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Borges imagines a writer named Nils Runeberg who, had he been born in more pious times, would have met a multitude of heretical ends. Instead, Runeberg lived in Lund, Sweden and wrote in the 20th century. Judas, ever the villain in Christian theology, is re-imagined as a laudable-yet-misguided nationalist, rather than the usual characterization, which places him on par with Smeagol. To Runeberg, Judas was the other half of the sacrificial puzzle — necessarily damned and reviled, humble as Christ was humble.

This of course was loudly decried by the religious authorities of Sweden, so Runeberg revised. This is the second version of Judas. This version of Judas is the master ascetic.

Judas sees that redemption, mercy, goodness are divine traits and that he, a poor man, is not worthy of them. To truly deny himself he must deny himself the spiritual rewards promised those who deny the flesh.

In the world he was, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He became man, and he became the lowest, most reprehensible man; the man who sold his master for 30 silver coins.

The third version of Judas is Judas as the divine Logos, the Word become Flesh, who did indeed die for the sins of world — with a rope around his neck in the potters field, and who went to hell to take the place of all men. Nils Runeberg, responding to tepid book sales, believed that he has stumbled across the sort of divine revelation that often results in sudden death. Borges quotes several examples. The Three Versions of Judas is a typically Borgesian story of ideas, of books, of forms.

We are presented with three really, four iterative interpretations of Judas, each progressing further down the road of justifying the most historically vilified man in Christendom. It is also interesting to note that as Runeberg unravels his fractal belief in the divinity of Judas, he experiences a sort of apotheosis. This ties in well with the theme of time discussed in another footnote; that time is not linear when it comes to an infinite omnipotent omnipresent deity.

As Jesus is eternally dying, and rising again, so too must Judas eternally kiss, and suicide. Man becomes God, God becomes man, back and forth, or perhaps cyclically, always, forever. This is in keeping with the mad reversal of theology that characterizes this story. These fascinating vectors and parallels create such and astounding depth in such short work, with such an inert plot.

A masterpiece of short fiction that no one else could have written. It is amazing how Borges used a story that everyone vaguely knows, and, while keeping the same themes, inverted its meaning precisely. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account.

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Tres versiones de Judas

Jorge Luis Borges. There seemed a certainty in degradation. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In Asia Minor or in Alexandria, in the second century of our faith when Basilides was announcing that the cosmos was a rash and malevolent improvisation engineered by defective angels , Nils Runeberg might have directed, with a singular intellectual passion, one of the Gnostic monasteries. Dante would have destined him, perhaps, for a fiery sepulcher; his name might have augmented the catalogues of heresiarchs, between Satornibus and Carpocrates; some fragment of his preaching, embellished with invective, might have been preserved in the apocryphal Liber adversus omnes haereses or might have perished when the firing of a monastic library consumed the last example of the Syntagma.


Three Versions of Judas – Jorge Luis Borges

It was included in Borges' anthology, Ficciones , published in Like several other Borges stories, it is written in the form of a scholarly article. The story is similar in theme and subject to the subsequent short story "The Sect of the Thirty". The story begins as a critical analysis of works of a fictitious writer Nils Runeberg.


Three Versions of Judas




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