They didn’t have TV, internet, and magazines back then, so famous or controversial individuals were mostly known through hearsay and gossip.
The majority of the public didn’t know what celebrities, heroes, and rabble-rousers actually looked like. An exception came through the minting of coins. Ambitious leaders put their likeness, real, idealized, or something in-between, on portable metal money that spread through the land.
So Judas identifies Jesus before the High Priest Caiaphas’ soldiers by kissing him on the cheek and calling him “rabbi” at Gethsemene (Mark 14.43-6). Otherwise, the soldiers wouldn’t have known who to arrest among Jesus and the disciples, who had been sleeping and praying in the garden at Gethsemene that night.
Caiaphas was appointed High Priest by the occupying Romans and his soldiers duly turn Jesus over to Pontius Pilate’s guards.
Before the betrayal, Judas supervised the mission finances (John 13:29). Some assume that all Judas ever cared for was money but most religious organizations need a financial manager (or two…).
Shortly after Jesus’ arrest, Judas becomes bitter and self-recriminating. He wants to return the ‘blood money’ and one tradition says he hung himself on a Yew tree.¹
“Poor old Judas” goes the refrain at this point in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.
Matthias is chosen to replace Judas to keep the number of apostles at twelve, an important Biblical number if we recall the twelve tribes of Israel.
The tale of Judas could be seen as an archetypal story illustrating the old adage, “all that glitters is not gold”—or in this case, silver.
Just how much is true, false, or exaggerated to fit with Christian theology arguably depends on what you believe because references outside the New Testament mostly build on the Bible or accounts surfacing after the death of Christ.
¹ Several canonical and non-canonical variants survive concerning the death of Judas:
A non-canonical, gnostic view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas:
Video link cuts in at “Judas’ Death”