The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: D

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Did Jesus fellowship Judas?

The answer to this question is unprovable, if by "fellowship" is meant merely the technical participation in the "Last Supper". A reasonable reading of the four gospel narratives leads to the conclusion that Jesus did indeed break bread with Judas, knowing full well his traitorous intentions. Brothers Thomas and Roberts both subscribed to this view, as their writings show. But nowhere do the records specifically spell this out.

The partaking of the emblems, however, is not the actual issue. We know that Jesus would have broken bread with Judas, even if it is felt that Judas in fact excused himself and went out before that point in the evening's activities. We know this because Jesus did wash the feet of Judas, as well as the other eleven. We know that because Jesus offered the sop to Judas. (This was traditionally a mark of great love and esteem, for the host to give the choicest morsel in the common bowl to a special guest.) Indeed, we know this by the simple observation that for more than three years Judas ate and slept and traveled with Jesus and the other apostles, and never once did Jesus do or say anything that might have led the others to suspect that Judas was the one who would betray him. These were all instances of "fellowship" just as much as the symbolic common partaking of bread and wine; all together, they show that Jesus had admitted a man whom he knew to be a hypocrite into the innermost circle of his companionship for an extended time.

In 1847, after learning the Truth and being baptized, Brother John Thomas was the subject of certain charges made by the hierarchy of the Campbellite ("Church of Christ") congregations. They demanded that Brother Thomas leave the "fellowship" of their congregations, because his "Confession and Abjuration" (written March 3, 1847) implied that many members of those congregations did not believe the full gospel. At such a demand Brother Thomas became highly indignant and fired off the following reply:

"Without comparing you [some of the Campbellite "brethren"] to Judas, I would inquire, Was not he in his sins when Jesus broke the loaf with him as well as the rest of the twelve? This will be a sufficient quid for your quo, that I necessarily abjure churches, because there are those among them who on my principles are in their sins... There are many in the American reform-churches who believe in... the 'immortality of the soul'. We have learned, however, the important lesson of bearing and forbearing with one another, in hope that all will come to see the real truth....But your dogma is that I ought to reject them... We, however, do not think so" (From a personal letter, quoted by Robert Roberts in "Dr Thomas: His Life and Work", p 168).
We must not, of course, suppose that Brother Thomas retained such a "liberal" view of "fellowship" for the rest of his days. There did come a time when it was desirable from his viewpoint, as well as those who made him their enemy, that he no longer be affiliated in any sense with the "reform" churches. But we might note with care that this was at least two years after his true immersion into the hope of Israel. And at any rate his point about Judas may be well taken, as far as it goes, even by us today. We see Brother Thomas as a man much like the apostle Paul, willing to recognize holders of false doctrine as "brethren", so long as there was reasonable expectation of their further enlightenment and reform.

Robert Roberts, in his "True Principles and Uncertain Details", says:

"Judas was a thief and Jesus knew it, but tolerated him till he manifested himself. Was Jesus responsible [i.e. for Judas' sins] while he fellowshipped him? Certainly not" (Xd 92:417).
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