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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 4, 2013

Debt and Sin in the Middle English “Judas”

Irina A. Dumitrescu
From the journal Anglia


In the thirteenth-century English “Judas” ballad, Judas is sent to buy the Passover meal, loses his coins, and in desperation, sells Jesus to Pilate for the necessary money. This article argues that the poem’s chain of unequal exchanges evokes contemporary concerns about usury and its abuse of the needy, and that the ballad’s portrayal of Judas incurring a debt for which Christ is the payment also dramatizes Anselm of Canterbury’s theory of redemption. The ballad fuses mercantile and theological ideas of debt into a compact and pedagogically accessible exploration of sin.

Published Online: 2013-12-04
Published in Print: 2013-12

© 2013 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co.