But you know... you know... who He was... He, whom you condemned
yesterday and crucified?"
"We know. Go away!"
With one word he would straightway rend that thin film which was spread
over their eyes, and all the earth would stagger beneath the weight of the
merciless truth! They had a soul, they should be deprived of it; they had
a life, they should lose their life; they had light before their eyes,
eternal darkness and horror should cover them. Hosanna! Hosanna!
And these words, these terrible words, were tearing his throat asunder—
"He was no deceiver. He was innocent and pure. Do you hear? Judas deceived
you. He betrayed to you an innocent man."
He waits. He hears the aged, unconcerned voice of Annas, saying:
"And is that all you want to say?"
"You do not seem to have understood me," says Judas, with dignity, turning
pale. "Judas deceived you. He was innocent. You have slain the innocent."
He of the bird-like face smiles; but Annas is indifferent, Annas yawns.
And Caiaphas yawns, too, and says wearily:
"What did they mean by talking to me about the intellect of Judas
Iscariot? He is simply a fool, and a bore, too."
"What?" cries Judas, all suffused with dark madness. "But who are you, the
clever ones! Judas deceived you—hear! It was not He that he betrayed—but
you—you wiseacres, you, the powerful, you he betrayed to a shameful
death, which will not end, throughout the ages. Thirty pieces of silver!
Well, well. But that is the price of YOUR blood—blood filthy as the
dish-water which the women throw out of the gates of their houses. Oh!
Annas, old, grey, stupid Annas, chock-full of the Law, why did you not
give one silver piece, just one obolus more? At this price you will go
down through the ages!"
"Be off!" cries Caiaphas, growing purple in the face. But Annas stops him
with a motion of the hand, and asks Judas as unconcernedly as ever:
"Is that all?"
"Verily, if I were to go into the desert, and cry to the wild beasts:
'Wild beasts, have ye heard the price at which men valued their Jesus?'—what
would the wild beasts do? They would creep out of the lairs, they would
howl with anger, they would forget their fear of mankind, and would all
come here to devour you! If I were to say to the sea: 'Sea, knowest thou
the price at which men valued their Jesus?' If I were to say to the
mountains: 'Mountains, know ye the price at which men valued their Jesus?'
Then the sea and the mountains would leave their places, assigned to them
for ages, and would come here and fall upon your heads!"
"Does Judas wish to become a prophet? He speaks so loud!" mockingly
remarks he of the bird-like face, with an ingratiating glance at Caiaphas.
"To-day I saw a pale sun. It was looking at the earth, and saying: 'Where
is the Man?' To-day I saw a scorpion. It was sitting upon a stone and
laughingly said: 'Where is the Man?' I went near and looked into its eyes.
And it laughed and said: 'Where is the Man? I do not see Him!' Where is
the Man? I ask you, I do not see Him—or is Judas become blind, poor
And Iscariot begins to weep aloud.
He was, during those moments, like a man out of his mind, and Caiaphas
turned away, making a contemptuous gesture with his hand. But Annas
considered for a time, and then said:
"I perceive, Judas, that you really have received but little, and that
disturbs you. Here is some more money; take it and give it to your
He threw something, which rang shrilly. The sound had not died away,
before another, like it, strangely prolonged the clinking.
Judas had hastily flung the pieces of silver and the oboles into the faces
of the high priest and of the judges, returning the price paid for Jesus.
The pieces of money flew in a curved shower, falling on their faces, and
on the table, and rolling about the floor.
Some of the judges closed their hands with the palms outwards; others
leapt from their places, and shouted and scolded. Judas, trying to hit
Annas, threw the last coin, after which his trembling hand had long been
fumbling in his wallet, spat in anger, and went out.
"Well, well," he mumbled, as he passed swiftly through the streets,
scaring the children. "It seems that thou didst weep, Judas? Was Caiaphas
really right when he said that Judas Iscariot was a fool? He who weeps in
the day of his great revenge is not worthy of it—know'st thou that,
Judas? Let not thine eyes deceive thee; let not thine heart lie to thee;
flood not the fire with tears, Judas Iscariot!"
The disciples were sitting in mournful silence, listening to what was
going on without. There was still danger that the vengeance of Jesus'
enemies might not confine itself to Him, and so they were all expecting a
visit from the guard, and perhaps more executions. Near to John, to whom,
as the beloved disciple, the death of Jesus was especially grievous, sat
Mary Magdalene, and Matthew trying to comfort him in an undertone. Mary,
whose face was swollen with weeping, softly stroked his luxurious curling
hair with her hand, while Matthew said didactically, in the words of
"'The long suffering is better than a hero; and he that ruleth his own
spirit than one who taketh a city.'"
At this moment Judas knocked loudly at the door, and entered. All started
up in terror, and at first were not sure who it was; but when they
recognised the hated countenance, the red-haired, bulbous head, they
uttered a simultaneous cry.
Peter raised both hands and shouted:
"Get out of here, Traitor! Get out, or I will kill you."
But the others looked more carefully at the face and eyes of the Traitor,
and said nothing, merely whispering in terror:
"Leave him alone, leave him alone! He is possessed with a devil."
Judas waited until they had quite done, and then cried out in a loud
"Hail, ye eyes of Judas Iscariot! Ye have just seen the cold-blooded
murderers. Lo! Where is Jesus? I ask you, where is Jesus?"
There was something compelling in the hoarse voice of Judas, and Thomas
"You know yourself, Judas, that our Master was crucified yesterday."
"But how came you to permit it? Where was your love? Thou, Beloved
Disciple, and thou, Rock, where were you all when they were crucifying
your Friend on the tree?"
"What could we do, judge thou?" said Thomas, with a gesture of protest.
"Thou asketh that, Thomas? Very well!" and Judas threw his head back, and
fell upon him angrily. "He who loves does not ask what can be done—he
goes and does it—he weeps, he bites, he throttles the enemy, and
breaks his bones! He, that is, who loves! If your son were drowning would
you go into the city and inquire of the passers by: 'What must I do? My
son is drowning!' No, you would rather throw yourself into the water and
drown with him. One who loved would!"
Peter replied grimly to the violent speech of Judas:
"I drew a sword, but He Himself forbade."
"Forbade? And you obeyed!" jeered Judas. "Peter, Peter, how could you
listen to Him? Does He know anything of men, and of fighting?"
"He who does not submit to Him goes to hell fire."
"Then why did you not go, Peter? Hell fire! What's that? Now, supposing
you had gone—what good's your soul to you, if you dare not throw it
into the fire, if you want to?"
"Silence!" cried John, rising. "He Himself willed this sacrifice. His
sacrifice is beautiful!"
"Is a sacrifice ever beautiful, Beloved Disciple? Wherever there is a
sacrifice, then there is an executioner, and there traitors! Sacrifice—that
is suffering for one and disgrace for all the others! Traitors, traitors,
what have ye done with the world? Now they look at it from above and
below, and laugh and cry: 'Look at that world, upon it they crucified
Jesus!' And they spit on it—as I do!"
Judas angrily spat on the ground.
"He took upon Him the sin of all mankind. His sacrifice is beautiful,"
"No! you have taken all sin upon yourselves. You, Beloved Disciple, will
not a race of traitors take their beginning from you, a pusillanimous and
lying breed? O blind men, what have ye done with the earth? You have done
your best to destroy it, ye will soon be kissing the cross on which ye
crucified Jesus! Yes, yes, Judas gives ye his word that ye will kiss the
"Judas, don't revile!" roared Peter, pushing. "How could we slay all His
enemies? They are so many!"
"And thou, Peter!" exclaimed John in anger, "dost thou not perceive that
he is possessed of Satan? Leave us, Tempter! Thou'rt full of lies. The
Teacher forbade us to kill."
"But did He forbid you to die? Why are you alive, when He is dead? Why do
your feet walk, why does your tongue talk trash, why do your eyes blink,
when He is dead, motionless, speechless? How do your cheeks dare to be
red, John, when His are pale? How can you dare to shout, Peter, when He is
silent? What could you do? You ask Judas? And Judas answers you, the
magnificent, bold Judas Iscariot replies: 'Die!' You ought to have fallen
on the road, to have seized the soldiers by the sword, by the hands, and
drowned them in a sea of your own blood—yes, die, die! Better had it
been, that His Father should have cause to cry out with horror, when you
all enter there!"
Judas ceased with raised head. Suddenly he noticed the remains of a meal
upon the table. With strange surprise, curiously, as though for the first
time in his life he looked on food, he examined it, and slowly asked:
"What is this? You have been eating? Perhaps you have also been sleeping?"
Peter, who had begun to feel Judas to be some one, who could command
obedience, drooping his head, tersely replied: "I slept, I slept and ate!"
Thomas said, resolutely and firmly:
"This is all untrue, Judas. Just consider: if we had all died, who would
have told the story of Jesus? Who would have conveyed His teaching to
mankind if we had all died, Peter and John and I?"
"But what is the truth itself in the mouths of traitors? Does it not
become a lie? Thomas, Thomas, dost thou not understand, that thou art now
only a sentinel at the grave of dead Truth? The sentinel falls asleep, and
the thief cometh and carries away the truth; say, where is the truth?
Cursed be thou, Thomas! Fruitless, and a beggar shalt thou be throughout
the ages, and all you with him, accursed ones!"
"Accursed be thou thyself, Satan!" cried John, and James and Matthew and
all the other disciples repeated his cry; only Peter held his peace.
"I am going to Him," said Judas, stretching his powerful hand on high.
"Who will follow Iscariot to Jesus?"
"I—I also go with thee," cried Peter, rising.
But John and the others stopped him in horror, saying:
"Madman! Thou hast forgotten, that he betrayed the Master into the hands
of His enemies."
Peter began to lament bitterly, striking his breast with his fist:
"Whither, then, shall I go? O Lord! whither shall I go?"
. . . . .. . .
Judas had long ago, during his solitary walks, marked the place where he
intended to make an end of himself after the death of Jesus.
It was upon a hill high above Jerusalem. There stood but one tree, bent
and twisted by the wind, which had torn it on all sides, half withered.
One of its broken, crooked branches stretched out towards Jerusalem, as
though in blessing or in threat, and this one Judas had chosen on which to
hang a noose.
But the walk to the tree was long and tedious, and Judas Iscariot was very
weary. The small, sharp stones, scattered under his feet, seemed
continually to drag him backwards, and the hill was high, stern, and
malign, exposed to the wind. Judas was obliged to sit down several times
to rest, and panted heavily, while behind him, through the clefts of the
rock, the mountain breathed cold upon his back.
"Thou too art against me, accursed one!" said Judas contemptuously, as he
breathed with difficulty, and swayed his heavy head, in which all the
thoughts were now petrifying.
Then he raised it suddenly, and opening wide his now fixed eyes, angrily
"No, they were too bad for Judas. Thou hearest Jesus? Wilt Thou trust me
now? I am coming to Thee. Meet me kindly, I am weary—very weary.
Then Thou and I, embracing like brothers, shall return to earth. Shall we
Again he swayed his petrifying head, and again he opened his eyes,
"But maybe Thou wilt be angry with Judas when he arrives? And Thou wilt
not trust him? And wilt send him to hell? Well! What then! I will go to
hell. And in Thy hell fire I will weld iron, and weld iron, and demolish
Thy heaven. Dost approve? Then Thou wilt believe in me. Then Thou wilt
come back with me to earth, wilt Thou not, Jesus?"
Eventually Judas reached the summit and the crooked tree, and there the
wind began to torment him. And when Judas rebuked it, it began to blow
soft and low, and took leave and flew away.
"Right! But as for them, they are curs!" said Judas, making a slip-knot.
And since the rope might fail him and break, he hung it over a precipice,
so that if it broke, he would be sure to meet his death upon the stones.
And before he shoved himself off the brink with his foot, and hanged
himself, Judas Iscariot once more anxiously prepared Jesus for his coming:
"Yes, meet me kindly, Jesus. I am very weary."
He leapt. The rope strained, but held. His neck stretched, but his hands
and feet were crossed, and hung down as though damp.
He died. Thus, in the course of two days, one after another, Jesus of
Nazareth and Judas Iscariot, the Traitor, left the world.
All the night through, like some monstrous fruit, Judas swayed over
Jerusalem, and the wind kept turning his face now to the city, and now to
the desert—as though it wished to exhibit Judas to both city and
desert. But in whichever direction his face, distorted by death, was
turned, his red eyes suffused with blood, and now as like one another as
two brothers, incessantly looked towards the sky. In the morning some
sharp-sighted person perceived Judas hanging above the city, and cried out
People came and took him down, and knowing who he was, threw him into a
deep ravine, into which they were in the habit of throwing dead horses and
cats and other carrion.
The same evening all the believers knew of the terrible death of the
Traitor, and the next day it was known to all Jerusalem. Stony Judaea knew
of it and green Galilee; and from one sea to the other, distant as it was,
the news flew of the death of the Traitor.
Neither faster nor slower, but with equal pace with Time itself, it went,
and as there is no end to Time so will there be no end to the stories
about the Traitor Judas and his terrible death.
And all—both good and bad—will equally anathematise his
shameful memory; and among all peoples, past and present, will he remain
alone in his cruel destiny—Judas Iscariot, the Traitor.