Enough. Everyone seems to think I will write one day, why I don’t know. Damn the premonitory bullying. I will start now.
Here’s my portent. Here’s my book.
So Judas is crying. He cries a lot at the moment. Perhaps he always was a weeper, a grabber of momma’s shawl, a chaser of comforting skirts. In the grim cities of the old middle east, where men are bound by the newfound strictures that seek to uphold societies and hold cities together, where there are the half-civilised urbanites and the great myriad barely-better-than-beasts scraping livings in the dusty deserts of the land of milk and honey, it’s not hard to be scared. But he’s crying because his childhood friend is dead, the companion who used to sneak off with him to throw stones at the Samarian children, the man who caroused (within the strictures, always within the moral strictures) and set the pace alongside him as they ran headlong into a bright future. I’d cry. You’d cry.
You all know who that friend is, so why dwell on the point? You know what Judas is going to do, you think you know why. Let’s skip over a young man’s tear-sozzled cheeks, let’s ignore the noose in his near future, and just focus on what he was. A damned-from-the-start traitor, a friend of the godly, a faithful one, yet independently wealthy.
Let’s admit again, the whole circle wasn’t comprised of society’s best sort. The dead-dumb fishermen, meathook hands torn by the sharp loops of netting, callused and blistered hands useful for suppressing dissent. The lonely tax-collector, desperate for friendship amidst accusations of collaboration and daily death-threats. A varied bunch of dissolute, stupid and wealthy, some wannabe believers, others simply angry and rough, others just looking to be a part of something, others blowing their cash on this foible, like they’d blown it on a hundred others.
Because what else is there to do in the sandy pits of the year dot? You had to make your own entertainment, create your own beliefs. Hell, they’d only just created a nation out of a bunch of escaped slaves and a bunch of village-states, and now they wanted a new culture, a new identity, something to occupy them in the gaps between hacking a living out of the urban mines. Half-remembered, variously-transcribed myths about the origins of their agglomeration hardly served for such a nobly-born race.
So Judas dreams as he staggers about his room, dreams about better ways of escaping this babble, of making some sense of his life. He dreams of hunting down Pilate, chasing him down through the corridors of his palace, a horde of heroes at his heels, smashing aside legionaries by the dozen, shoving down their florid gladii, trampling them beneath their great shields as they pursue the fleeing fat man. Judas has heard tales of grave-robbers from old Egypt, of the tricks the Pharaohs stuck in their tombs to snare the unwary, so Pilate’s imaginary palace is riddled with traps and without cover from the flying pellets of the auxiliaries and the leaden pilum of the retreating Romans. Gradually the crowd of heroes thins, with the legionaries thinning too.
Soon Judas is alone.
He stands facing Pilate, clutching in his hand a wax tablet inscribed with miscellenaous crimes, an aide-memoire, proving his innocence. He has made copies, he has passed them to friends, he knows of his innocence, he knows the guilty Romans will try and put the finger on him, and he knows he has to get the admission from Pilate before either croaks it. In his dream he dives for Pilate and they struggle, fat Roman, thin Jew, rolling across the marble floors…
It wasn’t the fault of J. Iscariot, oh no, how could it be? He’s the honest and faithful Judas, the right-hand man, the beloved of the godhead, the Judah who never doubted (unlike filthy Judah Thomas Didymus, who no answer satisfied, the endlessly querying child at the Passover feast, damned for questioning and intellectual curiousity, like he should be.) He knows the accusations, the intimations of betrayal. He also knows that every last damn hero of Jewish culture was a Judah like him, Maccabeus, Jacobson, there was even Judah itself, the Judean land, land of the Jews. He is the whole Israelite nation, and he’s scapegoated for it.
Was the godhead trying to save him? To exclude him before the bloody end? His friend, his love, to send him away. Joshua must have seen the end coming – he always saw further than the rest. And he decided to send beloved Judas away, that makes sense yes. To save more would have drawn attention, and by compromising sweet J.I. he could save him and him alone. Only Barnabas knows the truth, old Joseph as was, but he’s in distant Antioch and he’s not telling. Judas, the damn hero. He can’t think how he’s ended up here, crying to death.
Doubting Thomas = detective, crawling through the evidence, consulting the sources, or trying to, before each dies. Every single one is martyred, so naturally plotted.