Amos Oz on His Novel ‘Judas,’ Which Challenges Views of a Traitor

Gal Beckerman in The New York Times:

AmosIn the interview, Mr. Oz himself was a quiet presence in his Upper West Side hotel, speaking barely above a whisper and wrapped in a wool sweater, his blue eyes shining through thick glasses. Asked for his views on the recent American election, he swatted away the question: “I’m an old man, and I’ve seen a lot and I know that even when you think history is over, it’s not over.” Instead, Mr. Oz wanted to talk about his enchantment with the New Testament, which began when he was a 16-year-old, living on a kibbutz and spending his evenings in the library, reading the gospels. He fell “in love” with Jesus, he said: “I disagreed with him on many things, but I liked him, his poetry, his warmth, his wonderful sense of humor.” At the same time, he became “infuriated” with the Judas story, and not for the usual reasons a Jew might find it disturbing.

It was because he saw some glaring inconsistencies. Judas was a wealthy landowner, so why did he need those 30 pieces of silver, equivalent, Mr. Oz said, to no more than $600 today? And what of that infamous kiss? Jesus was well known in Jerusalem. He was not disguised or hidden. Why pay Judas to identify him with a kiss? None of this added up for Mr. Oz. “A good editor should have edited this story out and saved the world a lot of trouble,” he said. “It’s not an innocent story. It is responsible for more bloodshed than any single story in history. This story is the Chernobyl of European anti-Semitism: pogroms, persecutions, inquisitions, massacres, Holocaust.”

Mr. Oz came up with an alternative theory. Judas was not a traitor but, in fact, the truest believer in Jesus’ divinity, more so than even Jesus himself. So pure was Judas’ faith that he persuaded Jesus to provoke the Roman authorities into crucifying him. Only through the miracle of descending from the cross — “the equivalent of prime time on television, just on the eve of Passover,” Mr. Oz said excitedly — could the world be redeemed. When this failed to happen, and Judas instead witnessed Jesus’ suffering, he hanged himself.

More here.