My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Iscariot is a popular book because it presents Judas from a surprising new angle and people always love a new angle. The problem is, it’s an angle that flatly contradicts what the Bible says.
The story is very well-written. Tosca Lee is a skilled writer to be sure. And most of the story is remarkably well-researched and historically accurate. But the crux of the story–the part that reviewers find so fascinating–is the opposite of what we know about Judas.
Lee presents Judas as a hero. A devoted follower of Jesus who did what he did only to protect Jesus from death. He didn’t care about the money. That was just a formality. He did it, sacrificing himself, because the authorities promised him they would not try Jesus for blasphemy. Thus Judas believed he was saving Jesus’ life. When Jesus said someone would betray him, Judas was horrified and wondered who it might be. That his own actions could be construed as betrayal was the farthest thing from his mind. But Jesus misunderstood what Judas did and took it as a betrayal.
It’s sad to read in the reviews how many Christians say things like they were surprised to “learn” the true motivations of Judas–as if Lee’s theory about Judas were something other than her own imagined fantasy.
While a great number of passages of Scripture are quoted in the story and interpreted with surprising accuracy, the following were omitted:
Luke 22:3-4 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.
John 12:4-6 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Judas was not a godly, selfless, devoted follower of Jesus to the end. He may have been at the beginning, but be the end he was a crook who stole money from Jesus and the other disciples, he didn’t care about the poor, and gave himself to the control of Satan when he bargained a way to betray Jesus.
I highly recommend the first 3/4 of this book. It’s excellent. Some of the best biblical historical fiction I’ve read. But the last quarter is so unbiblical and misleading that it spoils the rest. If the whole book were fanciful and non-historical, it wouldn’t be as bad. But to write a book that is so historically accurate that the reader comes to fully trust the author, and then to make the climax of the story a complete falsehood, is inexcusable.