Thursday, November 29, 2018

Book Review: 'Judas Son of Simon' by Daniel Molyneux

California author Daniel Molyneux has earned degrees in drama (he also studied Shakespeare at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), has a master's degree from Austin Seminary, theology doctorate from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, and post-graduate studies at Concordia Seminary. THE ANGEL OF ANTIOCH was his debut novel; his second book ELIAS' PROVERBS served as a mighty adjunct to the first book. Daniel's writing explores the mysteries of life and death, good and evil, sickness and healing, victory and defeat, faith and unbelief, science and supernatural miracle. In this book Daniel shares an historic review of the life of both Judas and Jesus and the political life of their time. Daniel is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, in Fairfield, California.

As in Daniel’s other novels JUDAS SON OF SIMON is history shared and the early stages of Christianity explored in a manner that makes them irresistibly fascinating. The Preface of this book shares much of the concept of the novel: ‘Judas Iscariot is the most hated figure in human history. And yet, the name “Judas” was revered among first-century Israelites. It and Jude are versions of the name given to Jacob’s fourth son, Judah, whose descendants became the most prominent of Israel’s twelve tribes, the tribe of King David and Jesus. Judas Maccabees was a hero of Israelite nationalism. Judas the Galilean founded the Zealot movement. Another of Jesus’ twelve disciples was named Judas. One of Jesus’ brothers was named Judas, and Jude is the name of a New Testament book. Even the term “Jew” is derived from Judah. Judas is not the only betrayer in the pages of the Bible. Jesus’ was surrounded by violence, conspiracies, cowardice, and betrayal. When he was arrested, his disciples fled and hid. Peter denied him three times. When Jesus stood trial before Pilate, where were his disciples? Only a few female relatives, Mary of Magdala, and one of the Twelve appear to have been present at his crucifixion. Simon Peter shares striking similarities with Judas. Both were important members of Jesus’ inner-circle. Peter was the closest spiritual disciple, while Judas was the group’s treasurer. Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan”. Whereas, Luke says, “Then Satan entered Judas.” There is a critical difference between the two men. Peter did not despair to the point of suicide. But Judas surrendered to the ultimate expression of guilt. Peter’s betrayal was forgiven, allowing him to become the most important leader of Jesus’ Church. If Judas had not ended his life, he too may have been restored to his place with the other apostles. Suicide frequently happens near the end of troubles. Peter lived to see the abundant harvest planted by Jesus, but Judas did not. Judas is torn between faithfulness to Jesus, and loyalty to his family and party. Plots swirl in the palaces of Pilate, Antipas, and Caiaphas, as they struggle to maintain their tenuous grip on power. In Judas Son of Simon, you will see Jesus and Roman-dominated Israel through new eyes - those of a questioning and double-minded young man torn by competing priorities and demands. Judas’ actions will surprise and disturb you, move you to tears, and rage.’

In filling out the missing components of this fine Preface, the following develops – ‘Rome is waging a "culture war" against all things Jewish, seeking to wipe away Israelite identity, culture, and faith. Revolt simmers in Judea and Galilee, as common Israelites chafe under Roman rule. Conflict rages between the various Jewish parties. Plots swirl in the palaces of Pilate, Antipas, and Caiaphas, as they struggle to maintain their tenuous grip on power, worried that Jesus will lead the people to revolt against Roman rule. The most influential and educated of Jesus' disciples is Judas Iscariot. Israel is a thriving economic engine of wealth. Nazareth is a suburb of Galilee's capital. Capernaum is a center of learning, taxation, and trade, on the world's most important highway. Each chapter of Judas Son of Simon reveals new and starling surprises about Jesus, his disciples, and first-century Israel. Christian and Hebrew Scriptures provide the foundation for Judas Son of Simon, supplemented by the writings of Josephus, and numerous ancient and archeological sources.’

Daniel’s gift for storytelling is fully unleashed here as he re-writes stories we have all learned and in doing so makes them so very much more real and tenable. Another very fine book from this young and sophisticated religious historian. Grady Harp, February 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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