Tidbits From the Text: Judas Iscariot (Mark 14:1-11)

This post will focus on the text of Mark 14:1-11, as well as the companion texts that help support it.  My aim and goal for this article is to help those who are just beginning to study see the value of putting in the time to compare multiple texts and gain new insight from combining multiple Scriptures to get the “big picture” on important issues, often times from seemingly insignificant details.

In this portion of text (Mark 14:1-11) we find several important pieces of information:

1.  The religious leaders plot to kill Jesus, but they fear the uprising of the people (vs. 1-2).

2.  The woman with the alabaster box of very expensive ointment/perfume anoints Jesus for His upcoming burial (vs. 3, 6-9)

3.  Some people become angry because the ointment was seemingly wasted (according to them!).  This was expensive and these people (not identified in our text in Mark) felt it could have been sold and the money given to the poor (vs. 4-5).

4.  Judas Iscariot agrees to betray Jesus for money and began at that time to try and find an opportune time to hand Him over to the religious leaders (vs. 10-11).

Several scholars hold to what is called Markan Priority  in which they think Mark was written first and used by both Matthew and Luke1.  I, for sake of time and space, will assume it to be true here.  When we start to combine this account in Mark with the parallel accounts in the other three Gospels we can actually get a glimpse into the character of Judas Iscariot.  For example, in our starter text Mark 14:3-5 we read that many people are upset at the woman for seemingly wasting this ointment/perfume on Jesus when it could have been sold to the poor.  When we go to the companion text in Matthew’s account (Matthew 26:1-19) we find that in vs. 6-9 he records that the disciples of Jesus are the people from Mark’s account who were angry at the woman.  It really gets interesting when we read John’s Gospel (John 12:1-10) and the details he gives concerning this same event.

Then Mary took a pound of fragrant oil– pure and expensive nard– anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray Him), said,
“Why wasn’t this fragrant oil sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?”
He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.
Jesus answered, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of My burial.
For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”
-John 12:3-8

So, not only was Judas Iscariot the instigator of the disciples being angry at the woman, but he also was a thief and he regularly stole from the money-bag used to fund Jesus’ ministry work!  So, when we combine it all together, we see that Judas was upset over the ointment because it could have sold for a lot of money and put into the ministry fund, which he stole from.  The chief priests are plotting to kill Jesus at the beginning of Mark’s account but fear the people, so they need a way to get Him.  They simply play off of Judas’ greed.  They may have realized he was a greedy person and targeted him to hand Jesus over by offering Him money.  As we all know, Judas ultimately betrays the Lord and hands Him over to the religious leaders which ultimately leads to His torture and death on the cross.

Now, to get information like this from Scripture a few tools are very helpful and will save us a lot of time by making it much easier to analyze the information and process it much faster.

1.  Get a good Bible with a center column reference, as they usually tell you where the companion texts are to each passage of Scripture you are reading.  There are pros and cons to using this type of reference system and one needs to take the time to get familiar with it.  One of the pros is what I have already stated, namely that if you are reading an account in say one of the Gospel records.  This reference will have a footnote in the center associated with the verse number you are reading.  If you are reading a narrative from Mark and the same narrative is mentioned in Matthew, the chapter and verses from Matthew will be listed.

Also, they are very handy when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, as the good center column references will tell you the book chapter and verse of what the New testament author is quoting so you can flip over to the verse in the Old Testament and read it in its context.  The type of simple comparison we did in this article could have been done using a tool such as a center column reference found in most Bibles regardless of the translation (whether it be the King James Version, New American Standard, etc.)

2.  Something else I have found VERY helpful is a book called Synopsis of the Four Gospels.  This is a book which has 4 columns per page and has each Gospel story side by side from the different Gospel writers.  For example, in our text from Mark we examined above, there will be 4 columns, but the 3rd will be empty because Luke doesn’t record this event, but the other three Gospel records will be right there side by side and easy to read and compare.  I have the Greek/English edition where the Greek text is on the left page, and the English translation of that Greek is on the page on the right.  They also make these in English only and again are EXTREMELY helpful in studying the Gospel records.

3.  Another very valuable resource is a Bible software program.  There are many different options available depending on what your long term goals are and you need to ask yourself some questions to make sure you get the right one.  I use BibleWorks 9, which is fairly pricey but more than worth its price (I plan on doing a review of BibleWorks in the future so stay tuned!).  I use it because I plan on digging as deep as possible into the original language texts, etc.  If that is not part of your long term goals then something cheaper would be a better option for you.  These programs can save you much time and be of a great benefit, especially those with search capabilities!

I pray this short, simple post helps those of you who are new to see the value of learning to study and that you can dig things out of the text with some simple tools.

-J. Chandler Arnett III

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