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In this fascinating historical and cultural biography, Peter Stanford deconstructs that most vilified of Bible characters: Judas Iscariot, who famously betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Beginning with the gospel accounts, Stanford explores two thousand years of cultural and theological history to investigate how the very name Judas came to be synonymous with betrayal and, ultimately, human evil. But as the author points out, there has long been a counter-current of thought that suggests that Judas might in fact have been victim of a terrible injustice: central to Jesus' mission was his death and resurrection, and for there to have been a death, there had to be a betrayal. This thankless role fell to Judas; should we in fact be grateful to him for his role in the divine drama of salvation? "You'll have to decide," as Bob Dylan sang in the sixties, "Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side." An essential but doomed character in the Passion narrative, and thus the entire story of Christianity, Judas and the betrayal he symbolizes continue to play out in much larger cultural histories, speaking as he does to our deepest fears about friendship, betrayal, and the problem of evil.
Peter Stanford is a senior features writer at the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail, and the Catholic weekly The Tablet, where he is a columnist. He is the author of The Legend of Pope Joan and Teach Yourself Catholicism and he is a regular host on the BBC World Service.