In this fascinating historical and cultural biography, writer and broadcaster Peter Stanford deconstructs that most vilified of Bible characters: Judas Iscariot, who famously betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Beginning with the gospel accounts, Peter 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 Peter 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 symbolises 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.
Judas: the ultimate traitor, or the ultimate scapegoat? This is a compelling portrait of Christianity's most troubling and mysterious character.
Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include: The Devil - A Biography; Heaven - A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country; and The She-Pope, an investigation of the Pope Joan legend. His other books include biographies of Bronwen Astor, Lord Longford and the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis, plus the polemical Catholics and Sex that became an award-winning Channel 4 series in 1992. He is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, where he is a columnist. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.