Exceptional new fiction from the author of The Thieves of Golgotha and the Llewellen trilogy. History characterizes Judas as the disciple who betrayed Jesus. In this magnificent study of the conflict between human desires and destiny, Lliteras artfully scrapes away two thousand years of myth to reveal Judas the man: the depth of his agony over his actions, and the intricate nature of his relationship with Jesus.
Lliteras infuses his literary world with all the vividness and often heart breaking realism that readers have come to expect from his work. An unforgettable and majestic continuation of Lliteras' biblical epic, The Thieves of Golgotha.
|Publisher:||Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
"My mouth is a deadly weapon. It's full of venom and deceit and now . . . now, remorse. My mouth is a deadly weapon." Judas plunked his face downward toward his cradled arms and tipped over a cup full of wine with one of his elbows as his parallel forearms slid along the top of the table to cushion his forehead. The liquid spread its crimson influence across the rough wooden surface and backwashed against the sleeves of his tunic. He did not bother to lift his head when he felt its wetness reach the skin of his forearms.
Dinah, the matron barmaid and owner of this Roman-fashioned tavern that was situated just outside the northern city gate and along the road leading toward Golgotha, began sopping up the spilled wine with a rag.
"At least you're not enjoying the ghoulish spectacle of their suffering." She looked at the two tightly knotted groups of men that were congregating near the single large window facing the distant hill. "Look at them: the pigs. I had hoped I wouldn't have to bear my clients' enjoyment over their death, but my only trustworthy girl is having a baby right now."
Judas lifted his head and finally acknowledged her. "You speak as if you have more than a disinterest in his execution."
"Theirs, you mean. There are three of them. My man is one of them."
"I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about most of the time." The distance in Judas's eyes finally infected the tone of his voice. "He was everybody's man."
"Who? Azriel? Fat chance."
Judas sat up on his stool and reached for more composure. "No. Jesus. Was your Azriel a bandit?"
"Aren't we all in the eyes of Rome?"
"Yes. I suppose." Judas untied his purse from his leather belt and dropped it on the table. "More wine. And plenty of it. I never want to see my cup empty."
"If that's all-"
"Silver. All of it-what's left of it."
"Then I'll be sure to pour the wine myself."
"Good. Pour for both of us."
Dinah sought out her assistant, Lila, to instruct her to take over the long serving bench and secured two cups and a large pitcher from behind the long bench. Then she positioned the empty pitcher under one of the wine skins and began filling it.
Dinah's long and fitted tunic did not disguise her plump and buxom figure. And aside from a bit of embroidery running along the edge of her collar and a blue linen girdle wrapped around her waist, her outer garment was plain down to her bare feet.
With age threatening to dull the remaining edge of her fading beauty, she relied on her forthright character and friendly personality to heighten the surviving qualities of her attractiveness. However, even without these compensations, she was a handsome looking woman with steady eyes and moist lips, with balanced features and a rich complexion. Her long braided hair was thick and brown, clean and perfumed and bareheaded-unless she had to go to the market or into Jerusalem to conduct other business; until then, her upper mantle, a simple wrap to cover her head and upper body when she stepped outside, hung on one of the wine skin pegs behind the long bench.
As soon as the pitcher was full, she joined Judas at his table, set the cups down, and poured wine into both of them. Then she sat down on the stool adjacent to his.
Judas peered at her after drinking half his cup. "You have a strange way of mourning for your man."
"It's no stranger than your own sorrow. Was he a relative?" She noted his surprise.
"In a manner of speaking, yes. Yes. He was my . . . my-" He brought the cup of wine to his mouth and drank it to the bottom.
She refilled the cup as soon as he set it down on the table and did not press him for the rest of his answer. They both remained silent for a long while.
Judas wore a long-sleeved seamless tunic made of light wool. Its full length was cut fairly straight and extended to his ankles where there were slits on each side of the hem to allow for increased mobility. A leather belt around his waist kept the billowing garment close to his body and provided a means to secure his leather purse. Sandals protected his feet and a tightly woven cap made of wool and worn without a cloth wrap protected his head-although it exposed his long hair. From head to toe, he was dressed without color or sparkle and, therefore, the natural beige of ordinary wool, the browns of rough leather, and the complete lack of jewelry gave the general impression that he was a man without distinction.
Judas facial features were strong, particularly his hawk-like nose and large dark eyes that constantly darted from side to side with worry. His beard and mustache were short and well-groomed as was the black wavy hair on his head. He appeared to be an ordinary man-neither wealthy nor poor and, yet, neither a craftsman nor a scholar. These were a blend of contradictions that caused immediate suspicion in the minds of those who had any kind of interaction with him.
Judas reached for his cup, but he did not lift it off the table. "I was destined to do what I did."
"If . . . if you say so," Dinah said, trying to figure out what he meant.
"I had to . . . to discredit him. It's a very low form of betrayal."
"Had to? Who?"
The edges of his mouth curled downward into a grotesque crescent that intensified his scowl. "Only the Romans listened."
"The Romans don't care about anything that isn't political," Dinah said flatly.
"They also care about money."
"That's right. They execute thieves and murderers and those who don't pay their taxes."
"You don't believe me."
Judas stood up and gawked in the direction of the open window. He pointed toward Golgotha. "That man wanted to bear the cross."
"I believe there must be something in this wine."
"Don't humor me, woman."
"I told you, one of those men is mine." She stood up and leveled her defiant eyes at Judas. "And I don't need what's left of your silver."
He averted his eyes from hers and sat back down. "All I'm saying-" He looked up into her eyes displaying the full darkness of his torment. "I . . . I was necessary. What I did was . . . was wanted of me." A tear rolled down his left cheek. "I'm to receive no credit-whatever that is. How am I to bear this?"
"Who knows. But from whatever direction it's viewed, it seems you're an informer."
"Don't judge me."
Dinah sat back down with him. "Who the hell am I to judge?" She indicated the tight throngs of men enjoying the spectacle from her tavern's window. "But you can be sure that once they leave here, they'll turn their discriminating backs to us and, if forced to look around in acknowledgment, they will cast long accusing shadows as they look down at the likes of us."
"Us?" he said with resentment.
She quickly transformed her contempt into amusement. "You hypocrite."
He lowered his head in shame. "I'm sorry."
"That you are. But I understand. It's hard breaking a lifelong habit."
"But . . . but the likes of us?"
"Yes. The dark side. We are necessary, you know. Where else does the light come from?"
He looked toward the window. "From . . . from God?"
"Good heavens." She made no attempt to hide her disgust. "You religious types are all the same. My man Azriel was right: we all live like stupid rats and die like hungry dogs." She rose from Judas's table. "I need to look after my customers."
"I'm not going anywhere." He drank deeply from his cup, then spoke carelessly. "I've a whole purse of silver to drink up."
She quickly bent toward him and spoke through clenched teeth. "Quiet, now." Then she whispered vehemently at him. "Talk like that will only draw more attention to yourself and cause us trouble."
"Alright, alright." His irritability inspired him to raise his cup to his mouth, gulp down what was left of the wine, then lower his head as he set the empty cup back on the table.
Dinah caught Lila's attention and directed her to continue refilling Judas's cup while she saw to the comfort of her other clients-particularly those standing at the window.
Another man entered the tavern and scanned the small crowd until he recognized Judas. He was a thin, scraggly bearded, mean-looking sort with a ragged length of cloth wound around his shaggy head and tied in the back. He wore a tattered pair of sandals and a filthy sackcloth tunic woven from coarse fiber and gathered at the waist by several wraps of leather. He shifted his weight onto one leg as he waited until Lila filled Judas's cup, then approached him.
Dathan stood before Judas in silence, studying his somber behavior. He startled Judas with his abruptness. "Why do you brood so much over this man, Jesus? I hear his trial before the procurator was nothing-one of many just alike."
"From Pilate's viewpoint, I'm sure," Judas flared, recognizing Dathan's voice. "Unimportant."
Judas finally lifted his head from its stooped position at the table and focused his watery eyes on Dathan. "My view? I don't know."
"For heaven's sake, look at you. You're spoiling your cup of wine with tears."
"I can't help myself."
Judas clenched the edge of the table with both hands to display his resentment. "What?"
"You're all the same."
"He should not be hanging on the wood!"
"Calm yourself, Judas. Rome has seen to that. Not you nor I. You are free of his blood before the eyes of God."
"What kind of God allows an innocent man to die?"
"Ahh, you have it now, convert. It's the crux of our religion." Dathan snatched Judas's cup of wine and took a deep drink. A broad grin dressed his countenance after he lowered the cup from his lips and set it back on the table near Judas. "You wanted a silent and invisible God, so now you have him."
"Then . . . then what's the point?"
Dathan looked around to be sure he couldn't be heard. "What's the point of any God? Look around you: Palestine has been filled with Gods. What good have any of them been?"
"You speak like a pagan."
"I have my doubts. But no matter: I was born a Jew-belief doesn't matter. But you . . . you are-"
"Alright. Were a gentile. And your belief is everything to you. Without it you are nothing."
"And I take that seriously."
"That's my point exactly, convert."
"Quit calling me that."
Dathan assaulted Judas with a grin. "See?"
"You lack humor."
"What does that have to do with my demand?"
"Think about it. We believe in a God who does not appear. Other peoples have had the sense to reject him. But not the people of Israel. Nooo. We chose him. Don't you see the absurd humor in that?"
"No! We are clowns. And the Greeks, the Romans, the world laughs at us. We . . . we laugh at ourselves even. Especially."
"Why? If our God is nothing."
"Because . . . because nothing is all we have."
"You make too little sense to me, Dathan."
"I don't deny that. And the longer you believe, the closer you'll come toward understanding this denial."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While Jesus was dying on the cross at Golgotha, Judas was drinking himself into a stupor in a tavern that overlooked the crucifixion. Judas has many regrets for what he has done but he is glad that he converted to Judaism. The thirty pieces of silver in his pocket mean nothing to him and he leaves them behind when he departs the inn. He is captured by the bandit leader Ganto who lost everything he owned to the Romans. Gantoro is the one who had Judas infiltrate Jesus¿ band of followers in hopes that the charismatic leader would join forces with him in trying to initiate civil disobedience. Judas lost sight of his objective as he fell under the spell of his rabbi and when Gant ordered him to kill Jesus so he wouldn¿t become a martyr; he was unable to do it. Alone, friendless and totally unable to live with his betrayal, Judas sees only one way out. D.S. Lliteras has given readers much to think about in JUDAS THE GENTILE. His portrayal of Judas feels right for a man who betrayed the most important person in his life. Readers will not love Judas but pity him for his lack of honor and inability to break free from those who want to use him. This tortured creature, who wanted too much, in the end wound up with nothing. Harriet Klausner