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Monday, April 26, 2010

Judas Cake

Sister, Father mentioned during a Lenten mission that the Bible attributes Judas' death to suicide (Matthew 27:5) and to an accidental death (Acts 1:18). What do you make of this? Is there some symbolism there I don't understand?

Why did Father mention it and not say anything further about it? Maybe he did and you dozed off?

Father: The Bible says that Judas hung himself and it also says he fell and his guts split open. Oh well, ha ha! so much for that! Coffee and tea in the lobby, everyone! Rosary at six!

You: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....what? There's cake?

Yes, there are two references that seem to contradict each other as to how Judas died.

Matthew: “and he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.”

Acts 1:18-19: “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem, insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.”

There are at least three explanations for this contradiction. There are thousands of people who have written their two cents about it, but it still boils down to the same three explanations.

I'm sure we could start a collection, as I'm also sure if we dig around, we'll find one or two more.

The first explanation is the most commonly held. In this one, Judas hangs himself and the part about him falling and his guts splitting open refers to what happened after Judas hung himself, which is that hanging there in the hot MidEast sun, the rope broke and his bloated body hit the ground and burst.

Maybe Father didn't want to ruin the cake reception with that image.

One brainiac author went so far as to suggest the actual timeline that caused Judas to drop from the tree. This one purports that it happened during the big earthquake that followed the death of Jesus on the Cross.

I suppose that's possible.

The second explanation is a doozie. It seems that the 'ancients' had a different meaning altogether when they said "hung himself". They meant the person would climb onto a rock or a stool and then jump off onto a spike, and then 'hang' there impaled.

Cake anyone?

The third explanation is my favorite one. This time the whole 'gut spilling' thing is a metaphor that people of the time would have understood and not been the least bit confused. The first passage about hanging is about how Judas died in the flesh and the second is about how Judas died in the spirit. To get your brain around the symbolism, you have to understand that the Jewish people equated compassion with the gut or bowels, the way we equate the heart with feelings of love. Now you have an image of Judas "falling" from God and losing his compassion on a field of blood.

It makes the most sense to me of the three. It would explain why Judas' death would be discussed in such a manner, after the fact, so to speak. I don't think it is a particularly widely accepted explanation.

But my favorite thing about the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular is how every part of it works as both history and metaphor. Heaps and heaps of metaphor.

Like a cake stuffed full of tasty things. Click here to find the recipe for Simnel Cake, an Easter cake representing the eleven apostles who were around to celebrate that day.


Claudia's thoughts said...

The cake recipe would not pop open, perhaps, we should hang the cake??

Jenny said...

I also like the third explanation.

Our priest did discuss this a bit more; something about the suicide bit being a reference to someone in the Old Testament who killed himself and the Jewish people of the time would have recognized the symbolism. I am sorry I don't remember the details more clearly! I was not clear if one verse was symbolic and the other historic. The last explanation you give makes sense and reminds me that the whole Bible is full of metaphor!

P.S. There was no cake.

Dymphna said...

Or it could refer to the what happens when you hang yourself. Everytyhing in your bladder and what's left of lunch as well as your tounge will be seen.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Of course there was no cake! It was Lent!

slimsdotter said...

When a person prays the rosary, do they say "amen" after each prayer? For example in each decade of Hail Marys are there 10 amens or one at the end? I am not asking to be smart aleck. I have never heard anyone pray the rosary. I thought I would try it for a week and see what happened. I found the prayers online, but wasn't sure about the amen part. (And what has happened so far, is that Catholics are coming out of the woodwork. For being the Church Militant, there are a lot of you in the secret service, apparently! But all of a sudden I'm meeting a lot of you. )

Lisa said...

Sister, how do you celebrate Pentecost? At my parish we used to read the gospel in lots of different languages. We used to release lots of red balloons. We used to have a picnics with parachute games. Now, not so much. It's sort of just another Sunday. Has something happened to take Pentecost odwn a notch or is it just our new priest?

mph said...

Hi Sister, hope you haven't been eating rock hard pretzels or kicking things again...

Matt said...

Dear Sister – I love your blog. I do have a question for you. A few posts back you mentioned that saying a rosary on blessed rosary beads earns you a partial indulgence. Seven years ago I suffered a spinal cord injury that left me with the use of only one hand. It is very difficult for me to manipulate a traditional rosary. I discovered a downloadable program called the Virtual Rosary that keeps track of your prayers on the computer. It is very convenient for someone with my physical condition. That being said, do I not receive a partial indulgence because I say it on the computer? Please help!

Marina said...

And there is yet another version of Judas story: he understood that in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled someone had to “betray” Jesus and give him to the Romans; therefore, Judas took in on himself to commit this terrible sin. Still, in the end, he could not bear the consequence of his doing and committed a suicide. …We all should choose what to believe in, but to me personally, this version makes the most sense. Jesus knew his Father’s plan for him, knew what had to be done – and so did his followers.

quirkyskittle said...

Dear Sister - Hello! I live in upstate New York, where today it snowed despite its being May 9th. A Catholic friend of mine who's from Germany and whose birthday it is was excited about this. She called the snowfall "Maria Schnee" and said she felt blessed to wake up on her birthday with it snowing. I'm a longtime (if sometimes sporadic) reader of your blog, but I don't remember the story behind this ever being covered. Would you mind telling it, and is this mainly a German thing, or is it celebrated pretty much everywhere? Thank you!

Mary Bennett said...

I enjoy your blog and wonder at the absence of recent ones. What's going on? Are you okay?

Anonymous said...

Dear Matt,

I'm sure it's fine for you to say the rosary using your computer - and you could have the blessed beads in your lap at the same time. The blessing comes, not from the beads themselves, but from the action of 1.)having them blessed (this is an Act of Faith) and 2.) using the beads (another Act of Faith). To believe otherwise would be superstitious, which is against the 1st commandment.

Sister Mary Margaret

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between a sister and a nun?

katney said...

Sister, here is something that has come up among our catechists and a question from someone on another forum has brought it to mind to find an answer. Left handed kids tend to do the sign of the cross with their left hand. Is that okay? Should we be correcting them?

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

Anonymous @ 6:13,
nuns are analogues of monks, which means they live in cloisters, devoted almost entirely to contemplation and prayer. Sisters (and friars) typically also do many of the Acts of Spiritual and Corporal Mercy, in a missionary manner. Sr. Mary Martha's work of educating the ignorant strongly suggests that she is a member of an order of Sisters, not nuns.