I, JUDAS by Taylor & Jess Steam Caldwell
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With the same bumptious energy of those who have protested the innocence of Richard III, the authors, perhaps emboldened by the success of Jesus Christ, Superstar, have set about a whitewash of Christianity's wretched Judas Iscariot. However, to shade and complicate that agent of prophecy of whom Jesus said, ""woe to the man by whom that Son of Man is betrayed. . . better for that man if he were never born,"" takes a bit of poetic imagination, and Caldweli & Stearn's superficially inventive tableaux don't quite reconcile the well-meaning, misled good guy with the ancient symbol of human evil. Their story begins with Judas' conversion at Christ's recognition by John the Baptist and roughly follows the chronology of the Bible stories, although there are extra-Scriptural conversations among followers and doubters--and some startling byways: Judas spends the eve of Jesus' trial with a young handmaiden and follower of Jesus--observed by his host, Pontius Pilate; before his suicide Judas reads a parchment (containing the 23rd Psalm) which had dropped from the hand of the dying Messiah; and Mary leads Judas, at one point, to Jesus' boyhood room where, over the bed, are three of His watercolors. As for the low-down on motivation, Judas leads Jesus to trial for the good of Israel, having been promised that Jesus would be acquitted. Jesus' speeches are taken from Scripture, although as in the expanded trial, there are Bible-derived explications. And one can hardly miss a traditional Protestant tenor: ""This is symbolically [sic] my body. . . ."" So, given these days of laissez-faire liturgies--and Caldwell's following--Mr. Judas Nice Guy should prove to be a pretty popular fellow.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Atheneum