Betrayal by Design: An Exploration of Divine Reprobating Activity in John’s Portrait of Judas

Throughout the centuries, Judas has rightly been understood as the traitor par excellence both in Christian circles and in popular culture more broadly. While the NT writers consistently affirm Judas’ responsibility for his traitorous deeds, the Gospel of John adds an additional layer of complexity to the picture by affirming Judas’ blameworthiness while also describing his actions as having been the result of divine reprobating activity (DRA). DRA can be defined as any exercise of divine agency intended to efficaciously influence responsible creatures towards behavior that merits divine condemnation so that these creatures do in fact experience God’s judgment. In this paper, I will contend that John understood God to have influenced the son of perdition through the mediating agencies of both Satan and Jesus so that he might willfully betray Christ, thereby bringing about the fulfillment of Scripture and the glorification of both the Father and the Son at the cross. I will make my argument in three stages. First, I will discuss the concept of DRA, demonstrating its existence in the OT, in the NT, and in other parts of the Gospel of John. Second, I will show that, in keeping with the perspective of the other NT authors, John presents Judas’ actions as completely willful and blameworthy. This observation is significant because it demonstrates that DRA and human responsibility were not incompatible in John’s understanding. Third, I will provide an in-depth examination of the textual evidence within John that demonstrates that Judas was subjected to DRA. I will begin by analyzing John 6:66-71 in order to show that, though a full explanation for Jesus’ choice of Judas is not provided at this point, the Evangelist is interested in demonstrating both that Jesus had full knowledge of Judas’ character and that he included Judas among the twelve for a specific purpose. I will then turn to John 13 to contend that, according to the Gospel writer, (1) Satan influenced Judas to betray Jesus, and (2) Jesus chose Judas to be among the twelve specifically so that the latter might fulfill the Scriptures through his act of betrayal. Here, I will posit that Jesus’ choice of Judas should be understood as an expression of divine influence which was intended by God to lead Judas to betray Christ. Lastly, I will demonstrate that John 17:12 suggests that God willed for Jesus to exclude Judas from his (i.e., Christ’s) protection against the “the evil one” so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled and so that both God the Father and God the Son might be glorified at the cross. I will conclude my presentation by summarizing my findings and by providing a few brief reflections on John’s portrayal of DRA in the case of Judas.

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