People are often content to label Judas Iscariot with one word—traitor, betrayer, thief, or zealot. But his motives, ambitions, and true character have been a subject for continued scholarship, commentary, imagination, and literature. This book analyzes the historical evolution of various Judas stories and interpretations to show the complexities of Judas's character and history. Published in 2001, just before the identification of the lost Gospel of Judas, this book shows the variety of views about Judas even before the Gospel of Judas came on the scene.
Paffenroth divides his book into five different views: Judas as an object of curiosity, horror, hatred, admiration, and hope. In choosing these five characteristics, Paffenroth does not offer new depictions of the apostle Judas, but instead focuses on how Judas has been portrayed by others. This approach draws the reader into each new character portrayal and leaves conclusions largely in the hands of the reader. Paffenroth has a scholarly approach, but this study is appealing to any educated person because of references to Judas in Shakespeare, Oedipus, and other classic literature.