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
"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 demon.
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
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
"Aren't you tired of that lie? I can't stand it any longer. I am
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, serene courtesy—
"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 smiles.
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 enigma.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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 practical remarks:
"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 liar.
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
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
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 village.
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
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 petals.
"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 replied indifferently—
"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
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 their eyes.
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 exclamations.
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 place.
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 road.
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 fist—
"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,
Smiling politely; and modestly wrapping his garment round his
chest, which was overgrown with red curly hairs, Judas stepped into
the circle of players.
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
"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
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 the words—
"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
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
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
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
"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,
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 him not—
"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
"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 alone!"
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 recent tears.
"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 exclaimed:
"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 last.
"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
"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, twenty-six...."
Thomas approached him resolutely... for it was already towards
evening, and said—
"He is right, Judas. Let me kiss you."
"Will you? Twenty-nine, thirty. It's no good. I shall steal
"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 our Master?"
"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 to-morrow?"
Judas laughed, and lifting up the heavy rattling money-box with
ease, went on:
"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 laughed again.
"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
"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 of it?"
"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 eat."
"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
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 not?"
"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 the truth."
"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
"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
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 about?"
"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 to Jesus."
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
"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 people."
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
"But if we try to take Him, will they not defend Him? Will they
not raise a tumult?"
Judas laughed long and maliciously. "What, they? Those cowardly
dogs, who run if a man but stoop down to pick up a stone. They
"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
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
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
With the same quiet pleasure, Annas remarked indifferently:
"If you will not deal, go away. We shall find some one whose work
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
"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? Eh?"
"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. Help!'"
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
"But if you really.... But why be angry with poor Judas, who only
desires his children's good. You also have children, young and
"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 discipline.
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
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
"But if they should dare! What then?"
John replied disdainfully—
"One would think, Judas, that you were the only one who loved
And eagerly seizing hold of these words, and not in the least
offended, Judas began to question impatiently and hotly, with stern
"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
"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 overhanging moustache.
"Ah! Judas! Judas! But where did you get these? They are like
"I stole them. I could have stolen more, only some one gave the
alarm, and I fled."
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
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
"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 smile?"
"Yes, He was pleased. He said that its smell reminded Him of
"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
Mary Magdalene blushed, and dropped her head till her luxuriant,
golden hair completely covered her face, so that nothing but her
round white chin was visible.
"How bad you are, Judas; I want to forget about that, and you
remind me of it!"
"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
"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 Lord!"
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
"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
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
"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
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
"Dost Thou know whither I go, Lord? I go to betray Thee into the
hands of Thine enemies."
And there was a long silence, evening stillness, and swift black
"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 not?"
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
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
"I tell thee, Peter, the cock will not crow this day before thou
dost deny Me thrice."
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 replied:
"Lord, we have two swords here."
He looked searchingly into their kind faces, lowered His head, and
"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 quickly.
"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
"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 hastily:
"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,
"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 cross."
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
"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
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
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
"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 the walls.
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
"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 ceased.
"What's that? Why are they silent? Have they suddenly divined the
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 rising.
"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
"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 to increase.
"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,
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 what is!"
"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 understand."
"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 delay."
"You, then, think so too," said Judas thoughtfully. "Thomas,
Thomas, what if it be the truth? What then? Who is right? Who has
"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
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 his body.
"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
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
"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
"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 hurriedly:
"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
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 breathing.
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 around coldly.
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? 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
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
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, diminished earth.
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 invisible immensity.
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
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
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 so.
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 Annas imperturbably.
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
"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
"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
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
"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 Judas Iscariot!"
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
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
"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
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 Solomon:
"'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
"Hail, ye eyes of Judas Iscariot! Ye have just seen the
cold-blooded murderers. Lo! Where is Jesus? I ask you, where is
There was something compelling in the hoarse voice of Judas, and
Thomas replied obediently—
"You know yourself, Judas, that our Master was crucified
"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
"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
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," John insisted.
"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 cross!"
"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
"What is this? You have been eating? Perhaps you have also been
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 be thou thyself, Satan!" cried John, and James and
Matthew and all the other disciples repeated his cry; only Peter held
"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
"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,
"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 not?"
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,
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 in horror.
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.