"A book that presents alternatives to the traditional story of the Gospels and that may open up new possibilities for curious readers."– Kirkus Reviews
A personal, idiosyncratic study of Jesus Christ and Christianity.
In his latest book, Marchitelli (In the Land of the Birds, 2012) presents a sprawling, highly ambitious new program of Christian understanding that will likely fascinate many readers. Others, however, may feel it revives the ancient heresy of Nestorianism, which holds that Jesus had two separate, largely unshared natures: one human and one divine. Marchitelli’s Jesus, as his title suggests, wasn’t the distant, semihuman rabbi and prophet enshrined in Catholic orthodoxy but rather a fully committed man of the world, a passionate husband and a loving father. The author doesn’t turn the historical Jesus into a full-blown deity: “Making Jesus God the Creator,” he writes, “is like stripping our Messiah of his individual spiritual achievements and diminishing his sacrifice on the cross.” He maintains that Jesus’ wisdom and sacrifices only warrant respect if he was a human being. His Jesus is spiritually perfect but also very much a man and the father of the disciple John. Marchitelli’s unorthodox ideas extend even further; he asserts, for instance, that the Virgin Mary was not only impregnated by a mortal man, but that he was Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist—and that Adam and Eve must also have had physical parents. The author is well-aware of the controversial nature of his assertions, but he also believes that “spiritually adult people” can give new theories a fair hearing. However, some of the premises are extremely questionable; some readers, for example, won’t like his declaration that only heterosexual married couples can enter into a relationship with heaven, and others will object to the odd assertion that until 50 years ago, most people “either had a low education or were even illiterate.” However, the bulk of this energetic, engaging book compensates for such lapses.
A sometimes-startling and always thought-provoking new look at the fundamental tenets of Christianity.
In Marchitelli’s chapter book, a pair of young birds learns that the secret to life rests in finding a partner with whom to ride out the joyful tail winds and difficult head winds of life.
The “Valley of the Birds” is safeguarded by mountains and a coterie of gentle birds who command the sky, “peacefully sharing the joy of life.” When the day comes for young Hebril to jump from the rocky cliff and attempt his first flight, his parents encourage him, fully aware that their purpose in life is to help him become an adult bird. But Hebril backs away, not yet prepared to fail. His parents respect his fear and later debate whether or not to share a family secret with him. “Not at this time,” says the father; Hebril must first “go through the path of becoming a great bird.” The young bird eventually takes flight, which leads him to meet the mysterious Wise Bird, who holds not just the key to the family secret, but to a much larger spiritual enigma—which Hebril encounters when he catches the eye of the beautiful Kerah. As the two fly high and strengthen their wings together, they prove their worthiness. At the urging of their fellow Valley inhabitants, the couple flies off beyond the mountains, where no bird has ever gone. In six easy-to-read chapters, Marchitelli’s birds provide lessons in courage, self-belief, trust, purpose and love. Deep ideas contained in simple language not only enrich the adventure, they make the book accessible to spiritually inclined families looking for a positive, wholesome way to discuss the somewhat muddy waters of adolescent love with younger readers, who in turn, may feel freer to ask honest questions about sexuality and what life has in store for them. Ellanson’s lovely illustrations add charm and a much-needed dimension to the book. Without them, readers may have trouble forming a mental picture from the narrator’s vague, generic descriptions of his feathered cast.
A tender, thought-provoking journey that teaches that “life is not the origin of love”; it’s the other way around.
Marchitelli (In the Land of the Birds, 2012) offers a novel about Jesus Christ and, particularly, his relationship with Mary Magdalene.
The life of Jesus, as depicted in the New Testament, still holds many questions and possibilities. For example, is it possible that Jesus had a biological father? What was his childhood like? What was Jesus’ true relationship with such figures as John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene? This novel ambitiously investigates these and other inquiries, following Jesus from his days as a youth to his eventual death and resurrection. It includes many famous events (such as the raising of Lazarus), as well as various new twists. Marchitelli’s Jesus, for instance, does have a biological father and is John the Baptist’s half brother. Although Jesus and John were raised separately, the two are familiar with each other when they meet on the banks of the Jordan River. John initially looks down on his half brother, as do many others during Jesus’ youth, as he considers Jesus’ parentage illegitimate. As difficult as things get for the young savior, however, he eventually marries a loving woman: Mary Magdalene. Mary, who handles most of the story’s narration, is concerned when her husband embarks on his journey of preaching and miracles. What is a wife to do when her husband decides to go to the desert and fast for 40 days? The book treats Jesus more as a human than as a divine figure, presenting readers with a very different side of Christ. Humble yet focused, he’s a Messiah that understands that his mission will be difficult on his family and close friends. In Mary’s eyes, however, he’s her husband first, and it takes time for her to understand his mission. These kinds of considerations, while simple, make Christ a complex character. The story is stunted by obvious dialogue in parts, as when one character expresses his opinion of the Messiah: “I have many doubts. Though you seem honest and sincere, we don’t know you at all, and I really don’t understand what you want in the end.” Nevertheless, it will leave many readers wondering what they might not know about Jesus and his interactions with his inner circle.
A book that presents alternatives to the traditional story of the Gospels and that may open up new possibilities for curious readers.