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Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle 

Patchy deconstruction of that most vilified of Bible characters

StanfordJudasJudas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle
by Peter Stanford
Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN 978-1444754726
Reviewer: Pieter Lalleman

Investigative journalist Peter Stanford presents the results of his search for Judas in the Bible and in Western culture. He narrates his visits to sites in Jerusalem and continental Europe as well as England in search of visual representations of Judas

The first part of the book explores what the Bible and other early Christian literature say about Judas. Stanford shows little respect for the Gospels as historical sources and listens as much to very critical readers as to serious interpreters.

The style of his discussion is irreverent and at the end the reader and Stanford are not much wiser. His discussion of the apocryphal Gospel of Judas (published in 2006) is probably the best part of the book.

The remainder of the book explores how Judas has been represented in Western culture. Part two covers the Middle Ages and focuses on the visual arts, part three covers Modernity and focuses on literature.

At high speed we are presented with a potted cultural history of Western Europe. Stanford shows how from early days people’s imagination took over and how Judas came to personify the anti-Semitic sentiments of the West.

Later brave thinkers promoted Judas as essentially a good but misunderstood person. The entire narrative forms a 'troubling history' indeed, which at times makes quite unpleasant reading.

The book contains quite a few inaccuracies. The black-and-white photographs included are often too small to show the relevant details, which is disappointing given the price of the book.

The world outside Western Europe is not covered. Readers who want a reliable portrait of Judas are not well served by this book.
 
 

The Revd Dr Pieter J. Lalleman teaches New Testament at Spurgeon’s College

Baptist Times, 09/10/2015
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