Book Review: Iscariot by Tosca Lee

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee brilliantly adapts the life of Judas Iscariot into a dazzling work of fiction—humanizing the man whose very name is synonymous with betrayal.

Based on extensive research into the life and times of Judas Iscariot, this triumph of fiction storytelling by the author of Havah: The Story of Eve revisits one of biblical history’s most maligned figures and brings the world he inhabited vividly to life.

In Jesus, Judas believes he has found the One—the promised Messiah and future king of the Jews, destined to overthrow Roman rule. Galvanized, he joins the Nazarene’s followers, ready to enact the change he has waited for all his life. But soon Judas’s vision of a nation free from Rome is crushed by the inexplicable actions of the Nazarene himself, who will not bow to social or religious convention—who seems, in the end, to even turn against his own people. At last, Judas must confront the fact that the master he loves is not the liberator he hoped for, but a man bent on a drastically different agenda.

Iscariot is the story of Judas, from his tumultuous childhood to his emergence as the man known to the world as the betrayer of Jesus. But even more, it is a singular and surprising view into the life of Jesus that forces us to reexamine everything we thought we knew about the most famous—and infamous—religious icons in history.

This is my first Tosca Lee book [though I think I may have Havah on my Kindle…] and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As most of you who follow my blog with any regularity know [that’s like 4 of you ;)], I have lots of writer friends and I’d heard from one of them – and the hubby of one of them – that this is Tosca’s best work yet. Since it’s my first book, I can’t attest to that but I can say it was very thought-provoking.

The story is, by necessity, made up.

There’s only so much we can get from the Bible itself and from extra-biblical sources like Josephus and so the rest of it must be made up.

I won’t begin to second guess her research [her list of resources is beyond impressive] and so will accept what she has at face value.

One thing I think I was hoping for was… a more human side of Jesus. Sitting around the campfire, shooting the breeze with the disciples. There wasn’t much here [that I noticed anyway] that was extra-Biblical in the sense of the words Jesus said or things he did. Perhaps a bit different interpretation than what I’d always presumed, but nothing that didn’t make sense or seem out of place to me.

I’ve never really given much thought to Judas other than he’s the ultimate in betrayal. The one traitor who almost everyone knows [he even got a shout out from Sheldon Cooper, alongside Benedict Arnold and Leonard Hoffstader on The Big Bang Theory].

After all, he betrayed Christ.

But the more I thought about it as I read Iscariot, the more I wasn’t sure he deserved the title. Sure, he betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver, but God the Father [and presumably, God the Son] knew before the foundation of the earth how this would play out. SOMEONE had to turn Jesus over to the leaders of the day.

I always figured Judas to be one who wouldn’t end up in heaven, when I thought about it at all.

But Tosca challenges all of those thoughts.

Why did Judas do what he did? Was there any possible reason that could justify what Judas did?

Sure, Christ had to die on the cross to absolve us of our sins [while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us], but to be the one to send him there? Sure, lots of others were complicit, but Judas turned him over.

In Iscariot, Tosca created a Judas I could sympathize with. Understand.

And even commend for turning Jesus over.

I know that doesn’t make much sense. I won’t spoil the whys and wherefores of it, but I understood Judas’s thinking. And why he would do what he did.

It doesn’t make sense. I know that.

To see for yourself why, you’ll need to read the book ;).

Or email me privately.

Immediately after finishing my ecopy of Iscariot, I ordered a hard copy to loan out.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ecopy in exchange for my honest review.