Life of Judas

Vita Judae

Standard abbreviation: Life Jud.

Other titles: De Juda proditore

Clavis numbers: unassigned

Category: Hagiographa

Related literature: Gospel of Judas

Compiled by: Brandon W. Hawk, Rhode Island College (

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Hawk, Brandon W. “Life of Judas” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR.

Posted March 2017.


This story, reminiscent of the classical legend of Oedipus, tells about the life of Judas, mainly before he meets Jesus. The beginning tells about Judas’s parents and his unfortunate birth. Before the child is born, his father has a vision that his son will kill him; so when Judas is born, his legs are wounded and he is abandoned outside of Jerusalem. Some shepherds find the baby and he is raised by a woman in a town called Scariot. As a grown man, Judas enters the service of King Herod. When Herod desires fresh fruit for one of his feasts, Judas steals some from a local orchard, and when caught he kills the farmer, not knowing it is his own father. When the townspeople threaten to kill Judas, he finds protection in Herod, who has him married to the murdered farmer’s wife (Judas’s mother, though unknown) to make peace. Judas’s true identity is revealed when his mother sees him naked and recognizes the scars on his legs. His mother asks a series of questions about his origins, and Judas relates what little he knows, both realize their folly: he has killed his father and married his mother. In act four, after he has fled from his mother, Judas seeks atonement and meets Jesus, who receives him as a disciple. Jesus’ ministry is briefly mentioned, as well as Judas’s treachery and suicide. The text offers moralizing aphorisms at both the beginning and the end, framing the story as a negative example for the audience. The most popular version of the text is included in Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend (ca. 1260). In this collection of saints’ lives, the story of Judas is an expanded, adapted version of the earlier Life that forms part of the account of the apostle Matthias (who was elected to replace Judas in Acts 1).

Named historical figures and characters: Cyborea, Jesus Christ, Judas (Iscariot), Herod, Pilate, Reuben.

Geographical locations: Jerusalem, Scariot.



3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

3.1.1 Greek

The Latin Life of Judas seems to be related to later two Greek versions, although the exact relationships are not clear.

Greek A

Mt. Athos, Dionysius Monastery, 132 (17th cent.), titled titled Περὶ τοῦ παρανόμου Ἰούδα

Greek B

Pamphlet published by a monk of Mt. Athos at Athens in 1889.

Other manuscripts (unclassified)

Mount Athos, Dionysius Monastery, 260 (17th cent.)

Mount Athos, Monê Ibêrôn, 496 (16th/17th cent.)

Archbishopric of Cyprus, 15

Istrin, V. “Die griechische Version der Judas-Legende.” Archiv für slavische Philologie 20 (1898): 605–19 (editions of Greek A and Greek B).

Megas, G. A. “Ο Ιούδας εις τας παραδόσεις του λαού.” Επετηρίς του Λαογραφικού Αρχείου 3 (1941–1942): 3–32 (edition of Dionysius Monastery 260 collated with Archbishopric of Cyprus 15).

3.1.2 Latin

Latin A

Ap   Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 14489 (12th cent., c.1160–c.1170)

Latin H, the longest, most elaborate version, represented by three manuscripts from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries:

Hd   Cambridge, University Library, Ff.Ii.20 (14th cent.)

Hb   London, British Library, Add. 15404 (13th cent., prov. Cambron Abbey, Hainaut)

Hr   Reims, Bibliothéque municipale 1275 (13th cent., prov. Reims Cathedral)

Latin R

Rc   Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 66A, fol. 232v (14th cent.)

Rg   Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College 225 (13th cent., Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk)

Rl   Lille 138 (1481, written by Henry Descamps)

Rm   Munich, lat. 21259 (12th/13th cent.)

Rb   Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud. Misc. 633 (13th cent., Premonstratensian House in Pöhlden, near Brunswick)

Ra   Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 387 (13th cent., prov. St.-Victor, Paris)

Rg   Paris, Bibliothéque nationale de France, lat. 11867 (13th cent.)

Rn   Paris, Bibliothéque nationale de France, nouv. acq. fr. 4413 (13th/14th cent.)

Ro   Paris, Bibliothéque nationale de France, lat. 4895 A (14th cent.)

Rj   Vienna, lat. 1180 (Rec. 3167a) (uncertain date)

Re   Unidentified copy (uncertain date)

Latin L (as in Voragine’s Golden Legend), twenty-one manuscripts

Lv   Rome, Vatican, Pal. Lat. 619 (12th/13th cent., Worms or Trier?): the earliest witness

Additional manuscripts listed in Baum. A translation of the version from The Golden Legend is available HERE.

Latin P, poetic adaptations (in two manuscripts each)

Pi   Munich, lat. 23490 (13th cent.)

Py   Munich, lat. 237 (15th cent.): copy of Pi

Pz   Maihing II, lat. 1 (15th cent.)

   Wolfenbüttel 212 (15th cent.)

Latin M (miscellaneous)

Mw   Munich, lat. 12262 (15th cent.)

Mh   Wolfenbüttel 1199 (15th cent.)

Baum, Paull Franklin. “The Mediaeval Legend of Judas Iscariot.” PMLA 31 (1916): 481–632. Editions of Latin A, H, and R, with some passages from P.

Rand, E. K. “Mediaeval Lives of Judas Iscariot.” Pages 305–16 in Anniversary Papers by Colleagues and Pupils of George Lyman Kittredge. Boston: Ginn & Co., 1913. First preliminary study of the legend; editions of Reims 1275 and Paris 14489.

3.2 Modern Translations

3.2.1 English

Edmunds, Lowell. Oedipus: The Ancient Legend and Its Later Analogues. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

3.3 General Works

Edmunds, Lowell. “Oedipus in the Middle Ages.” Antike und Abendland 22 (1976): 140–55.

Hahn, Thomas. “The Medieval Oedipus.” Comparative Literature 32 (1980): 225–37.

Lehmann, Paul. “Judas Ischarioth in der lateinischen Legendenüberlieferung des Mittelalters.” Studi medievali n.s. 2 (1929): 289–346.

Mize, Britt. “Working With the Enemy: The Harmonizing Tradition and the New Utility of Judas Iscariot in Thirteenth Century England.” Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures 36 (2010): 68–110.

Ohly, Friederich. The Damned and the Elect: Guilt in Western Culture. Trans. Linda Archibald. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.