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The Most Hated Name in History

List Price: $16.95

January 10, 2017 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 288 Pages | ISBN 9781619029033
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"A straightforward biography that thankfully avoids preaching. Readers curious about Judas' broad effect on world history will welcome this book." —Kirkus

In this fascinating historical and cultural biography, Peter Stanford deconstructs that most vilified of Bible characters: Judas Iscariot, who famously betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Beginning with the gospel accounts, Stanford explores two thousand years of cultural and theological history to investigate how the very name Judas came to be synonymous with betrayal and, ultimately, human evil. But as the author points out, there has long been a counter-current of thought that suggests that Judas might in fact have been victim of a terrible injustice: central to Jesus’ mission was his death and resurrection, and for there to have been a death, there had to be a betrayal. This thankless role fell to Judas; should we in fact be grateful to him for his role in the divine drama of salvation? “You’ll have to decide,” as Bob Dylan sang in the sixties, “Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side.” An essential but doomed character in the Passion narrative, and thus the entire story of Christianity, Judas and the betrayal he symbolizes continue to play out in much larger cultural histories, speaking as he does to our deepest fears about friendship, betrayal, and the problem of evil.

About Peter Stanford

PETER STANFORD is a senior features writer at the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail, and the Catholic weekly The Tablet, where he is a columnist. He is the author of The Legend of Pope Joan and Teach Yourself Catholicism and he is a regular host on the BBC World Service.


“A straightforward biography that thankfully avoids preaching. Readers curious about Judas’ broad effect on world history will welcome this book.” —Kirkus

“Stanford embraces Judas’ ambiguity as his most irresistibly appealing characteristic.” —Booklist

“Light-hearted in tone, anecdotal in style, Peter Stanford’s narrative introduces the reader to profound themes. How does the human imagination depict evil, despair and repentance? He takes us through some of the darkest moments of human history, including the Holocaust, revealing our chronic addiction to creating scapegoats to carry the weight of our own failure and betrayal.. From a very early point in Christian history, Christians celebrated the “happy fault” of Adam, because it led to redemption. Stanford asks us to consider if this should also be said of Judas.” —Karen Armstrong, author of The Case for God

“A cracking piece of writing that posits such a great idea – a pilgrimage to Judas.” —Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of Framed

“I’ve been reading Peter Stanford’s Judas. It’s great. He’s a beautiful writer.” —Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

“There is no better navigator through the space in which art, culture and spirituality meet than Peter Stanford… Despite the layers of confusion between the present day and what happened – or not – 2,000 years ago, he finds meaning, and spins a good yarn… This entertaining, enlightening biography serves the sympathetic old devil wonderfully well.” —The Independent on Sunday

“Peter Stanford’s engrossing book shows that Judas is a man for all seasons, nearly all of them bad for him and those around him. Judas is a chameleon, though a chameleon in consistently dark colours, endlessly fertile as a symbolic figure, because he helps us to reflect on our own dark side. Stanford, a journalist and broadcaster, says a lot about the many faces and other attributes of Judas and does so very engagingly: his book manages to be fun as well as sometimes profound, and it is as much an enjoyable tour of Christian art and thought as an account of a 2,000-year-old traitor.” —The Times

“The biggest question has always been whether Judas was an “out-and-out traitor or cog-in-the-wheel of a divine plan”, as Stanford puts it. With Judas, as with other religious figures, you can and must believe just what you choose. One of the best moments in the book is when Stanford sees a sign outside the Basilica of the Agony in Jerusalem that reads, “Please: no explanations in the Church.” —The Sunday Times

“It’s a fascinating subject.” —BBC Radio 2

“This is scary and thought-provoking stuff. Curiously, thoughtfully and reassuringly English.” —The Independent

“Wide-ranging and engaging… Stanford, a much-respected commentator on Catholic affairs, has unearthed some fascinating material and left his readers with more than enough material to prompt some echo of the question “Is it I?”” —New Statesman

“Stanford’s book is ultimately a cultural history of the forces which subsumed Judas, leading unstoppably to the version of him — so close to ‘Jew’ or ‘Yehuda’ – that lent weight to the idea that the Jews were the murderers of Christ… this book provides, among many insights, a timely account of the origins of anti-Semitism.” —The Spectator

“The tortuous journey of the arch-traitor through cultural history is something of a revelation’ A “clever and nimble book” “Stanford’s book is engaging without being decisive on Judas and his fate (no matter, the Church has the same problem). In his pilgrimage in search of Judas, some of the finest material in this work is in the form of travelogue: the various sites which have become associated with Judas in the Holy Land, few of which appear in standard tours of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Gethsemane and Calvary.” —Scotland on Sunday

“Stanford is particularly good at explaining how interpretations evolved during Christianity’s early years as the new religion sought to differentiate itself from other sects. Stanford avoids trying to write an all-encompassing study of treachery. He sticks to his subject… he does not balk at explaining theological concepts, yet his manner is always engaging. All in all, his quest for Judas provides a satisfying left-field approach to the entire history of Christianity.” —The Sunday Telegraph

“[A] new book from Peter Stanford asks Christians and non-believers alike to look anew at Judas. It chronicles the hatreds, often anti-Semitic in nature, that were cultivated around Judas and contrasts the subsequent mythology with the historical and Biblical record. When it was uncomfortable for Christians to think of their God going willingly, even meekly, to death, Judas made a convenient scapegoat. While Stanford finds much fault in Christendom, he settles on the cornerstone of the faith: Forgiveness.” —Fox News

“Very thought-provoking and well-informed.” —Irish Catholic

“Fascinating from start to finish… a richly detailed portrait [that] neatly debunks the idea of Judas Iscariot as the most evil man who ever lived.” —The Observer

“…it is a delight to follow Stanford on his unique journey – a fascinating cultural and historical biography.” —The National

“In this highly readable biography, Stanford traces the progress of Judas through Western literature and art and personally visits the most significant sites associated with him. What we end up with is an entertaining travelogue to accompany a comprehensive history.” —Tribune

“God needed Judas to betray Jesus in order to carry out his divine plan. The author unravels this knotty theological problem with aplomb, bringing Judas into the secular age.” —Belfast Telegraph (7 Books You Should Own)

“Stanford is no stranger to the darker corners of theology [which] may make Judas sound heavy-going. It isn’t. He has a light touch and a quick eye for absurdity and drama. The book is stuffed with haunting detail.”  —Camden New Journal

“Highly recommended.” —Church of England Newspaper

“Many have tried to chart Judas’ cultural trajectory through the centuries. Few have approached the task with Stanford’s skill and nuance.” —Catholic Herald

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