It is a glaring “error” that should make even the most rabid religious right Christian fundamentalist wince with discomfort. Moreover, it illustrates yet another example of a New Testament writer failing to give full thought to what he is writing. In other words, failing to see things through to their logical conclusion. Due to the uncritical, unquestioning mind-set of Christian fundamentalists, however, this glaring incongruity continually fails to be held up to rigid scrutiny it so rightly deserves.

I am referring here to the text of Matthew 19:28.

To set the scene: Jesus has just advised an individual—dubbed “the rich young man” by NT commentators—that if he truly wanted to feel “complete,” or, “perfect” in his bid to enter the kingdom of God on the best possible footing, he would need to sell his worldly possessions and give the proceeds to the poor (Matthew 19:16-22). Then in private discussion with his disciples, Jesus goes and reinforces that sentiment by sounding the now famous line: “it is [or would be] easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24).

Hearing this causes consternation among his disciples; prompting the rather oddball question: Who, then, is able to be saved?—as though the Jewish population was comprised of nothing but rich fat-cats!

Peter then goes on to point out that he and his fellow apostles left everything to follow Jesus and wonders aloud what rewards they are to expect in the future kingdom? Jesus replies that once he—if Jesus and the “Son of Man” are to be regarded as one and the same being—is seated on his throne of Glory next to God, each of the Twelve will also be also seated on thrones: each one judging over one of the twelve tribes of Israel!

Jesus said to them, "I tell you with certainty, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne in the renewed creation, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, governing the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28; ISV)

Does the reader now detect what constitutes the glaring error alluded to in this article?

That's right! Judas Iscariot is among those Jesus just said will be ruling over one of the twelve tribes of Israel while seated atop a heavenly throne!

Mark, the earliest written gospel, and used as an exemplar by both Matthew and Luke in composing their gospels, omits this discussion altogether. It would appear, then, that Matthew had a separate source—common to both he and Luke—for this particular discourse. Luke transfers it to a much later portion of his gospel and places it an altogether different setting—shortly after declaring that the Twelve have a traitor in their midst (Luke 22:21-23).

Here is the Lukan equivalent of Matthew 19:28:

You are the ones who have always stood by me in my trials. And I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred a kingdom on me. So that you may eat and drink at my table in My kingdom and sit down on thrones to govern the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30; ISV)

In deviating from the text of Matthew 19:28 ever so slightly, Luke is able to avoid having Jesus say that all twelve present apostles will govern over the twelve tribes of Israel. (Still, when you think about it, Luke doesn't have Jesus officially exclude Judas here either, does he?)

The Theist Response

Remarkably, a vast survey of Matthean commentaries reveals that most commentators simply fail to deal with the issue at all. Whether this is due to a self-imposed silence or simply the lack of awareness of what Jesus' words actually signify is a question only those NT commentators can answer.

One explanation I have come across suggests that when referring to the “twelve” Jesus had in mind the office of Apostle and not necessarily those apostles in his immediate presence! But is this not really special pleading? Is this truly the natural understanding of what was said? Or is this another example of His Almightiness working in a “mysterious way” we humans are just too stupid to fathom? If so, I'd love to learn precisely which lost tribe Judas Iscariot is going to reign supreme over perched atop that heavenly throne of his.

How damn dumb!

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Comment by Greywolf on July 7, 2009 at 6:01pm
The name Taylor Caldwell stikes a chord with me for some reason. Gonna have to Google the name and see why it resonates so well with me.

The Shaw story sounds intriguing as all get out. Gonna see if there's an online version of it while I research Taylor Caldwell.

Thanks a gazillion for the info!
Comment by Jim DePaulo on July 7, 2009 at 3:36pm
The end of the 3rd act of G.B. Shaw's Man and Superman called Don Juan in Hell has to be one of the best responses to the hevean/hell bullshit in literary history.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on July 7, 2009 at 3:05pm
Years ago I read a novel,I, Judas, by Taylor Caldwell that portrayed Judas in a whole 'nuther ball park than that of the Good Mediocre Book. She wrote a great deal about the history of Rome pre and post Christianity.
Comment by Greywolf on July 6, 2009 at 10:12pm
As far as Chrysostom goes:

Talk about positioning oneself upside down on one's head and spin like a top to try and wiggle out of a “gotcha” biblical incongruity!

Appealing to the OT prophet Jeremiah about something Jesus declares from his own mouth and, in effect, have Jeremiah say Jesus didn't mean what he said—literally—is special pleading on steroids! Hoooweeee! That's a corker!

Whose words take precedent? Some interpreter of the OT “prophet” Jeremiah, or a pronouncement uttered by none other than Jesus himself?

Next thing the zealots will try and have us believe is that Jeremiah was a ventriloquist uttering the “real” words of Jesus.

Don't want to be unduly harsh here, but: None for me, thanks.
Comment by Greywolf on July 6, 2009 at 9:46pm
First off, Judas is the second most despised character in all of “Scripture”—being beat out only by Satan. Christianity, justifiably or not, has rendered Judas unworthy of supernatural kingship.

Second, the gospels portray Jesus as being loathed of the dude. For example, in both Mark 14:21 and Matthew 26:24, Jesus, in referring to Judas, declares, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born”! Luke 22:22 has Jesus saying, “woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! (RSV; Exclamation mark original to Luke.)

Doesn't quite appear to be heavenly ruling-lordship material judging from those comments, does Judas?

And, hey. If you can be sitting atop a heavenly throne after betraying “God,” why not have morally upright atheists spend only two nanoseconds in Hell instead of all of eternity for the simple “crime” of unbelief?

On second thought, would we atheists really want to spend all of eternity in endless, ceaseless, 24/7 worship and adoration of God and “Junior”? Seems to me those flames might be a tad more preferable.
Comment by Jason Spicer on July 6, 2009 at 6:46pm
Why would Judas be excluded from the promised thronery? Without him, Jesus wouldn't have been crucified. Seems like an important contribution to the proceedings.
Comment by jayson Lepore on July 6, 2009 at 5:50pm
I just wanted to let you know I found a Christian source that does address this. Saint John Chrysostom of 4th century Constantinople.

Chrys.: He therefore said not the Gentiles and the whole world, but, the “tribes of Israel,” because the Apostles and the Jews had been brought up under the same laws and customs. So that when the Jews should plead that they could not believe in Christ, because they were hindered by their Law, the disciples will be brought forward, who had the same Law.
But some one may say, What great thing is this, when both the Ninevites and the Queen of the South will have the same? He had before and will again promise them the highest rewards; and even now He tacitly conveys something of the same. For of those others He had only said, that they shall sit, and shall condemn this generation; but He now says to the disciples, “When the Soul of Man shall sit, ye also shall sit.”
It is clear then that they shall reign with Him, and shall share in that glory; for it is such honour and glory unspeakable that He intends by the “thrones.” How is this promise fulfilled? Shall Judas sit among them? By no means. For the law was thus ordained of the Lord by Jeremiah the Prophet, “I will speak it upon my people, and upon, the kingdom, that I may build, and plant it. But if it do evil in, my sight, then will I repent me of the good which I said I would do to them;” [Jer 18:9] as much as to say, If they make themselves unworthy of the promise, I will no more perform that I promised.
But Judas shewed himself unworthy of the preeminence; wherefore when He gave this promise to His disciples, He did not promise it absolutely, for He said not, Ye shall sit, but, “Ye which have followed me shall sit;” at once excluding Judas, and admitting such as should be in after time; for neither was the promise confined to them only, nor yet did it include Judas who had already shewn himself undeserving.

I get this from which has a bunch of sources by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas put together the Catena Aurea (found under biblical commentaries) Which is not written by him, but a compilation of gospel commentaries verse by verse.

And thus, this was addressed by Christians over a thousand years ago.
Comment by Greywolf on July 6, 2009 at 4:02pm
Thanks so much for visiting the site. We have a shared interest in things bible-related and more.
Comment by Greywolf on July 6, 2009 at 4:17am
Quite a find that one was.

As a, ahem, “professional atheist” (a theist description of me) I was aware of the Judas gospel quite a long time ago. Love this kind of stuff.

There's something to the fact that even in Luke 22:28 Jesus doesn't exclude Judas from ruling over one of the twelve tribes in heaven. He had just finished telling the Twelve that they had a traitor in their midst in verse 21. Where is Jesus proclaiming that the traitor would not be ruling over one of the lost tribes?

Another interesting thing to think about in regards to Judas: He had no “free-will” in the scheme to betray Jesus. No free-will at all to have a change of heart. That was “God's plan” from jump street. So Judas was effectively a zombie, an automaton, with no freedom not to betray Jesus. So why is this innocent pawn subject to eternal damnation by a pair of infinitely loving, merciful, compassionate, just, and forgiving Gods? The imaginary supernatural jerks! He was an utterly helpless stooge. God and "Junior" show themselves here to be just awful creatures. But since they're entirely make-believe deities, no harm, no foul. Right?

Food for thought.

Thanks for the link.
Comment by HotMess on July 6, 2009 at 12:14am
The people who put together the Bible left out a lot of other stuff as well.

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