At the Sunday morning session of the October general conference Elder Jeffrey R.
Holland related the episode in the New Testament where the risen Christ appears to the Apostles and instructs Peter to feed his sheep . As he did so, Elder Holland modernized the scriptural language and provided context and interpolation that brought a fresh experience and added meaning to that episode of scripture. It was a powerful talk. And it put me in mind of James Goldberg’s The Five Books of Jesus, in which he applies a similar approach to the whole of the Gospels.
But it’s not just the plain yet lyrical and evocative language that James brings to this novelization of Christ’s life that makes it such a success. It’s not just a translation compiled into a coherent narrative (although that aspect in and of itself is of value). Rather, it is an exploration of social movements and relationship dynamics and Jesus guides both of those into a situation where his teachings and ministry forge a small community that can survive his death, believe his resurrection and establish His Church.
A novel like that requires careful balance: too little context and it risks being insubstantional; too much and it’s plodding historical fiction; too much characterization (by examing the feelings and motivations of those in Jesus’s circle) and it bogs down; too little and we’re left wondering why his apostles and family members react the way that they do.
James gets the balance right. Continue reading “James Goldberg’s The Five Books of Jesus”