If Jesus were the Son of God and he appeared on earth to teach us the Way, and died on the cross to save us, why have the Christians since time immemorial condemned Judas as a foul traitor? It has always puzzled a detached individual that the apostle from Iscariot, who clearly was part of the proclaimed divine plan, should have been so vilified. What if, however, Judas was not a betrayer? What if he didn't hang himself on a fig tree in shame after the crucifixion of Christ? What if, indeed, he was Jesus' most faithful friend to the bitter end?
According to the wise man, there are no coincidences. Around the time that C. K. Stead published his wonderfully witty and acerbic portrayal of the life of Judas came the news of the discovery of the lost Gospel according to that accursed Apostle. My Name Was Judas was the result of a poet and realist's efforts to look at the story of Jesus through the eyes of a contemporary sceptic, an elegy filled with poetry conveying Judas' confusion, loss of faith, and grief, and love for Jesus.
Judas, recalling his life and Jesus', four decades after the fateful events that sparked a new faith and condemned him to lasting infamy, sets before us the facts. He doesn't betray his oldest friend, not for three or for thirty pieces of silver; he remains faithful to Jesus to the end despite all his doubts; he, unlike the rest of the apostles, does not run away at Jesus' capture; he skewers the various untruths that become accepted as the Christian orthodoxy; and he shows that Jesus, far from having miraculous powers, was carried away by his own eloquence into believing he was the Son of God.
Stead has said that he was interested in exploring a messianic character as a non-believer. He 'thoroughly enjoyed the certain amount of ingenuity needed to account for the miracles. I see Judas as a much-maligned character, and in my novel he doesn't betray Christ literally. He simply doesn't believe in his divinity.' With his beautifully controlled prose and his deeply moving poetry, Stead has crafted a wonderful work. For the faithful, it may prove subversive and blasphemous. For everybody, the glory of Jesus and his life shines through, not at all diminished by the revelation of his humanity.