Jesus Christ, Superstar question

I’m asking this here because I don’t want to discuss the artistic merits of JC Superstar, but have a question of it’s historicity.

In JC Superstar, poor ol’ Judas is an idealist who is coerced by the evil Jews into betraying Jesus, even to the point where Judas, pure idealist, is forced, FORCED by the evil Jews into taking the 30 pieces of silver. He doesn’t want it, but they insist and twist his arm until he takes it. *

It’s been a few decades since I read the Christian parts of the Bible, but I don’t remember that Judas didn’t want the money, the Jews forced him to do it.

Is this something Rice & Weber made up? Is there some sort of tradition about this? Is it in the Bible and I just don’t remember?

PS: Yes, I know it’s a musical, not a history lesson. I’m still curious where this specific idea came from.

*Here’s the lyrics:
Your help in this matter
Won’t go unrewarded

We’ll pay you in silver
Cash on the nail
We just need to know
Where the soldiers can find him
With no crowd around him
Then we can’t fail

I don’t need your blood money

Oh, that doesn’t matter
Our expenses are good

I don’t want your blood money

But you might as well take it
We think that you should

Think of the things
You can do with that money
Choose any charity
Give to the poor
We’ve noted your motives
We’ve noted your feelings
This isn’t blood money
It’s a fee nothing more

On Thursday night
You’ll find him where you want him
Far from the crowds
In the garden of Gethesmene

Firstly, Judas was a Jew too, so “the Jews” didn’t make him do anything. IIRC in the story, Annas and Caiaphas were High Priests cozy with the Romans who didn’t want radical demagogues stirring up trouble and ruining their comfortable positions.

Just to launch the debate, Wikipedia suggests that the motivation for Judas’ betrayal is not a settled point:

Rice picked the most sympathetic interpretation because it made for better drama (and IMHO fits better with his later suicide, if you accept that particular version of his death).

Incidentally, what’s always bothered me about the quoted song is that Judas calls it “Gethesmane” (three syllables), not “Gethsemane” (four syllables). Annoying.

Fair enough. I should have said “The Jewish High Priests”

Not in the original version, if we’re thinking of the same lyric. I just heard it a few minutes ago (hence the question).

He sings:

On Thursday night
You’ll find him where you want him.
Far from the crowds
In the gaaaaa-aarden of Geth-sem-an-ee

Which recording are you listening to (or which production are you attending)? In the original concept album, Murray Head plays Judas, and in that song he pronounces the name of the garden as four syllables: /gɛθˈsɛməniː/

The Bible doesn’t say much about this incident. It’s recounted in Matthew 26:14–16, which you can read yourself in various English translations. Basically, all the Bible says is that Judas went to the high priests, asked what he would get in return for handing over Jesus, and was offered thirty pieces of silver. That’s it; there’s no record of Judas’s motivation, nor of the details of the conversation which might suggest same. What Rice has done is to take the rather sparse facts related by the gospels (i.e., who did what and when) and imbued the characters with some plausible motivations.

This is a good response, but you are missing one last reference to Judas taking the money, the one in Acts 1. According to verse 18, he took the money and bought a field, and then committed suicide on it. This indicates a very penitent Judas.

Matthew, on the other hand, reports that Judas threw the money back into the temple, not taking it. A proposed solution is that Judas refused to actually take the money, throwing it on the ground. The priests, not wanting the blood money, bought the field for Judas and gave it to him. They were using Judas’s money, so one could say that Judas bought it.

I’m not going into whether this is true or not, but it is a common explanation, and definitely ties in with a Judas who would try to refuse the money in the play.

This site illustrates the common logic, starting with the question “Matthew says the priests bought the field, but Acts says that Judas did. So who did it?”

As did Carl Anderson in the 1973 film and Jerome Pradon in the 2000 TV (I think) production, although Anderson swallows the A a bit in the film (he’s clearer on the soundtrack).

I just read a 2006 National Geographic article about the Gospel of Judas.

The (gnostic) idea was that Jesus needed Judas to betray him, so Jesus soul would be freed from his mortal body. That way, Jesus message would have more impact.

There is also lots of historical evidence that the specific silver currency named in the bible had been out of circulation for centuriesby the time Judas was supposed to have been paid in them. Leading to jokes like:
Q: “Why did Judas hang himself?”
A: “Because he had found out that his ransom money was worthless”.

It must have been the film version since I remember Neeley as Jesus. It’s been a while but I definitely remember “Geth-es-mane”.

Acts says no such thing. It says he bought the field, fell down in it, and was disemboweled. If the disembowelment was a deliberate act of suicide, then that’s a pretty glaring omission on the part of the author.

That link doesn’t work for me; I just get a blank page.

Anyway, the joke isn’t too funny if you know anything about economics. In the days before fiat currency it wouldn’t have mattered much if coinage was “out of circulation” because it derived its value from its precious metal content. Silver coins are silver coins, whether or not they happen to bear the effigy of the monarch du jour.

I watched the scene just before making my post - like I said Anderson swallows the a, so it comes out a bit like ‘Gethsem’ne’, which I can definitely imagine hearing as Gethse-Main. But giving a careful listen, prompted by this thread, I can say the a is definitely there, but not entirely clear, but also the only vowel not clearly pronounced. Here, you can listen for yourself and put your pet peeve to rest.

Watching the 1973 and 2000 films though, gives me a question based on it…hope Fenris doesn’t mind my piggy-backing his thread with it…

One of the few bits of costuming consistent between the two versions is a square bit of jewellery worn by Caiaphas on his chest (though it’s done differently in the two) is this an actual part of the Jewish priest’s regalia of the era, and if so, what is it called, and what did the real ones look like?

The URL got messed up (an extra http). Here’s a fixed link.


The pastor visited our kindergartner’s Sunday School class. "Do any of you have a favorite Bible story?’
Our son’s hand shot up: “Yeah! Judas! The part where the guy hangs himself and then he’s cut down and all his guts spill out!”

To the pastor’s credit, he didn’t miss a beat. “Does anybody want me to read a gross story?”
Of course, they all did.

Hijack away–my question’s pretty much been answered (thanks everyone!) so the thread is yours! :slight_smile:

It’s just called a breastplate, and yes, it’s roughly historically accurate. As usual, Wikipedia has an article on it. The original source is Exodus 28:15–19.

In addition to its depiction in Jesus Christ Superstar, you can also see Belloq wearing one near the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when he performs a ritual opening of the Ark of the Covenant.


Fixed linky.

Okay, silver is silver, but the story loses credibility if the storyteller didn’t even get the coinage right and missed the right term by a few centuries.

" Did you hear? Those Enron guys? Apparently they embezzled about a hundred thousand denarii each!"

Thanks! Would never have thought to look for it under breastplate (if I could have come up with anything to search for to begin with).