First it was Richard III.
But as unlikely historical image makeovers go, the recent rehabilitation of the once reviled Yorkist king could pale into insignificance beside that of a villain of truly Biblical proportions: Judas Iscariot.
Prominent clerics, including a Church of England bishop, have lent their voices to calls for a reappraisal of the disciple who betrayed Jesus,leading to his crucifixion.
The Rt Rev Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, remarked that he feels “a bit sorry” for Judas.
He said that the lost apostle, viewed by many Christians as a figure beyond redemption, has, he said had a “lousy press” for the last 2,000 years.
While Judas had long been reviled as “the ultimate traitor”, the truth behind Judas’s decision to hand Jesus over to the religious authorities may, he said, have been decidedly more complicated.
His comments come in an article in this week’s Radio Times ahead of a new BBC documentary by the Church of England vicar and reality television star the Rev Kate Bottley.
In the programme, In The Footsteps Of Judas, to be shown on BBC One on Good Friday, she examines theories about what led him to betray Jesus for pieces of silver. He later hanged himself.
One theory is that Judas was a dedicated revolutionary who saw Jesus as a reluctant political messiah and hoped that by handing him over for arrest he could trigger an uprising against Roman rule in Judea.
Judas should be seen not purely as a traitor but as a tragic figure and a “mirror to the human condition” according to Gogglebox vicar Bottley.
“This is not to say ‘Oh Judas, he’s all right really’, what we are saying is perhaps there is something else to this character than that kiss and that betrayal,” she said.
“I don’t think any of the other disciples were whiter than white – we just probably didn’t hear about it – because they were all human and we are all a bit messed up.”
She added: “Up until that moment of betrayal, Judas seems no better or worse than any of the other disciples.
“But he has been defined by the worst thing he did.
“What Judas did is not OK but I think he holds up a very important mirror to our own human condition.
“Jesus forgave people as they were putting the nails in to his hands and there is no reason why he would not have forgiven Judas but he just didn’t hear that.”
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