A parablelike tale of spirituality, religion, and persecution.
Molyneux’s debut reads like Scripture, as it tells a story of a mysterious, increasingly popular spiritual instructor. Set in the ancient city of Antioch, some two centuries before the life of Jesus Christ, the tale centers around Elias, an unassuming teacher who awes his ever-growing audiences with his eloquent wisdom. As his following grows into something akin to a band of disciples, the emperor and religious leaders become alarmed at what they perceive as a challenge to their authority. However, even after it becomes unsettlingly clear that his life is in danger, Elias refuses to abandon his spiritual mission. When one of his followers says, “Teacher we should leave. It is not safe here,” he replies, “My friend, for those who speak the truth and serve the Lord, it is not safe anywhere upon the face of this imperfect World.” In many respects, the narrative echoes the account of Jesus’ life in the Gospels, written from a devotee’s first-person perspective. The author plainly contrasts the intolerance and doctrinal rigidity of institutional religion with the peace of faithful, inner-directed spirituality. Much of the book consists of Elias’ sermons to followers and skeptics alike, and these philosophical explanations give readers plenty of fodder for contemplation. Unfortunately, their predominance makes the book as a whole feel preachy and didactic. Also, Molyneux devotes little space to character development; it takes many pages before the narrator even refers to the main characters by name. This work isn’t driven by character or plot; indeed, it’s less a novel than a disquisition on spirituality, delivered in the form of a parable. Thankfully, the author has some generally thought-provoking ideas on this subject. Nevertheless, readers may be left wishing that he’d simply written a nonfiction book.
A theologically intriguing novel that mimics the Bible’s dramatic presentation.