Monday, February 4, 2013

A Sort Of Book Review: The Five Books of Jesus

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 surface. 

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.

After 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.

But just as Jesus’ movement in the north is gaining strength, he turns south toward the Temple and a fate his followers will struggle to understand.

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


Jon Spell said...

Wouldn't his ministry from the point of view of his apostles pretty much look like the Bible? o_O

Wouldn't anything that supposes otherwise be pure speculation? (i.e. fiction, non-doctrinal)

Having said that, I wish there _were_ a book of Mary in the scriptures. I'm sure she would have told more about his childhood than we got from those other guys.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

I guess I should have specified that this is an historical fiction book. It's just really hard to describe how I feel about it.

And I wish there was a book of Mary, too. :)

Debra Allen Erfert said...

Julie, you really have far reaching tastes in literature, don't you? (Jon, see, I used a question mark after the question.)

I'm not sure this book is for me. I'd rather hear about Jesus's childhood and young adulthood from the Man Himself over dinner sometime. Yeah, that would be awesome.

Charlie Moore said...

I want to worship Him and follow His commandments as best I can. That works for me.

Jon Spell said...

Debra: LOL!

(for following, I'm not capping Him, even though I do have respect.)

I guess I'm ok with fictionalizing his life (to some extent) I guess if you're not a Christian, you can do whatever you want. I just don't want to read that. I don't have any desire to see the Last Temptation or the Passion movies.

Really, I feel better about fictionalizing him in which he (in his accepted form) plays a part, rather than ascribing fictional attributes to him. Like a book where a woman imagines (has a vision of) him helping her is ok, whereas depicting him as a slob, or a smoker, or someone who cheats at poker, not ok.