Book Review: Iscariot by Tosca Lee

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History has called him many things: Thief. Liar. Traitor. Reviled throughout history and infamous for his suicide, he is the man whose very name is synonymous with betrayal…

And he is the only disciple that Jesus called “friend.”

(Portion of description of book)

So I’m really not all that great at book reviews – it is usually a “Yep, it was good. You should read it” or a “Nope, don’t bother“. However, I’ve decided since I love to read and I want to write – what better thing to do than write about what I’ve been reading. So please bear with me.

I’m usually reading about 4 or 5 books at a time – one at least being fiction, the others are usually non-fiction. My reading interests are widely varied so you’ll get all kinds of stuff from me if I keep this up. Last night I finished a book by Tosca Lee called Iscariot. I discovered Tosca when she co-wrote a series with one of my favorite authors – Ted Dekker and I’ve been checking out her stuff ever since.

As you may have guessed from the book title – this is biblical historical fiction. Tosca seems to specialize in this genre and is known for doing extensive research prior to writing – and it shows. I really love this genre and Judas Iscariot has always been a character who fascinated me. Even those not raised in the church often know of Judas and get a bad taste in their mouth. He has represented over history one of the worst betrayals of friendship.

We all wonder how he could have betrayed Jesus like he did. And we all judge him and think that we would NEVER do the same thing if we were in his shoes. However, over the years I’ve noticed something about myself. I’m starting to look at things and people from different perspectives (I know, this word – perspective – is becoming a theme for me – I’m going to be called the ‘Perspective Girl’ here soon!). I’ve started to wonder and think more about why people do and say what they do and say. I try to understand what their motivations may be. I’m beginning to realize that the assumptions I make about others are based on my own experiences, feelings and perspectives. Yet that may not be their reality and because of that I may be totally mistaken as to their intentions. I am judging this person for something when in all reality I very well might have made the same choices.

All of this to say, I’ve often wondered at Judas’ reasons for doing what he did and Tosca Lee beautifully captures the thoughts that may have been running through his head, the hopes and dreams he had of a Messiah and his reasons for what he did. And how he felt afterward and why he killed himself in the end.

Judas did not set out to betray his Master and Messiah. His intentions in his mind were true and pure. He was helping to push Jesus into the role of Messiah as he, Judas, saw it. The problem was his idea of how a Messiah should act was not in line with what God had in mind. And that is where things fell apart (and yet worked into God’s plan.)

In the Author’s Note Tosca notes, “Iscariot became an intellectual and spiritual quest to discover the life of Judas based on the belief that we all err in ways that make sense to us. We do not set out to commit the heinous.”

This story really captured my mind and my heart. Tosca does a great job revealing to the reader the conflict Judas had, how much he loved Jesus and how confused and frustrated he was at times when his idea of a Messiah conflicted with Jesus’ actions. She takes the reader through the emotions Judas was struggling with and you become sympathetic to his cause and his reasons – even if you don’t fully agree with him.

She also drives home to the reader how we often are so set in our ways of how something is supposed to look that we may make mistakes based on our wrong assumptions. Our ways are not the same as God’s Ways and if we are so set on how we think things are supposed to happen, we can totally miss the mark. We ourselves could have made the exact same mistakes that Judas did with the same disastrous results and with the same good intentions.

So, I know that was not really a normal book review, but bottom line for me – Tosca did a wonderful job in helping the reader better understand where Judas may have been coming from and to not excuse his betrayal, but to understand how any of us could have fallen into the same place he did. She allows us to feel compassion for him rather than just contempt. She makes us think about our own actions and realize we need to be careful about judging others and thinking we are more righteous. And for me, I think this is a good lesson for our society. We live in a culture right now where my Facebook feed is constantly blown up regarding political items and social items in which both sides believe they are 100% correct and point the finger and resort to name calling. Both sides preach tolerance and yet sitting back I see neither side being tolerant or even trying to understand where the other side is coming from. I am guilty of this myself, at times.

So there is my quasi book review and a little bit of soapbox grandstanding thrown in for good measure. I do highly recommend this book to everyone – even if you don’t consider yourself “religious” or a believer I think you would enjoy this book and find it gives food for thought. Tosca’s writing is superb and her research of the time and the Jewish culture is obvious. Overall the story, the characters and the setting will draw you in and keep you captured until the very last page.

I will leave you with this last quote from the book.

They called him a madman. They called him a liar. But now I know him as the face of God. Who does not save us from the Romans…

But saves us from ourselves.

~ Iscariot by Tosca Lee

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Iscariot by Tosca Lee

  1. I have heard of this book but haven’t read it. It is a harsh betrayal and one that has been done time and time again between friends, but ultimately it comes down to the arguement- God used Judas to get what was needed done. Is Judas forgiven or not. Good review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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