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Philosophy and Jesus Christ Superstar

By Edited Mar 14, 2016 0 0

My dad bought three Betamax tapes when I was around seven years old: Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and Jesus Christ Superstar. The mature concepts were too complex for me at the time, and the music sounded bad (particularly the many harmonies in "Tonight" from West Side Story).

With time came understanding and critical thinking, and I saw new meanings in these musicals. Fiddler on the Roof was no longer a long story about strange people living in a cold place, but the touching experience of a father torn between traditions and his love for his three eldest daughters. The music in West Side Story became harmonious, and the story became a modern Romeo and Juliet. And most importantly, Jesus Christ Superstar showed me the familiar Bible stories I grew up reading, but in context, and from Judas' point of view.

Judas posed many questions for which my traditional Catholic mom, school, church, or friends had no answers. None that satisfied me, at least.

For instance, Jesus teaches that a poor widow who drops her last two coins in the temple donation box gives more than the Pharisees who regularly donate full purses. Similarly, Mother Teresa gave all she had to the poor and needy, and saved nothing for herself. Keeping the widow and Mother Teresa in mind, how can Jesus laud charity, but also justify the expensive oil Mary Magdalene uses on him? In the movie, Judas addresses Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but he speaks for everyone to hear:

Woman your fine ointment - brand new and expensive
Could have been saved for the poor
Why has it been wasted? We could have raised maybe
Three hundred silver pieces or more
People who are hungry, people who are starving
Matter more than your feet and hair

The movie humanizes Judas beyond his traditional role of traitor, depicting him to be a charitable giver. During the Last Supper, Judas tries to explain his reasons for betraying Jesus - to give the bribe money to the poor - but Jesus would hear none of it. As Judas is leaving, he asks Jesus, "What if I just stay here and ruin your ambition?" And truly, where would Christianity be today had Judas not betrayed Jesus? Should Christians thank Judas for his heinous act?

At Jesus' sentencing before Pilate, Judas goes mad, runs amok, and starts ranting to God. He realizes what he has done, and blames God for his actions.

My mind... is in darkness! My God... God, I'm sick! I've been used!
And you knew! You knew all the time!
God, I will never know why you chose me for your crime! Your foul, bloody crime!
My God, you have murdered me! Murdered me! Murdered me! Murdered me! Murdered me! Murdered...

Someone had to betray Jesus in order for Him to be crucified and subsequently rise from the dead. Can Judas really be held accountable for his crime? Is it a crime at all, considering it helped create the Christian faith? What if Judas hadn't been in Jesus' path as Jesus was selecting his twelve disciples? Did God put Judas in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Moreover, if Judas had been placed there by God to fulfill a grander plan, did Judas still have free will? Was Judas exerting his own faculties and making his own decisions, or was he destined to betray Jesus in order to fulfill Jesus' "ambition"?



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