After several reads I am still struggling to understand the events around Judas' death in the Pilate story. On the face of it, the following things occur:

  1. Pilate has dinner with Aphranius (head of secret service), and mentions some of Yeshua's friends are plotting to kill Judas, discover how much money he was paid for betraying Yeshua, and return the money to the high priest with a note. Pilate insists all this will happen that same evening. Aphranius expresses surprise and concern at his own failing as he did not have this information.
  2. Aphranius leaves the palace, orders some of his men out of town with carts 'loaded with entrenching tools and a barrel of water' (side question, is this to do with Judas or is it just for burying the executed men?). He talks with Niza, Judas' love interest. She then tempts Judas to Gethsemane outside the city. Once Judas arrives there, he is killed by Aphranius and his men, who also obtain the bribe money. Aphranius then attaches the note and returns to the palace.
  3. Aphranius tells Pilate that Judas was killed exactly as Pilate had anticipated, and shows as evidence the money bag with note. He admits failure at having been unable to stop the death, and asks to be tried. Pilate questions him about the death, and Aphranius gives an invented story, carefully avoiding Niza and insisting that it could not have been a woman to tempt Judas to his death.
  4. Pilate later tells Matthew Levi triumphantly that he killed Judas.

Clearly Pilate did not directly order Aphranius to kill Judas. So was it a veiled order, or a manipulation of Aphranius (in that Aphranius had some reason of his own to kill Judas and this gave Aphranius the chance to blame the murder on Yeshua's followers)?

If it was a veiled order, what hinted to Aphranius that Pilate wanted Judas dead?

If Aphranius had his own motive for killing Judas why? Was he a secret disciple of Yeshua? If so, then why did Pilate have to give the order, couldn't he just rely on the chief spy to get it done at some point?

1 Answer 1


It was indeed a very thinly veiled order:

'I am very glad to hear it. Now for the second question. It concerns that man . . . what's his name? . . . Judas of Karioth.'
At this the visitor again gave the Procurator his open-eyed glance, then, as was fitting, hooded his eyes again.
'They say,' the Procurator went on, lowering his voice, ' that he is supposed to have been paid for the way he took that idiot home and made him so welcome.'
'Will be paid,' corrected the visitor gently.
'Ah, he must be greedy, that old man from Karioth! ' said the Procurator with a smile. ' I suppose he is an old man, isn't he?'
'The Procurator is never mistaken, but on this occasion he has been misinformed,' replied the man kindly. ' This man from Karioth is a young man.' [...]
'I see, I see.' The Procurator was silent, looked round to make sure that there was no one on the balcony and then said in a low voice :
' The fact is--I have received information that he is to be murdered tonight.'
At this the visitor not only turned his glance on the Procurator but held it for a while and then replied :
'You have nattered me. Procurator, but I fear I have not earned your commendation. I have no such information.'
'You deserve the highest possible praise,' replied the Procurator, ' but there is no doubting this information.'
'May I ask its source? '
'You must allow me not to divulge that for the present, particularly as it is casual, vague and unreliable. But it is my duty to allow for every eventuality. I place great reliance on my instinct in these matters, because it has never failed me yet. The information is that one of Ha-Notsri's secret followers, revolted by this money-changer's monstrous treachery, has plotted with his confederates to kill the man tonight and to return his blood-money to the High Priest with a note reading : " Take back your accursed money! " '

It is quite obvious, that Pilate has not much information about Judas - he doesn't know what he does, how does he look etc... yet he has VERY specific information that Judas will be killed and a specific note will be left at his body.

Of course, there are no secret followers that have revolted - the Pilate is telling his spy to kill Judas and make it look like he has been killed in revenge for his betrayal.

The spy later keeps asking for confirmation, warning against this task and even pointing that it would be extremely difficult for the assassin to find and kill the target:

' The chief of the secret service gave the hegemon no more of his startling glances and listened, frowning, as Pilate continued :
'Do you think the High Priest will be pleased at such a gift on Passover night? '
'Not only will he not be pleased,' replied the visitor with a smile, ' but I think. Procurator, that it will create a major scandal.'
'I think so too. That is why I am asking you to look after the affair and take all possible steps to protect Judas of Karioth.'
'The hegemon's orders will be carried out,' said Arthanius, ' but I can assure the hegemon that these villains have set themselves a very difficult task. After all, only think '--the visitor glanced round as he spoke--' they have to trace the man, kill him, then find out how much money he received and return it to Caiaphas by stealth. All that in one night? Today? '
'Nevertheless he will be murdered tonight,' Pilate repeated firmly. ' I have a presentiment, I tell you! And it has never yet played me false.' A spasm crossed the Procurator's face and he rubbed his hands.
'Very well,' said the visitor obediently. He rose, straightened up and suddenly said coldly :
'You say he will be murdered, hegemon? '
'Yes,' answered Pilate, ' and our only hope is your extreme efficiency.'

So while he officially asks to protect Judas, in fact, his order is to murder him. He could later say "It was a such shame if something would happen to that person, I've sent my best men to protect him".

  • Thanks, my EQ wasn't high enough to follow that conversation on my own haha. I was wondering what Judas' age had to do with it... So in the conversation following Judas' death, why did Pilate ask so many questions, was it to make sure Judas had died? And why did Aphranius claim to not know as much as he did about Judas, was it to protect Niza?
    – The Hagen
    Jul 19, 2019 at 16:22
  • 1
    @TheHagen I believe that Pilate wants to know the details about Judas death, because a) he really hated him for Yeshua's betrayal and b) he wanted to be sure that this assassination won't be used against him: Jewish priests could report to Rome that Pilate killed a good citizen who prevented spreading treason against Cesar. He makes sure that his agent killed Judas, that priests will get lose face but they can't prove that it was on Pilate's orders.
    – Yasskier
    Jul 19, 2019 at 20:30

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