(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell Glenn Mayer - Essay

Glenn Mayer

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The collaboration of Taylor Caldwell and Jess Stearn on their second novel, I, Judas, has resulted in an exceptionally interesting work….

Judas is depicted not as a poor thief, but as the educated son of a wealthy aristocrat. He sacrificed a large inheritance to follow Christ. We learn from Judas' actions that he is somewhat of an elitist, as he speaks of "another bleak Galilean fishing village with country clods in evidence wherever we went," a chauvinist, "for anybody who knows about women recognizes that they are the most devious and self-centered of creatures," but above all, a patriot devoted to freeing Israel from the tyranny of Rome. Caldwell and Stearn portray the character of Judas so effectively that we are forced to consider him as a human being with strengths and frailties, not as the archetypal betrayer.

After we accept Judas's humanity we find that perspective becomes a crucial issue. Caldwell and Stearn demonstrate well that reality itself is highly dependent upon perspective. Viewing Judas without taking his motivation into consideration, we see that it was he who caused Jesus to be brought to trial…. When we consider, however, that Judas was promised by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, that Jesus would be acquitted, our view is somewhat altered. His devotion to Israel and belief in Jesus as the Messiah who could lead his oppressed country against Rome also influenced Judas' actions. Judas believed so strongly in Jesus that he knew Jesus could, at any time, save himself. Judas hoped that by causing a confrontation between the Messiah and the Romans, Jesus would be forced to assume the role of king of the Jews and lead them in revolt against the tyranny of Rome. From Judas' perspective, he had not betrayed Christ, but had shown more belief in Jesus as the Son of God than had anyone else.

Caldwell and Stearn have dealt brilliantly with the issue of perspective and therein lies the value of their work. To himself, Judas was the strongest of believers in Christ. To others, his name was synonymous with betrayer. Which in fact was true is entirely a matter of perspective.

Glenn Mayer, in his review of "I, Judas," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1977 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 37, No. 7, October, 1977, p. 195.