04 May 2023

Who Killed Judas?

Laskin, South Dakota, is both a church-going and hard-drinking town, and sees no dichotomy with that. But it surprised Sheriff Bob Hanson to see Professor John Franklin (who rarely spoke of religion at all)  come to Good Friday services with John Davison, elder of Laskin's most notorious criminal family.  What wasn't surprising was to join up with them afterwards at the Norseman's Bar. They all sat down at a table and Hanson and Davison exchanged local news, gossip, old grievances, tall tales of hunting and fishing - but throughout it all, Franklin stayed mum and glum.  

"All right," Hanson finally said. "Was it the service? Or something else? What's going on in that head of yours?" 

Franklin looked up.  "Huh?  Oh, I was trying to figure out who killed Judas."  

"Judas?" Hanson asked.  Franklin had a Masters in History of Mythology and a Doctorate in Philosophy, and gave lectures on "Landscape and Myth", "The Personification of Death as Imaged in Serial Killers", and "Cross-cultural Cross-chronological Exchanges in Fairytales," and Hanson had learned to expect just about anything to come out of Franklin's mouth, but this sounded a little over the top even for him.  

John Davison, on the other hand, sat up straight and ordered everyone another beer.

"Judas Iscariot," Franklin replied.  "It obviously wasn't suicide."

"Huh?" Davison said.

"There are two different causes of death," Franklin replied. "If he really had committed suicide, there would only be one. It says in Matthew that he hung himself, but in Acts, it says that Peter says he bought a field that was used to bury strangers in, and fell over, all his bowels bursting out."

"I never thought of you as much as a Bible reader," Hanson commented.

"I read all the ancient texts I can," Franklin assured him.

"No, it's real simple," John Davison said. "His body just fell off the tree he hung himself on, and his guts went everywhere." 

"Why would his body fall off the tree?" Franklin asked.

"Bad branch?" Davison asked.

"And why would he 'burst asunder in the midst'?" Franklin asked.  "That sounds like someone stabbed him in the abdomen, killing him, and then hung him up from a tree to make it look like suicide."  The beers arrived, and everyone took a nice deep drink. "Now, who do we know who had a sword on him that night? And had already used it once?"  

"Peter," Hanson replied.  

Franklin nodded.  "And who was at Caiaphas' palace that night?"

"Peter and John," Hanson said. 

"And Judas," Franklin added.  "Because Judas saw Jesus being led away, bound, to Pontius Pilate.  And Judas knew what was coming next, that Jesus had been condemned by the Sanhedrin and next would be condemned by Pilate, and would be executed. And that's when Judas repented and went to the Sanhedrin -"

Davison interrupted, "And tried to give the money back, like that's gonna work.  I've sinned and all that crap.  They told him it was his problem, and he ran off and killed himself." 

"Or perhaps he ran off and was killed by someone else," Franklin offered.  "Someone who was also there as Jesus was being led away. Who was both furious and broken-hearted. Who had betrayed Jesus as well, by denying him. Who couldn't live with the shame, but only the anger. Who had a sword. Who saw someone to take it all out on. Someone who didn't deserve to live, especially if Jesus was going to die. Peter." 

"Well, it's not like Judas didn't have it coming," Davison pointed out. "Why worry about it now?"

Franklin continued, "Peter runs into Judas. I don't know if they have an argument or Peter just was out for blood, but they run into each other. And Peter had the sword, and Judas - who knows? Maybe he let himself be killed."

"Nah," Davison replied. "Snitches always beg for their life."

"We don't need any of your war stories," Hanson said sternly.

"I'm just telling you the way it is," Davison said.

"Anyway," Franklin said firmly, "Peter stabs him in the stomach.  And I would wager that John was there, a witness to it. The story shows neither man around during the Pilate sequence, which makes perfect sense. No Jew in their right mind would have gone to Pilate's courtyard unless they were forced to. So I'm assuming John went with Peter, they run into Judas, and what happens, happens." 

"Like I said, good riddance," Davison said.

"So John has just seen Peter kill Judas," Franklin continued. "He comes across as a sensitive type, but even sensitive types can feel that someone deserves what they get.  That letting Peter be arrested for killing Judas would be even worse.  And either the two of them by themselves - or maybe they rope in John's brother James -" 

"Why would James help with that?" Hanson asked.

"Because, that's what brothers do," Davison said. "You help each other out. No matter what."

"I said," Hanson growled, "that I don't want to hear any of your war stories." Then he turned back to Franklin. "Don't you think that's an awful lot of running around, isn't it? Hauling a body to some potter's field out in the country, in the dead of night, on foot?"

"No. Not as bad as it sounds. Back then," Franklin explained, "Jerusalem was a small place. The city itself was barely a quarter of a mile across. The whole city fit into a quarter-section. Laskin's at least four times as big. And it was right before Passover, so there would have been a waxing moon, very close to full. Say two miles to a field with a good strong tree in it. And these were brawny fishermen. They could carry a deadweight that far."  

"Hell yeah," Davison said. "Especially if you wrap the body up right, and carry it like it's a sling gurney."

"I do not even want to know how you know that," Hanson said.

"And you never will," Davison assured him.

Franklin continued, "It would also explain why John says the disciples were locked up in the  Upper Room 'afraid of the Jews'.  The Sanhedrin wouldn't have been coming after them after Jesus' execution. Kill the head and the rest will scatter and all that. And Pilate sounds like he'd had enough of the whole mess. But if they were afraid that someone had seen Peter killing Judas, or John and Peter lugging a dead body around - well that would have been another matter.  It might also explain why at one point, according to Luke, that Simon, i.e., Peter, is off alone by himself, and Jesus appears to him, apart from the other disciples. A private chat."  

There was a long pause as they mulled it over.

"That's a hell of a story,"  John Davison said.  

"Well, if it's true, it's easy to see why it never made it into the Gospels," Hanson replied.

"Well," John Davison said. "Whatever. Doesn't change a damn thing what happened, does it?  And like I said, good riddance. Who wants another beer?"


  1. Jerry K. Sweeney04 May, 2023 10:48


  2. I like the way Davison talks with authority about events without giving himself up on specifics. It's like scenes out of Mystic River or Boyd Crowder's criminal world in Justified.

    1. It's kind of funny, but throughout I kept thinking this sounds like an RT story.

  3. Thanks, R.T. John's one of my "bridge" characters. He and his boys do things that are "necessary", that's all.

  4. I'm pretty certain Jacobus Rubium killed the accused.

  5. Eve, that's an intriguing hypothesis. How did you derive it?

    I find the thread of the Book of Judas fascinating, that Jesus secretly recruited him to assist in carrying out his goals. Come to think of it, it's not inconsistent with The Passover Plot.

  6. There's a part of my mind that is just like John Franklin's, and once I realized that there are two accounts of how Judas died, my mind burrowed into it like a badger. (There are other parts of my mind that are just like John Davison's, too, but that's another story.) And so I finally wrote it all up as a short story. (BTW, I shared this with a couple of pastors, who really didn't like the idea of Peter killing someone. Oh, well.)


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