by Taylor Caldwell
Reviewed by Kerry Gubb
If God can speak through a donkey,1 he can also “speak” to me through the pen of a novelist. Taylor Caldwell’s2 three most famous biblical works3 have enhanced and plausibly fleshed out some fascinating minutiae of stories that were necessarily summarized in the Bible. Caldwell’s background research in history and archaeology is on a par with James Michener.
I, Judas, written as an autobiography, attempts to explain the most infamous betrayal in history. This immediately appealed to me because for many years I could not understand why Judas betrayed Jesus to the priests, then back-pedaled, renounced his own testimony, threw back the 30 pieces of silver, then hanged himself.4 Wasn’t Jesus’ downfall the very outcome Judas had plotted? Taylor Caldwell thinks not.
That’s the point of the book.
Is she correct? Wiser minds can decide, but the benefits I derived from the book didn’t depend on that.
After reading the book, one isn’t rendered sympathetic with Judas. He safely remains western history’s greatest villain. But should he ever come up in conversation (he doesn’t that often!), I am perhaps less self-righteously judgmental, because Caldwell has disturbingly demonstrated that I have something in common with Judas — as do we all.
Despite not knowing how to pray as we ought,5 we may find ourselves holding passionate opinions about how God “should” act in response to our prayers. We might feel let down if God doesn’t respond the way we’d like him to. We might find ourselves taking it out on others6 or even resenting the way God deals with us.
Like Jesus’ use of Lot’s wife7 as a word to the wise, I, Judas improved my grasp of some of the nuances and real-life implications of “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
2 Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell (1900–1985) — Anglo-American novelist and prolific author of popular fiction, also known by the pen names Marcus Holland and Max Reiner, and by her married name of J. Miriam Reback.
3 Dear and Glorious Physician (1959), about Luke, Great Lion of God (1970), about the apostle Paul; and I, Judas (1977) — an “autobiography” of Judas Iscariot.
5 Romans 8:26.
6 Luke 12:45.
7 Luke 17:32.