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Judas-Tree Jude, Epistle Of

JUDAS-TREE JUDE, EPISTLE OF in sacred art Judas Iscariot is generally treated as the very incarnation of treachery, ingratitude and impiety. The Middle Ages, after their fashion, supplied the lacunae in what they deemed his too men-gre biography. According to the common form of their story, he belonged to the tribe of Reuben. 1 Before he was born his mother Cyborea had a dream that he was destined to murder his father, commit incest with his mother, and sell his God. The attempts made by her and her husband to avert this curse simply led to its accomplishment. At his birth Judas was enclosed in a chest and flung into the sea; picked up on a foreign shore, he was educated at the court until a murder committed in a moment of passion compelled his flight. Coming to Judaea, he entered the service of Pontius Pilate as page, and during this period committed the first two of the crimes which had been expressly foretold. Learning the secret of his birth, he, full of remorse, sought the prophet who, he had heard, had power on earth to forgive sins. He was accepted as a disciple and promoted to a position of trust, where avarice, the only vice in which he had hitherto been unpractised, gradually took possession of his soul, and led to the complete fulfilment of his evil destiny. This Judas legend, as given by Jacobus de Voragine, obtained no small popularity; and it is to be found in various shapes in every important literature of Europe.

For the history of its genesis and its diffusion the reader may consult D'Ancona, La leggenda di Vergogna e la leggenda di Giuda (1869), and papers by W. Creizenach in Paul and Braune's Beitr. zur Gesch. der deutschen Sprache und Litteratur, vol. ii. (1875), and Victor Diederich in Russiche Revue (1880). Cholevius, in his Gischichte der deutschen Poesie nach ihren antiken Elementen (1854), pointed out the connexion of the legend with the Oedipus story. According to Daub (Judas Ischariot, oder Betrachtungen iiber das Base im Verhaltniss zum Guten, 1816, 1818) Judas was " an incarnation of the devil," to whom " mercy and blessedness are alike impossible."

The popular hatred of Judas has found strange symbolical expression in various parts of Christendom. In Corfu, for instance, the people at a given signal on Easter Eve throw vast quantities of crockery from their windows and roofs into the streets, and thus execute an imaginary stoning of Judas (see Kirkwall, Ionian Islands, ii. 47). At one time (according to Mustoxidi, Dette cose corciresi) the tradition prevailed that the traitor's house and country villa existed in the island, and that his descendants were to be found among the local Jews.

Details in regard to some Judas legends and superstitions are given in Notes and Queries, 2nd series, v., vi. and vii. ; 3rd series, vii. ; 4th series, i.; 5th series, vi. See also a paper by Professor Rendel Harris entitled " Did Judas really commit suicide?" in the American Journal of Philology (July 1900). Matthew Arnold's poem " St Brandan " gives fine expression to the old story that, on account of an act of charity done to a leper at Joppa, Judas was allowed an hour's respite from hell once a year. (G.Ml.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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