Here’s the final part of that SWCCL paper from 2012:
What we may miss when reading Silence, and what may lead students astray when we teach it, is how sharply dependent certain elements of its portrayal of Christian truth are on Rodrigues’ own imaginings. Of course, we must debate the “Trample!” instruction which, whether as command or permission, echoes Rodrigues’ own verbal or mental cries for those who are about to be martyred to apostasize instead (for the village martyrs, see 83; for Garrpe, see 204). However, in more subtle ways the role of Kichijiro is colored by the fact that from the first Rodrigues has treated him with contempt and suspicion, and glosses over alternative possibilities for responding to him. For example, Kichijiro offers Rodrigues some salted fish, and chews grass instead himself, when they are fleeing (113). Rodrigues himself says that he “snatched greedily” and “ate ravenously,” yet when he begins to be thirsty, he accuses Kichijiro of giving him the salted fish to weaken him (116-7). Kichijiro only comments that Rodrigues ate too much; Kichijiro also manages to secure Rodrigues some water, which Rodrigues also consumes “greedily and shamelessly” (118). We have only Rodrigues’ literally fevered imaginings to help us decide whether Kichijiro used this as a stratagem, or whether Kichijiro offered Rodrigues all the food he had, and secured him water, while avoiding confrontation with Rodrigues over the latter’s poor manners. Many similar examples are available, but for now let us move on to the Biblical portrait of Judas.
We can roughly find seven relevant elements in the portayals of Judas Iscariot in the Gospels and Acts; one of them will be especially worthy of exploration in this context.
1) all four Evangelists carefully identify Judas Iscariot well before the Passion narrative.
In lists of the Twelve, Matthew has “Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him”; Mark has “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him”; and Luke has “Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”
In John 6:71, John explains one of Jesus’ predictions of His Passion as follows: “He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.” And in John 12, we read that “Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples” was “about to betray him.”
2) Judas manifests behaviors and attitudes indicative of unbelief well before the betrayal.
(see discussion of John 6 & 12; short version is just John 12)
3) Judas receives money in advance and begins plotting.
“Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.” (Matthew 26:14-16)
see also Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-7; John 13:2
4) Judas is described as possessed by the devil (Luke 22 & John 13).
5) Judas definitely takes the initiative in arranging signals and revealing Jesus’ whereabouts.
(in addition to some of the texts above about Judas’ unbelief,) see Mark 14:43-52, which gives the most extensive account of Judas’s use of the kiss as a sign, his acting as a scout for the guards, etc.
also John 18:2-5; Luke 22:47-48
6) Judas is confronted with his treachery in advance, but continues.
When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”
He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:20-25)
also John 13:21-30. Note that these texts make it quite impossible to take the “Jesus gave Judas permission to betray Him” theme seriously.
7) Judas is remorseful but impenitent.
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” (Matthew 27:1-10)
8) Judas is considered a deposed apostate by the Church and his office given to another.
The first act of the assembled Church after Christ’s Ascension is led by Peter, who speaks of “Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus” as they seek a replacement twelfth Apostle, someone “chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” (Acts 1:12-26)
John’s remarks in chapters 6 and 12 of his Gospel are of special interest, as these two passages also typify the manner in which the reception or rejection of the Incarnate Word is portrayed throughout John’s writings. Judas is characterized by what he does and does not receive of Jesus, and the nature of God’s self-revelation in Christ is characterized by the infamous treason that crowns the career of one whose acceptance of some of Jesus’ words masked a deeper rejection of the Person of the Son of God.
In John 6, there are actually two mentions of the betrayer embedded in a twofold interplay of belief and disbelief. Speaking to the Jewish audience in a series of synagogue discussions following the miracle of the feeding of the multitude, Jesus has just caused significant consternation by insisting that all and only those who are “taught by God” follow Jesus, and in fact insisting that following Jesus and having “heard and learned from the Father” are strictly identical for those faced with the presence of the Incarnate Word, the Christ “who is from God,” who is the only one who “has seen the Father” in the relevant sense. When Jesus says “whoever believes has eternal life,” then, the saying is not received as a universal call to earnestness or sincerity or openness or wonder, but appears repugnant to the hearers. Jesus warns them, “Do not complain among yourselves,” and John tells us that “The Jews then disputed among themselves.” This first controversy takes place among the mostly Jewish audience comprising both followers of Jesus and His most passionate opponents, as well as many still unsure where they stand.
What Jesus’ Jewish interlocutors find so offensive, here, is the concrete historical form of truth that Jesus sets out for those who are “taught of God” and follow Him. Jesus said, “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Eating the multiplied loaves and fishes, or debating the significance of Jesus’ teachings, or following a portion of divine revelation, is of limited value; those who “ate the manna in the wilderness” undoubtedly followed the Father’s teachings up to a point, but “they died.” Only when the unique “bread of life” has been provided can the one “drawn by the Father” and “taught by God” come to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” so that Jesus can promise repeatedly, “I will raise that person up on the last day.” The question “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” expresses the perplexity of those who have not yet come to terms with the fullness of the Incarnate Word, as well as the challenge of those who set themselves in opposition.
This perplexity, though, divides even those accepted among Jesus’ followers. Even those identified as “disciples” up to this point are heard “complaining” that “This teaching is difficult” and asking “who can accept it?” As He does frequently throughout His career, Jesus does not alleviate their perplexity, but exacerbates it, in order to expose unbelief and clarify belief. Jesus’ words “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” work in at least three ways at once: they argue a fortiori from the greater material difficulty of the Incarnation to the lesser difficulty of the Real Presence; they underscore the moral hazard of abstractly affirming the Incarnation while denying its concrete historical form; and they directly foreshadow Jesus’ later Ascension. (In the unfolding of John’s Gospel, of course, this passage also closely echoes Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in chapter 3.) Building on that multiplicity of sense, Jesus’ declaration that “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless” indicates that followers of Jesus must understand and order material realities according to their spiritual relations. They must finally evaluate Jesus’ claims in the full light of revelation, rather than by the limited light of unaided natural reason. This meaning is anchored when Jesus tells His followers that “among you there are some who do not believe” and John informs us that “Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.”
This portrait is rather different from the one in Silence; Jesus is quite clear on who will betray Him, and considers that person an unbeliever. It is at precisely this point, when the betrayer has just been mentioned in association with the unbelievers still numbered among the disciples, that we hear that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him,” which leads Jesus to turn and directly ask the Twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” This question, of course, would be as close to the “permission” to apostasize as Judas would be likely to get. What follows is one of Peter’s two famous confessions: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” However imperfectly, Peter and the faithful together recognized that the Incarnate Word had offered not just teaching but body and blood, and that this was their sole source of salvation. Jesus’ reply, however, demands of them a further understanding than this temporal followership, though not less than that: “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” John specifically indicates that Jesus was speaking of Judas, “for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.” Judas’s betrayal, then, was an indication of a deeper fault; an unbelief which persisted even under the guise of religious vocation, which must eventually betray itself by betraying Christ. John’s arrangement of the account underscores the particularity of Judas’s unbelief: Judas refused to accept the unity and unicity of Christ’s salvific message with His saving Person so concretely stated in Jesus’ teaching about His Body and Blood.
With this background in mind, the scene at Lazarus’ home in Bethany becomes much clearer. In John 12, the account of Mary, sister of Martha, using expensive ointment to treat Jesus’ feet—an apparent waste to which Judas objected—is not left to stand alone. In fact, the very next occurrence after this is Judas going to the Jewish leaders to conspire against Jesus. This story is framed with pointed references to Lazarus as “Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead” and ends with the Jewish leaders expanding their plot to include Lazarus, because his resurrection led to a situation in which “many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.” In this environment, and against the backdrop of John 6, it is clear that whether Judas was actively interested in stealing money or wasn’t, his unbelief was the issue. Judas treats Mary’s response to Jesus’ death and resurrection as indifferent, measuring it solely by secular measures. He fails to consider that the ongoing responsibility of caring for the poor, as taught by Jesus, cannot eclipse the response to the Person of Jesus called for by the Incarnation itself, which is inseparable from the words by which the Incarnate Word teaches those who hear Him.
Mary’s act of devotion, by which she chooses to “cash out” her secular worth in terms explicitly responsive to the Person of Jesus, cannot be evaluated in merely secular terms without becoming the occasion of fresh unbelief. John underscores this by introducing Judas, immediately before he speaks, as “the one who was about to betray [Jesus].” And, indeed, it is as those who evaluate the resurrection of Lazarus in terms of its effects on their following begin to plot against Lazarus that Judas joins their plot against Jesus.
It is in precisely these respects that Rodrigues resembles Judas a great deal more than Kichijiro. Kichijiro is a stumbling follower of Jesus, but like Peter or John Mark, he repents—and even, if we are to believe the appendix, becomes in his faltering way evangelically useful—after his many failures. He seeks absolution and shows signs of real contrition, though his manifest weakness does make a struggle against sin, rather than freedom from sin, the reasonable pastoral goal. Rodrigues, by comparison, comes not to understand Judas—and barely to understand Kichijiro—but to become Judas. Rodrigues becomes a betrayer who, however remorseful, does not repent; indeed, he justifies himself over against the Church whose laws, like those of Peter in the days immediately following the Ascension, inform him clearly of his state. Whatever of clarity or confusion we may find when we read Silence, we are at least well served if we see Rodrigues’ imaginations of Judas for the dangerous delusions they become to him.
Endo, Shusaku. Silence. Trans. William Johnston. New York: Taplinger, 1980.
Quotations from NRSV Bible.