I have been waiting, waiting for this book. Waiting with baited breath (well, I have brushed my teeth, so I hope it doesn’t smell like bait, but you get what I mean, right?!) Iscariot. The most reviled man in biblical history? That is how I’ve (and, I’m fairly certain, most anyone who has ever heard of Judas Iscariot) thought of him. How could he? Turn against the man he had followed, eaten with, sheltered with, seen miracles performed by, learned from? Why?
The amazing Tosca Lee has done an incomparable job attempting to answer these questions that have plagued us. From the first page, she brings us into the world of Judas Iscariot, stripping away our preconceptions, humanizing him. We follow along with Judas, feeling his pain, soaring alongside him in his joy, finally understanding the grief of being torn between following his head or his heart.
Until I read this beautifully written, intensely researched novel, I had managed to distance myself from Judas Iscariot, managed to always see myself as separate from him, and yes, better than him. No way, I thought, could I have turned Jesus over to His enemies. Yet, this breath-taking book has seeded in me an empathy I never thought to find and a question I certainly never imagined I’d ask – what would I have done?
Not-to-be-missed doesn’t quite sum up this book. Thank you, Tosca.
And now…an interview with the author herself 🙂
L: To begin, thank you so much for being so willing to answer questions from your madding crowd, who so appreciates you and all you do! So, please appease us – what drew you to Judas’ story?
Tosca: Editor friend Jeff Gerke (who published Demon and Havah) suggested it. And I ran in the other direction for about a year. What finally got me was the encouragement of friends–most notably Robert Liparulo–and the fact that I finally admitted I was obsessed with the story.
L: Did you ever picture yourself writing his story?
L: What was the hardest part of the creation of Iscariot?
Tosca: The hardest part of the creation of Iscariot: The first hardest part was deciding to do it, because my initial reaction to Jeff Gerke was “NO WAY.” The second hardest was doing all the research. I had a lot to learn. It took a year and a half. It was ginormous. And then writing it. And then editing it. The entire project was a long labor.
L: Did you learn anything unexpected while writing it?
Tosca: I learned more unexpected things than I have room for here, from the context of the stories we know so well to nuances of the parables formerly lost on me. But the over-arching thing was the context of oppression under Rome. The fact that other would-be Messiahs had risen up in the past, only to be violently put down. You could not safely make a bid at Messiah-ship without risking life and limb, and the freedoms (including religious freedom) Israel already had under Rome. In Jesus’ case, it became far safer to silence him than to risk retaliation.
L: How have people in your church (assuming you have a home church. If not, we’ll say people of your faith) reacted to you penning this book?
Tosca: With wide-eyed looks, questions of “why?” and “Wow. That sounds fascinating.” Not everyone wants to see a humanized Judas. But for me, I found looking at Jesus through Judas’ eyes–and the eyes of the first Century Jewish Everyman–a way to understand Jesus far better. And the story is ultimately about Jesus.
L: In Matthew 26:50, Jesus tells Judas, “Do what you came for, friend.” What do you think of Jesus’ response to his near betrayal?
Tosca: That he knew it was coming. That perhaps, he even had compassion for Judas, knowing that a day would come when he had wished he had never been born.
L: How do you see yourself in Judas?
Tosca: This story is largely about love vs. the law and about the agendas we have for God. Things that I’ve gone round and round about most my life. Ultimately, though, this story is really about the inexplicable and uncontainable person of Jesus.
L: How did your opinion of Judas change after writing the novel?
Tosca: Through the writing of the novel, Judas went from being an intriguing infamous character to a lens on the first Century Jewish Everyman… to an Everyman I identified with closely. I was writing my story, ultimately–a story about the tension between love and grace, and our expectations of a God that cannot be controlled. And so the central question became for me: would I have done the same? And the answer
is I can’t say that, in the situation, I wouldn’t have.
L: How can you relate our experience as disciples to Judas’ experience?
Tosca: I think it was Barth who said that all the disciples failed, really. Judas’ was just the most spectacular failure. I don’t think we always understand or expect what God means for us or what God is doing at the time, and we forget that it’s usually something bigger than we could imagine.
L: What, if anything, do you want your readers to take away from Judas’ story?
L: And finally, the most important question 😉 What’s your favorite way to eat bacon? (Straight up? In ice cream? Dipped in maple syrup? On a burger?…) It’s a pressing question that this inquiring (or just weird) mind wants to know. 🙂
Tosca: Lol, Laurin! Cooked in a light dusting of brown sugar or a little maple syrup! Mmmm. Nom nom.
L: Oh…my…goodness! That sounds heavenly! Must try…….. 😉 Thanks again and again and God bless!