I recently read "Iscariot" by Tosca Lee, an account of the life of Judas of Kerioth (Iscariot) from his childhood up til his betrayal of Jesus and his death.
About halfway through it, I had a conversation with a friend about his defensiveness towards Judas in which I took a stand of my own. I mentioned how I had previously taken a sympathetic stance in regard to Judas' betrayal as it seemed to have been preordained that he would betray his best friend - however, I would not absolve Judas of his role by placing the blame on Jesus, as he (my friend) did.
According to Lee, Judas' betrayal came as a desperate act to save his friend from himself - whether this was true or not, it does not change what was done.
Lee would have us read of Judas and find him in ourselves, acknowledge that were we in his position, we would have acted just as he did. Offering previous struggles as mitigating circumstances surrounding his state of mind that lead him to act, Tosca Lee victimized Judas the betrayer.
Admittedly , I was consumed by my preconceived notions and now undeniable self righteousness that there was little by way of similarities between Judas and myself.
My heart did open a little more, however, to Judas as the book progressed. This Judas was weak in his compassion - because of what the law dictated him to think - all the while battling his conflicted nature about everything he knew to be true and all that he experienced - something I have seen in myself.
I went from judging him as a coward to pitying him as a child. I scolded him for never outgrowing the pretentiousness of his childhood, nor the jealousy he had for his older brother Joshua while I attributed all of his weakest traits that he carried into his adulthood and into his fellowship with Jesus and the other 11 disciples, to losing his father and brother at a young age and witnessing his mother's purity defiled on his behalf and the bastard brother born from it.
I concede to the fact that Judas was not the only one "of little faith", who had seen many miracles and still doubted. I even went as far as to put myself in his position, as a modern christian - how many times have I witnessed the work of God in my life and still went on to doubt, in other moments, His power. I accept that this is not as much of a fault of Judas as it is a frailty.
I do think that there was a strong naiveté present in Lee's Judas from his youth that lead him to hold the teachings of the law in high regard, more or less, without question. How could he have witnessed so much of Jesus' ministry, miracles and messages and yet had little faith for it when it came to the laws of the land that Jesus' teachings had come against. But again, living in the unorthodox shadows of the kind of faith we are asked to have in God and His son does leave much to be desired as far as answers go - so agin, no fault there.
I don't seek to argue what Judas could or should have done differently as I have previously stated, I sympathize with him as I feel that his actions were preordained, even with free will. I do think, though, that maybe Judas does desreve to be forgiven by all of us who have judged him wthout considering that his intentions - however naieve and misguided - might have indeed been pure.
Whether or not any of these accounts of the life of Judas of Kerioth are accurate, it does free the mind of its judgement towards him to remember his humanity - to take into account all he had given up to follow Jesus in the beginning as well as the crushing guilt that drove him to end his life after his deed was done.
"Iscariot" has been a journey into the potential of the Judas we labeled without knowing, and if you can read it and find yourself identifying in the least with the accused, maybe there is more Iscariot to you than you may ever know.
Kimolee Eryn is an artist and writer who believes in creating for a purpose beyond the purpose of creating. She believes that a life should be lived not just to sustain itself but to cultivate peace, love and growth in all adjacent beings and hopes to exemplify that in all she does.