Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Iscariot by Tosca Lee


When I read the gospels, I fail to think that each of the characters Jesus interacted with had a story. Each disciple had a family. Each needy person came to him with a history.
And what about Judas? Tosca says she ran from writing his story for a year before she casually mentioned the possibility of it to others. She hoped they would talk her out of it. They didn't. A year later the idea was rooted in her heart.
She spent three years on the quest to write the story of Judas, based on the belief that we all err in ways that make sense to us. (329) That included a research trip to Israel and consulting hundreds of books, articles, lectures, etc. The result is fascinating.
Tosca helps us see the reality of the Jews living under Roman rule. The death of Judas' wife at the hands of lustful Roman soldiers. We are with him when he sees the destruction of Sepphoris and then his own father, crucified along with hundreds of others. We feel the intensity of the rebels trying to cast off Roman rule. We feel, along with Judas, the excitement when Jesus comes on the scene, claiming to bring the kingdom of God. Discouraged by a prior false messiah, Judas thinks, “But in that moment I felt I had found a thing, a person, worth the resurrection of my every hope.” (111)
Tosca brings alive the stories we read in the gospels, exploring the horror of the disciples when Jesus confronted the Pharisees, their indignation when Jesus tells a man his sins are forgiven, and their puzzlement when they ask about the kingdom and Jesus says, “It is here! Now!” (159).
Yet Judas loved Jesus. He felt completely known by him. “But when I looked at him, I saw a great tenderness in his eyes as though everything within me were already laid bare.” (130)
We feel the frustration of the disciples when Jesus does not move fast enough to establish the kingdom. After John's death, Judas' attitude toward Jesus was, “He was the Messiah. And if not him, then no one. So now we must move, and quickly.” (197)

I know, there is always a danger when one novelizes parts of the Gospels. I tremble at the thought of putting words in Jesus' mouth and have been very critical of attempts to do so by others. I am very impressed, however, with this novel. Tosca has remained true to the spirit of the gospel account, I think. Granted, it is fiction, but I really got a sense of the Roman occupation and the groan for national freedom. I felt the frustration of Judas as he was caught in the web of his national patriotism and commitment to Jesus.

Well done. I highly recommend this novel.

Tosca Lee is is a best-selling author and co-author with Ted Dekker. She currently makes her home in the Midwest. Learn more at www.toscalee.com.

Howard Books (a division of Simon and Schuster), 338 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Howard Books for the purpose of this review.
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