Judas: A Biography

Susan Gubar

Judas: A Biography

Susan Gubar asks who Judas Iscariot was and why he betrayed Jesus, exploring the meaning of Jesus' betrayer over twenty centuries. Despite the recent recovery of a Gnostic Gospel bearing his name, the centrality of the twelfth apostle has gone largely ignored. Yet artists throughout the ages have returned to this man, whose treacherous act inaugurates Jesus' death and resurrection. Gubar explains how Judas came to stand for the Jewish people and how he personifies a composite Judeo-Christianity that illuminates ambivalent relationships between Christians and Jews as well as changing attitudes toward the body, blood and money; greed and hypocrisy; suicide and repentance; and, homosexuality and divinity. Gubar shows how Jesus' most notorious disciple has provoked profound reflections on the problem of evil that still resonate today. 3.8 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Judas: A Biography

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Religion & Spirituality
Format Hardback
Pages 453
RRP £18.99
Date of Publication July 2009
ISBN 978-0393064834
Publisher W. W. Norton & Co.
 

Susan Gubar asks who Judas Iscariot was and why he betrayed Jesus, exploring the meaning of Jesus' betrayer over twenty centuries. Despite the recent recovery of a Gnostic Gospel bearing his name, the centrality of the twelfth apostle has gone largely ignored. Yet artists throughout the ages have returned to this man, whose treacherous act inaugurates Jesus' death and resurrection. Gubar explains how Judas came to stand for the Jewish people and how he personifies a composite Judeo-Christianity that illuminates ambivalent relationships between Christians and Jews as well as changing attitudes toward the body, blood and money; greed and hypocrisy; suicide and repentance; and, homosexuality and divinity. Gubar shows how Jesus' most notorious disciple has provoked profound reflections on the problem of evil that still resonate today.

Reviews

The Financial Times

John Cornwell

In a brilliant kaleidoscope of texts and pictures Gubar argues that Judas is the enemy in all of us: the wounding and self-wounding alter ego... Gubar’s reading of the Judas of history, then, is similar to that of [Jeffrey] Archer’s novel, which gets a walk-on part in her extraordinary two-millennium saga. She sees the historical Judas as the disenchanted Jew, anxious for the fate of a homeland colonised by the Romans, sceptical of Jesus’s promised spiritual kingdom.

17/08/2009

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The Literary Review

Frederic Raphael

There is much to be learnt from this well-filleted corpus of opinions and marginalia. Susan Gubar’s jargonladen prose lacks Gibbonian irony or Vermes’s succinct dryness, but she provides a rich trawl of instances (including C K Stead’s fictional ennoblement of Judas). I was surprised only to find no references to Yosef Yerushalmi’s wry account, in From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto, of the Spanish Inquisition’s obsession with menstruating Jews. Gubar also remains diplomatically silent on the replacement of Judas by the state of Israel itself

01/09/2009

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The Sunday Times

James McConnachie

In virtuoso readings of paintings by Carracci, Caravaggio and others, Guber convincingly argues that Judas can also stand for the sexual outcast: the betrayer of his friend, caught up in the arms not of his lover but the law and, ultimately, banished from heaven. She is very good at this kind of startling rereading of art and literature... She prioritises art over theology and the history of ideas, which means her readings can rather skate about on the surface. And the book badly needs an edit... Gubar’s urgent, magnificent final chapter easily redeems her book, however.

02/08/2009

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The Washington Post

Michael Dirda

[A] fascinating, occasionally infuriating book... By training, the author is a teacher of English, an interpreter of texts. This means that the ordinary reader will have to put up with some unnecessary jargon and factitious categorization: "He progresses (in a nonnormative fashion) from the anal and oral to the genital phases of development." Such lapses weaken an otherwise enthralling book... don't miss Gubar's endnotes, which are crisp, concise and hugely informative.

26/03/2009

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The New York Times

Adam Kirsch

Gubar borrows the idea of a biography from Jack Miles, who treated the deity himself in similar terms in “God: A Biography” (1995). Yet the conceit does not work nearly as well for Judas, and it creates more problems for Gubar than it helps to solve... What she brings to the Judas story ... is her talent for interpretation; and “Judas: A Biography” is best approached as a series of provocative “readings” of artworks in all media.

03/04/2009

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The New Yorker

Joan Acocella

Between the mid-twentieth century and the present, Gubar’s effort to make sense of the history of Judas representations breaks down, because the evidence is too sparse, and too ambiguous, in the modern manner. But the book hits trouble long before it arrives at the modern period, and I think this is because it is essentially an amateur enterprise. Gubar is a literary scholar. Judas is far less important in literature than he is in the visual arts and, needless to say, theology. Again and again, Gubar fails to see her evidence in its proper context.

03/08/2009

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