In The Shadow of David: The Secret Rebellion by Martin Baggen

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.

In the Shadow of David by Martin Baggen

‘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.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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7 thoughts on “In The Shadow of David: The Secret Rebellion by Martin Baggen

  1. Curious why you gave it 2 out of 5 stars – that’s useful information.

    I wouldn’t read something like this – or the Dan Brown nonsense – because there is one true story – and a billion others that can be made to fit the main points.

    I’ve been questioning the main version all my life – and I’m reasonably happy with it. I don’t need some writer’s version in my head; that’s just me. Almost every other area of my reading is fodder for fiction, so I’m not at a loss for reading material.

    If I find problems in what I ‘know,’ I will go out there an look some more. If this is a statement of faith, remember it comes from a research physicist – different spheres. Others may have different opinions, including some of my own kids – and I’m okay with that if we all try to live in peace.

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    1. Two out of five stars on Goodreads and three stars on Amazon are equivalent: ‘it’s okay’. my logical self doesn’t have a problem questioning the story, but my emotional self does. It’s funny what sticks with us. I think I’d have liked the story more if it had been about another of the charismatic insurgents.

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      1. Thanks, Alicia. I wish Amazon didn’t list 3 star reviews with critical reviews. To me, a number of books are ‘okay’ (and 3 star). I find the Amazon system fairly arbitrary. Sigh.

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      2. My guess: it’s too late to change anything – millions of reviewers would be unhappy.

        I wish they didn’t list 3* as critical, too – ‘okay’ should be a positive review – but this is something to take into account when awarding stars to a product or book review.

        But it puts their positive reviews at either ‘Okay’ or ‘Great’ as their only options.

        Nothing to do about it.

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