I have mixed feelings about this novel. It’s worth reading, but proceed with caution if a portrayal of Jesus as anyone other than the Son of God is likely to cause offence or distress.
‘Have we taken this too far?’
In this novel, Martin Baggen has recast the life of Jesus in a way that some may find innovative, others may find interesting, while still others may be offended. I fall into the middle category, but I know some who would find this novel blasphemous. So, if you may be offended by an alternative telling of Jesus’s story, proceed with caution.
The main characters in this novel are Yeshua (Jesus), Yohanan (John the Baptist), Yehudah (Judah), Miriam and Nicodemus. The story is presented as a series of books by particular characters – in the style of the Bible, with other chapters addressing particular events. This enables a number of different viewpoints to be offered while keeping the story moving forward.
The Yeshua in this novel is human: a charismatic insurgent rather than the Son of God. He is one of a number of different messianic figures wandering through Palestine. During this period, Palestine is ruled by Rome. Miriam, of royal Hasmonean lineage, returns from exile determined to rescue her country from Roman occupation. To succeed, she will need a king. A plot is hatched, involving Yohanan. When this plot goes awry, Yeshua is selected to partner Miriam. Initially Yeshua struggles in his new role: he is just a man. But some carefully orchestrated ‘miracles’ have him believing that he may be the Son of God. While many of us know what will happen next, Mr Baggen makes the ‘how’ interesting. And so a failed political movement results in a new religion.
I bought a copy of this novel to read after missing an opportunity for a review copy and being sufficiently intrigued by its description to want to read it. Having read it, I have mixed feelings. While I enjoyed the setting and the intrigue, was amused by the orchestration of ‘miracles’, there are aspects of my Christian heritage which cause me to feel uncomfortable with this particular depiction of Jesus.
This is not a light read, but it is an interesting one.