Monday, October 1, 2012

The Difference Between Betray And Deliver

Sometimes, in different Gospels, the narratives of the same event use the exact same words. So it is for the case when Jesus, while going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and told them what was going to happen at Jerusalem.

Here is the wording shared by Mark 10:33 and Matthew 20:18:

“ιδου αναβαινομεν εις ιεροσολυμα και ο υιος του ανθρωπου παραδοθησεται τοις αρχιερευσιν και γραμματευσιν και κατακρινουσιν αυτον θανατω”

Here is the wording shared by the English translations (KJV) of Mark 10:33 and Matthew 20:18:

“we go up to Jerusalem: and the Son of man ________ unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death.”

The blank space marks the place for the translation of the underlined word in the Greek quotation. The translation of that word in Mark reads, “shall be delivered,” but the translation in Matthew reads, “shall be betrayed.”

Although the inconsistent translations of the underlined word reveal mistaken comprehension of the truth, they do not do so within the traditional conception of the betrayal. That conception, to a large degree, regards the act of delivering Jesus as the essential act of betraying him. In other words, within the tradition, the words “deliver” and “betray” are nearly synonymous.

Since the tradition allows this arbitrariness of translation, readers of the Gospels might replace every instance of the word “betray” (and its inflective forms) with the word “deliver” (and its inflective forms.) For example, they might replace “betray” with “deliver,” “betrayed” with “delivered,” “betrayer” with “deliverer,” etc. Of course, they might make those replacements just because they are the better translations.

Performance of this exercise, even under the influence of the traditional understanding of the betrayal, can lead to the better reading. For example, at Matthew 26:16, just after we read that Judas betrayed Jesus by offering aid to his adversaries and by making a covenant to give that aid, we read, “And from that time, he sought opportunity to betray him.” Clearly, that which he sought was not opportunity to betray him, but opportunity to “deliver” him – to fulfill his obligation under the covenant of betrayal which he had just made. See also the post, “One Of You Shall Betray Me? . . . Ridiculous!”

Theologically, God was the primary deliverer of Jesus. Therefore, no sin should be attributed to the act of delivering Jesus in itself. This fact seems to create a problem when the replacement exercise is performed at Matthew 27:4.

If delivering Jesus was not a sin in itself, then the confession of sin by Judas at Matthew 27:4 seems to demand the translation “betray,” the translation which carries the pejorative connotation. Nevertheless, the replacement should be made here, too. The choice of who should deliver Jesus was determined by Scripture to be the one who had lifted up his heel against him (Matthew 26:25; John 13:18), and it is for this underlying reason that Judas attributed sin to his act of delivering Jesus. God did not make Judas lift up his heel against Jesus (make the covenant to deliver him), and it is to that act of lifting up his heel against Jesus that sin is attributed. Again, this is the reason that Judas confessed sin in delivering Jesus in spite of the fact that delivering him, in itself, was not a sin.

When Jesus spoke to Judas, “That which you do, do quickly,” he was not commissioning him to sin. Judas had already sinned, and Jesus had already confronted him about it and forgiven him for it. Rather, Jesus was summoning him to take up his cross and to follow him, knowing that that cross would be the implement upon which he (Judas), after being baptized into his (Jesus') death, would crucify his old man. In other words, the woe of Judas, of which Jesus had forewarned him, led him to repentance unto salvation. Thus he hanged himself on his cross after he restored that which he took not away, and after he confessed to men the innocence of Jesus. Because Judas confessed the innocence of Jesus unto men, and because Jesus said that he would, Jesus confessed to his Father the innocence of Judas. Let no man call unclean that which was unclean, after God has cleansed it – the heel which was lifted up against Jesus. To that end, remember the assertion of Jesus, that he did only those things which he saw with his Father.

The exercise of replacing the word “betray” with the word “deliver” should help readers overcome the bias created by the pejorative connotation of the word “betray.” Then, when they read the words of Jesus, “Judas, do you deliver the Son of man with a kiss?,” they may more likely understand that Jesus was not speaking of treachery, too, but irony alone. The difference is the difference between misunderstanding and understanding.

It is written that to those who have, more shall be given; but to those who have not, that which they have shall be taken away. To have misunderstanding is to have not. That the Scripture might be fulfilled. . .

I offer these ideas only in my own name.

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