Did Judas Iscariot have free will to not betray Jesus?


Just curious what is the correct understanding of the role that Judas Iscariot played in the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Was he bound to betray Jesus because someone had to betray Jesus to fulfill prophecy and Jesus chose Judas Iscariot for that role like he chose John the Baptist for his role, or did Judas have free will to not betray Jesus at any point in time but he chose to betray Jesus anyway?

As I read the story of Jesus’ death and passion on the cross, I wondered about the role of Judas.

It seems that Jesus knew Judas would do what he did, so that made me wonder if Judas **had ** to betray Jesus or whether Jesus just knew ahead of time what decision Judas would make on his own.


No one is bound to sin, at least not according to orthodox teaching. Double predestination is heretical.


Judas was not forced into betraying Jesus Christ. He made that choice of his own voluntary will. It was within his free will to have chosen otherwise.


Thanks, SyroMalankara. I also thought that Judas had free will and that Jesus just knew in advance that Judas would betray Him, but wanted to be sure.

The basis for my question is the exchange between Jesus and Judas in John 13:27.

"As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”


Thanks for confirming, Wesrock.


Questions like these always deal with the mystery of providence, as do questions on predestination, etc. Man’s free will is always affirmed, as is God’s sovereignty, and the Church allows latitude to a certain degree for thinkers to reconcile the two.

Judas did have free will, but his free act of betrayal was also ordained from eternity. God did not merely allow it to happen, but it was in fact his decree that it should happen.

How this is possible while Judas remains free, the Church has not defined. The answer would depend on whether you’re a Thomist or Molinist.


Yes. It’s not as if God is pulling puppet strings, though, or overruling man’s free will. It’s more large scale than that. God chose to create a reality in which Judas of his own intrinsic free will would betray Jesus. Perhaps that phrasing is partially Molinist, but the choosing of Judas’ will was Judas’ own. It is properly attributable to Judas, and not a manipulation of Judas contrary to the choices which Judas has ownership and control over.

Whatever conception we have, or however we try to explain it, the key point is that Judas’ will was free to make the choices he did. It’s also true that God knew Judas would choose that way.


Thanks for the added perspective, porthos11. I haven’t heard of the terms Thomist or Molinist, but I will look them up. I assume Thomist may have something to do with St Thomas Aquinas.


I have wondered about this myself for some years ever since I first saw “Jesus Christ Superstar” which seems to suggest that Judas was foreordained to betray Jesus and that Judas actually struggled with the idea of whether to do so.

Jesus of course knew what all of his apostles would do and let Peter know that he would deny Jesus 3 times, as well as noting that Judas (the one who dipped his hand into the dish with Jesus per Matthew 26:23) would ultimately betray him.

I’m no philosopher but I have often wondered if Judas was ultimately forgiven by God as not only did someone have to betray Jesus, but Judas seemed to be remorseful for his act when he threw the silver away and then killed himself in despair.


Question is… if he hadn’t betrayed Christ, and Christ hasn’t died on the cross… what then?


This gets into porthos’ comments. The Church affirms two truths:

  1. Men have free will. Even Judas. Even Pharaoh. Even the elect.

  2. God has/is knowledge of all things that have been, are, and will be.

There have been various proposals put forward to explain how this can be, the Dominican/Thomist school of thought and the Jesuit/Molinist school of thought being most common in Catholicism, though neither proposal is itself dogma.

So God knew/knows that Judas would of Judas’ own free will betray Christ, but God choose to create a reailty in which that would result anyway. The direction of his own will belongs to Judas. It was Judas’ voluntary choice according to Judas’ own nature, not Judas being moved against his own will like a puppet.


You could pretty much say the same thing about every person on earth. God knows everything that a human will do from the moment He creates them. They still have voluntary choice to do it anyway.




Hi, Tommy!

…I think that there are several thoughts on this…

Many people view God in a way that it is impossible for Him to Commit to anything that would seem to negate man’s freewill.

In some way the understanding of God’s Knowledge and Revelation basically boils down to, ‘since God is Omniscient and Omnipresent He simply tells us what is going to happen–not that He causes things to happen.’

Of course in and of itself that understanding can have the wrong ramifications… it is as if God is not truly Revealing anything but simply going to the back of the book and telling us how it ends.

My personal understanding is that God prophesied that Jesus would die by Crucifixion and that one of His Disciples/Apostles would betray Him…

Now, let’s look at Cephas’ denial… did Christ cause him to deny Him or did Cephas had the freewill to deny Jesus or to remain loyal to Him regardless of the outcome?

This of course plays to all the issues: why Cephas and not the rest? …did Jesus compel Cephas to deny Him? …was Cephas’ will fixed by God to deny Jesus?..

So it is with Judas… now there’s an added point… even though both Cephas and Judas had been forewarned that they would act against Jesus they were not able to veer off from their predicament…

I’m sure that more than one of us have concluded/claimed that he/she would not have done so… really? How many times have we committed to sin rather than to God in our daily experience? The expression, ‘must walk in a man’s shoe…’ comes to mind… but here’s the point–while Jesus prays for Cephas to remain strong so that he could gather the other Disciples around him, Jesus never prays for Judas so that his intellect and spirit grows and he understand that Jesus is his Lord and God and that he overcomes the error of betrayal.

So even if we rely on the, ‘God just new what would happen’ thing, there’s still the issue of the necessity for one of Jesus’ Disciples to betray Him. Judas was fully on his on:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou gavest me have I kept; and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition, that the scripture may be fulfilled.

(St. John 17:12)
Note that this prayer is right prior to Jesus detention and Cephas’ denial.

Maran atha!




Hi, Tommy!

…which goes to St. John 17:12–Jesus had to have been betrayed… it is not just about Jesus knowing that one thing or another would take place… how could Judas not betray Jesus and all of the passages that speak to His betrayal by a “friend” still take place?

God Salvific Plan is not left up to chances and the Goldilocks phenomenon (“just right” conditions). Remember the Promise to Abram? …was Ishmael not, technically, Abraham’s firstborn?

Maran atha!






I think that Judas was caught in that catch 22 thing… someone had to betray Jesus;
it had to be one of the Twelve; whoever it was could not but betray Jesus… then the toss fell on Judas.

…but was it really a toss up?:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him.

(St. Matthew 10:2-4)
Did you notice two very distinctive things about this list?:

  1. Cephas is placed as “first” (though the chronological events shows that his brother, Andrew, was brought to Jesus first and that it was he who then call Cephas to Jesus), and
  2. Judas, placed last, is introduced as the one who would betray Jesus (reflective of St. John 17:12)

As, you, I thought about the issue of Judas’ betrayal in light of God’s Salvific Plan and Mercy… I believe that Judas did come to the full understanding of his deeds and that he, in his diminished capacity, attempted to undo his error; finally, in desperation and rushed by the feeling of impotence, he did what he took what he may have thought was his only measure: give up his own life… and I think that he may have been responding to his understanding of Jesus’ Word:

24 The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’

25 Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ ‘They are your own words’ answered Jesus. (St. Matthew 26:24-25)
Some people attempt to equate Judas’ understanding with that of the rest of the Twelve (even though they insist that Judas did not believe or as far from thinking of Jesus other than as a military leader that would fight against Rome’s oppression), and they even suggest that he should have just relied on Jesus, ‘just like Simon did.’ They fail to accept that a person with a diminished capacity as Judas had (not understanding the Messiah’s Goal and Teachings) could not turn on a dime and be spiritually awaken and ‘do the right thing’ when the tough got going!

I also believe that they ignore that God’s Mercy is not for man to dispense and that it is the Holy Spirit Who searches the inner most parts of our hearts, minds, and spirits.

God’s Mercy could well have provided for Judas the only path that his comprehension would allow (St. Matthew 26:24b).

Maran atha!




I suppose that makes sense. To put it another way, since God is all knowing about everything that was/is/will be he’s not unlike a time traveler who has seen the future. Knowing as a result what someone, in this case Judas, will do. But not doing anything to effect the outcome.


Judas had free will. He didn’t have to betray Jesus.
God is omniscient. God knew/knows that Judas would betray Jesus.
The Scripture described the manner of the betrayal of Jesus because God knew what was going to happen.
Had Judas not betrayed Jesus then Gods Providence would have allowed Jesus to be condemned and die by some other means.


Thanks to all for helping me to better understand this issue. Much appreciated. :tiphat:

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