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The Kiss of Judas. Anonymous painting of the 12th century, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

According to the Synoptic Gospels, Judas identified Jesus to the soldiers by means of a kiss. This is the kiss of Judas, also known (especially in art) as the Betrayal of Christ, which occurs in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper, and leads directly to the arrest of Jesus by the police force of the Sanhedrin (Kilgallen 271). In Christian theology, the events from the Last Supper until the death and resurrection of Jesus are referred to as The Passion.

In the Bible

Both Matthew (26:47-50) and Mark (14:44-45) use the Greek verb kataphilein, which means to kiss firmly, intensely, passionately, tenderly or warmly. It is the same verb that Plutarch uses to describe a famous kiss that Alexander the Great gave Bagoas. [1] According to John, Jesus responded by saying "Friend, do what you are here to do." This has caused speculation that Jesus and Judas were actually in agreement with each other and there was no real betrayal.[2] Luke (22:47-48) presents a very different picture: Jesus sees Judas coming and stops him by asking: "Judas, are you betraying the son of man with a kiss?" The kiss is apparently not delivered at all. Geza Vermes, however, in his book Jesus the Jew, presents a very different view: The Aramaic word barnasha—literally "son of man" but meaning "this person"—is used in Rabbinic literature as a humble, self-effacing way to refer to oneself, to the speaker. It corresponds exactly to the Japanese word sessha, "this one," an old-fashioned way to say "I" or "me" when talking to a superior. Jesus would be saying "You would use a kiss to betray me?"

The kiss of Judas is one of the omissions in the Gospel of John.

In art

"The Judas Kiss" (1866) by Gustave Doré.

The scene is nearly always included, either as the Kiss itself, or the moment after, the Arrest of Jesus, or the two combined (as above), in cycles of the Life of Christ or Passion of Jesus in various media.

  • Probably the best known is from Giotto's cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.
  • There is also a version called the The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio or one of his disciples.
  • A sixth-century Byzantine Mosaic in Ravenna.
  • A fresco by Barna da Siena.

(For more information about these paintings, see Nancy Grubb's The Life of Christ, listed below in Further Reading)

In popular culture

The term "kiss of death" is quite often used in English speaking Western cultures as an idiom or metaphor for ruining or spoiling something. For example, "That coach taking over the team was the kiss of death" (who then performed poorly).

In music

  • The moment is represented in Bach's St Matthew Passion and other Passion settings by many composers.
  • In Bob Dylan's "With God on our side," he says "Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss."
  • Petra had a hit in 1982 with a song called "Judas' Kiss". The song was controversial with anti-Christian rock critics for having a back-masked track before the song at a time when back masking messaging in rock albums was under public scrutiny. However, the message was a Christian one and was aimed at the critics. The message in question asks "What are looking for the devil for, when you oughta be looking for the Lord". It occurs at the beginning of the song before the instruments start.
  • Dave Barnes, a Christian singer/songwriter, uses it in his song "On a Night Like This."
  • Finnish power metal band Stratovarius describes the events around Judas betrayal from a first-person perspective in the opening song "The Kiss of Judas" from its album Visions.
  • The politically progressive Canadian punk band Propagandhi references this in the song "With Friends Like These Who The F*** Needs COINTELPRO?" in the line "the crippling Judas Kiss to christen thee a sinking ship".
  • The Academy Is... created a song called "Judas Kiss" about betrayal of a loved one.
  • Metallica has a song entitled "The Judas Kiss" in their ninth studio album, Death Magnetic.
  • Canadian rock band Triumph, used the lyric "30 Golden Pieces For The Judas Kiss", in the song Never Surrender from the album of the same name.
  • U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" contains the lyric "one man betrayed with a kiss"
  • The Hold Steady song "Citrus" has a repeating line "Lost in fog, and love, and faithless fear, I've had kisses that make Judas seem sincere"
  • In Van Morrison's Days Like This he sings "When you don't get betrayed by that old Judas kiss".
  • Filipino metal band Wolfgang have a song entitled Halik ni Hudas which translates into the kiss of Judas.
  • American rock band Heart makes reference in the lyric "Some things seem so a Judas kiss" on the song "Black On Black II" from their 1993 album Desire Walks On.


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Kiss of Judas. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Alexander, 67
  2. Pagels, Elaine at Karen L. King. (...) "The Gospel of John suggests that Jesus himself was complicit in the betrayal, that moments before Judas went out, Jesus had told him, "Do quickly what you are going to do" (John 13:27)" (...), Reading Judas, The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christiany, Penguin Books, New York, 2007, page 3-4, ISBN 9780143113164.

Further reading