Molyneux’s (Elia’s Proverbs, 2015, etc.) novel follows the life of the disciple Judas.
Beginning with Judas’ father, Simon Bar-Levi, this retelling of one of the most vilified figures in Christianity starts with the appearance of an angel. Simon is told by Azazel, “the most powerful of all angels,” that his wife will give birth to a son, and the son will be named Judah. As a member of the Sadducee sect of Judaism, Simon may not believe in angels, but he is not one to argue. Judas grows to be a son “beyond compare, sharp minded, mature in personality, likeable, and responsible.” Judas marries the daughter of the High Priest Joseph Caiaphas, and it would seem that he has a bright future in front of him. When a man by the name of John begins preaching by the Jordan River, however, Caiaphas becomes concerned enough to send Judas as a spy. Unexpectedly, Judas finds himself strangely won over, and when Jesus emerges, his interest is piqued. Following Jesus as a spy but also a disciple, Judas’ journey takes him through many familiar biblical events and eventually his own tragic ending. Portraying Judas as a man conflicted, the book offers a view that is sympathetic albeit not one that absolves him of his actions (“They could not have arrested him without my help,” Judas sadly reflects on Jesus’ capture). The story is most powerful when incorporating details of the time period. Even readers familiar with Judas’ life may not grasp the finer differences among the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes or the threat of revolution apparent at the time. Likewise, information about the intersection of Roman and local powers provides insight into how a figure like Jesus, so seemingly innocuous to the mighty Roman Empire (particularly when compared with the violent Zealots), could be put to death in such a grisly way.
Period particulars augment this multilayered portrayal of Judas.