Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus (Luke 6:16). The meaning of his surname is unclear. Most believe that, similar to Mary Magdalene which meant ‘Mary from Migdal’, Iscariot meant Judas was a ‘man from Cariot’.
A place called “Cariot” or “Craiot” is mentioned in the Old Testament in Joshua 15:25, and in Jeremiah 48:24, but the location of these sites is not known. Furthermore, these place names are not mentioned in contemporaneous sources of the first century CE. So was there a an ancient site called “Cariot”?
About two miles north of Tel Arad, in the northern part of the Negev, is a 50 acres site of antiquities called Kh Kiryatin (Arabic for ‘the ruins of Kiryatin’). The site was partially excavated in 1991-2 by the Israeli archaeologist Yehudah Guvrin, and it proved to have been inhabited in the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Moreover, in the Byzantine-Christian period a church was built on the western edge of the site. Guvrin is of the opinion that in late antiquity Christians may have believed that this site was the hometown of Judas Iscariot, and so erected a memorial church. The finds in the church, however, bare no clues to any local veneration of Judas Iscariot, nor is such a memorial church known by any contemporaneous sources.
Another Meaning for Iscariot
Another possibility is that Iscariot was simply a nickname, which meant ‘the man from the cities\regions’. “Ish” means Man in Hebrew, and “Kiryah \ Kartha” means City in Hebrew and Aramaic.
Since all the other disciples were fishermen and villagers from the rural Galilee, a member from a non-local, urban environment, could be nicknamed by his foreign origin. Judas therefore may have been an outsider, a “city boy”, perhaps even speaking a different dialect.
Touring Tel Krayot
Tel Krayot is an open site on the side of the road connecting Hebron Mountains with Beer-Sheva valley. The remains of the church that may have been commemorating Judas Iscariot can still be seen at the site.