In the context of his career writing biographies of media celebrities (Laurence Olivier, Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock,...



In the context of his career writing biographies of media celebrities (Laurence Olivier, Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock, among many others) Spoto's claim about God in this devotional life of Jesus--that he ""identifies not with the great or famous or beautiful,"" but with the simple and selfless--carries the persuasive backing of one who should know. Before becoming a professional writer, Spoto taught Catholic theology. In his introduction, he explains that his prolonged attentions to the rich and famous have never eclipsed his still stronger interest in religious life. In this book, he applies his cumulative biographical writing skills to his object of faith. The hidden Jesus of the title is the divine Christ who exceeds our conceptual reach but who, eternally alive, presents himself to faithful Christians in their personal life. The subtitle is misleading. The book is less a life of Jesus than a devotional commentary on the Gospels; and it's not so much new--except, perhaps, for the author--as uncommon (for a non-Frenchman) in its mix of Catholic doctrine and existential philosophy, Spoto follows the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life from birth to resurrection, arguing along the way against the Virgin Birth, biblical literalism, and princely aspirations in the Catholic Church and its clergy. On two points he sends a mixed message: women and Judaism. While defending the idea of women priests, he objects to feminine pronouns for God, illogically, on grounds that ""God as 'She' is neither any better or worse than God as 'He.'"" And he perpetuates the very anti-Semitism, he decries in the New Testament when he locates the Jewish objection to Jesus in the presumed arrogance of the first-century priests and Pharisees, rather than in disagreement over the nature of revelation: whether it was ongoing--into the first century--in received texts or in prophetic individuals. This book would have more honest appeal repackaged as an earnest meditation on the Gospels by an unorthodox Catholic.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1998


Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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