I've hesitated to write this book review, mostly because I don't know what to say. This book is intriguing, annoying, thought-provoking, and unbelievable all at the same time. There are points where the author seems presumptuous in his presentation of a fictionalized version of Jesus Christ and many passages made me uncomfortable because they didn't conform to my own thoughts and impressions of the Savior. There were parts that really made me think through what I know and believe to be true, and there were parts that were insightful and added to my own study of the Bible verses being discussed.
Maybe I'm not explaining myself well. The Five Books of Jesus by James Goldberg is a "lyrical novelization of Jesus' ministry." It tells of how the Savior's ministry might have looked from his Apostles' point of view or from the perspective of a person he healed or taught. It's even told from the point of view of his mother and brothers. It is very "present" if that makes sense and offers things to the readers in a way that makes them feel more "in the moment." But sometimes, I felt the "lyrical" got in the way of the story and the depiction of the Savior as unsure or weak made me ill at ease. Yet, there was an easiness and realness about it that did make me want to keep reading. It was a gritty version of events that I've read before, but not seen in quite this way.
So, the best I can do is say this book is an enigma. It's hard to really pinpoint or pigeonhole and I think that each person will get something different out of it, depending on their thoughts and experiences with knowing of the Savior and his ministry on earth.
Here is the back copy:
It starts in the
desert. John the prophet lowers Jesus under the Jordan’s muddy waters
and pulls him up, just as a bird swoops down to skim the river’s
It spreads next to Galilee, where some welcome Jesus as
a disciple of John and others grow wary of his rising
influence—fishermen are leaving their nets, tax collectors their
offices, and students their masters to listen to this new saint.
abandoning his nets, Andrew ties knots in the threads of his shirt to
remember Jesus’ teachings. After escaping his slum, Judas waits for
Jesus to call down the legions of angels who can end a broken world.
just as Jesus’ movement in the north is gaining strength, he turns
south toward the Temple and a fate his followers will struggle to
The Five Books of Jesus, James Goldberg’s lyrical
novelization of Jesus’ ministry, tells the story of the gospels as
Jesus' followers might have experienced it: without knowing what would
happen next or how to make sense of events as they unfold