Judas: the most famous traitor in all of human history. But who was he really - and what does he mean for us today?
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.
A cracking piece of writing that posits such a great idea - a pilgrimage to Judas.I've been reading Peter Stanford's JUDAS. It's great. He's a beautiful writerIt's a fascinating subject.
'There is no better navigator through the space in which art, culture and spirituality meet than Peter Stanford. His biography of the Devil is a masterpiece. This is an easier book, written in a friendlier style, but the research is just as through.'
'Despite the layers of confusion between the present day and what happened - or not - 2,000 years ago, he finds meaning, and spins a good yarn. (There is also an A to Z of Judas-related bits and pieces, from asparagus to the Zodiac, which is fun).'
'Stanford is more than willing to admit that some or all of this - including the character of Judas himself - may be fiction, as he picks apart the gospels beautifully and uncovers what appears to be home truths.'
'This entertaining, enlightening biography serves the sympathetic old devil wonderfully well.'
Peter Stanford's engrossing book shows that Judas is a man for all seasons, nearly all of them bad for him and those around him. Judas is a chameleon, though a chameleon in consistently dark colours, endlessly fertile as a symbolic figure, because he helps us to reflect on our own dark side.
Stanford, a journalist and broadcaster, says a lot about the many faces and other attributes of Judas and does so very engagingly: his book manages to be fun as well as sometimes profound, and it is as much an enjoyable tour of Christian art and thought as an account of a 2,000-year-old traitor.
The biggest question has always been whether Judas was an "out-and-out traitor or cog-in-the-wheel of a divine plan", as Stanford puts it.
With Judas, as with other religious figures, you can and must believe just what you choose. One of the best moments in the book is when Stanford sees a sign outside the Basilica of the Agony in Jerusalem that reads, "Please: no explanations in the Church."
This is scary and thought-provoking stuff.
Curiously, thoughtfully and reassuringly English
Wide-ranging and engaging ... Stanford, a much-respected commentator on Catholic affairs, has unearthed some fascinating material and left his readers with more than enough material to prompt some echo of the question "Is it I?"Stanford's book is ultimately a cultural history of the forces which subsumed Judas, leading unstoppably to the version of him - so close to 'Jew' or 'Yehuda' - that lent weight to the idea that the Jews were the murderers of Christ... this book provides, among many insights, a timely account of the origins of anti-Semitism.
'Judas continues to play an important part in Christian history, the symbol of the bad guy or more specifically the traitor, and especially in the history of anti-Semitism.
'In a brilliant piece of writing, the whole enduring story is summed up in the Appendix, the tale of the author's visit to Laurence Whistler's engraved Judas window in Dorset, entitled "the Forgiveness Window".'
Stanford is particularly good at explaining how interpretations evolved during Christianity's early years as the new religion sought to differentiate itself from other sects.
Stanford avoids trying to write an all-encompassing study of treachery. He sticks to his subject... he does not balk at explaining theological concepts, yet his manner is always engaging. All in all, his quest for Judas provides a satisfying left-field approach to the entire history of Christianity.
The tortuous journey of the arch-traitor through cultural history is something of a revelation'
A "clever and nimble book"
"Stanford's book is engaging without being decisive on Judas and his fate (no matter, the Church has the same problem). In his pilgrimage in search of Judas, some of the finest material in this work is in the form of travelogue: the various sites which have become associated with Judas in the Holy Land, few of which appear in standard tours of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Gethsemane and Calvary."
'No Christian, I think, can have avoided wrestling with the nature of Judas. Stanford's book makes this evident, while charting a dangerous history of co-opting the figure for some of humanity's most shameful episodes. When one thinks of the horrors perpetrated by seemingly decent men and women, the scapegoat Iscariot seems more deserving of pity than terror.
A delightful Odyssey which attempts to unravel mystery of the enigmatic Judas Iscariot'Peter Stanford...holds our attention with the skill of an experienced writer.'Peter Stanford appeared on BBC Radio 2's Good Morning Sunday on Sunday 22nd March 2015 to speak about JUDAS.Peter Stanford appeared on BBC Radio 4's Beyond Belief to speak about JUDAS.Peter Stanford appeared on BBC Radio 4's START THE WEEK on Monday 16th March 2015 to speak about JUDAS.Peter Stanford appeared on BBC One to speak about Judas..Peter Stanford appeared on fourteen regional BBC radio stations to speak about his book Judas.Peter Stanford wrote a piece for The Daily Telegraph entitled 'The most hated name in history'.Peter Stanford wrote a piece for The Independent on Sunday entitled 'Judas: The Resurrection.'Well known journalist Peter Stanford gives us in his new book Judas
not just a biographical study of the gospel figure but an illuminating analysis of how Judas has been regarded in different periods of history. Highly recommended
.Peter Stanford wrote about Judas for The Tablet.Peter Stanford wrote an article on Judas in the Church Times.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
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.From well known journalist and broadcaster Peter StanfordFascinating subject, of appeal to both Christian and general markets