A historical novel set in the first century about a young Jewish man’s encounter with Jesus Christ’s teachings.
Eli was raised in a traditionally Jewish household, and his family suffered at the hands of Roman persecution. His father, Galal, died during a rebellion; now, his mother frets about Eli’s fascination with Jesus, whose teachings she considers rank blasphemy. Eli, however, is skeptically drawn to the teachings, initially; he’s impressed by the devotion of Jesus’ martyrs but also concerned about the ways that his sayings deviate from the Torah and suspicious about alleged miracles. But when Eli takes a lonely pilgrimage and has spiritual visions, aided by psychedelics, he decides that he wants to learn more about Christianity. After he witnesses the horror of the destruction of the Second Temple during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, he meets Joses, the brother of James and Jesus. Joses becomes something of a mentor to Eli and awakens him to the truly revolutionary core of Jesus’ ministry, which singularly focuses on love, and the inclusiveness that such an emphasis demands. The story also tracks Eli’s spiritual transformation through his romantic travails; he pines for a beautiful woman, Aylah, who lives outside the faith, but their union is opposed by both his mother and her violent brother, Hakim. Debut author Mitchell, who graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, displays a deep knowledge of the historical period, and this erudition particularly shines through his depiction of the era’s contentious theological disputes. Eli emerges as a complex character, neither a skeptic nor a fanatical true believer: “Eli considered himself more a seeker than an agnostic. He knew he didn’t know the truth, and he didn’t claim to know or feel the need for certainty.” Also, within the drama, the author sketches an unconventional interpretation of Jesus’ chief message, shorn of excess doctrinal and institutional baggage, which presents his teachings as more radical than often suggested.
A gripping tale of spiritual discovery coupled with astute religious history.