A BBC documentary suggesting Judas Iscariot wasn’t purely a traitor has drawn criticism from evangelicals as, among other things, “an attempt to undermine the Christian Gospel.”
“This is nothing new,” said Jerry Vines, a former Southern Baptist Convention president who has written and preached on Judas. He noted attempts since the second century to portray Judas more favorably than he is presented in Scripture — as a traitor who delivered Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver.
The BBC documentary, Vines told Baptist Press, appears to be “an attempt to undermine the Christian Gospel, actually. This idea that you’re a sinner is not real popular with culture. So if you can turn the so-called notable sinners in the Bible into just misunderstood men and scapegoats, it kind of minimizes the fact that men are sinners and need a Savior.”
“In the Footsteps of Judas” aired March 25 on BBC One and features Church of England vicar Kate Bottley, who also appears in the British reality show “Gogglebox.” She argues Judas should not be defined by his most notorious act and, according to The Telegraph, suggests “Judas was a dedicated revolutionary who saw Jesus as a reluctant political messiah and hoped that by handing Him over for arrest he could trigger an uprising against Roman rule in Judea.”
Bottley says in the film’s closing scene that Judas was “a real man with shortcomings and failings not that different from my own.”
She continues, “If only Judas could have heard those words that Jesus said from the cross, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ There’s no reason to think that those words don’t extend to Judas too.”
In conjunction with the documentary, other British clergy and theologians have expressed their support for a revised portrait of Judas.
Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines wrote in the magazine Radio Times, “Judas had invested himself in the revolutionary leadership of Jesus of Nazareth … only to find himself let down. Trying to force the hand of the messiah didn’t work, and, instead of provoking the ultimate uprising against Roman rule, the glorious leader simply let Himself get nailed without resistance. No wonder Judas got upset.”
Similarly, Katie Edwards of the University of Sheffield wrote in the Daily Mail, “Despite centuries of [Judas] denunciation, the biblical text itself is more ambiguous than we might expect.”
“You go by what Scripture says, not by these outside, extraneous views,” said Vines, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. “Jesus called Judas the ‘son of perdition’ in John 17, and then almost uniformly he’s referred to as ‘the traitor.’
“When I preached on Judas, which I did many times through the years, I certainly felt sorry for him,” Vines continued. “You’re sorry he became such a tragedy, but he made his own decisions and according to Acts, he went ‘to his own place,'” a reference to hell.
Vines added that Judas demonstrates the balance in Scripture “between divine sovereignty and human responsibility” because he “made his own choices” while also playing a role in God’s sovereign plan. “When you overemphasize one [of these realities] to the exclusion of the other, that’s when you get out of balance.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press