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Yerby again sails over vast seas of frenzy, but this time he has pillaged the Biblical narrative of the life of Jesus in a number of pseudo-scholarly maneuvers that will please his sex-and-atrocity market, intrigue Passover Plot partisans and offend the orthodox religious. The thirteenth disciple, princely Jew Nathan bar Yehuda, has the fortune (or misfortune) to physically resemble his neighbor, a lowly carpenter's son, referred to throughout as Yeshu's. Like so many Yerby heroes, Nathan travels an Odyssean mile for every cerebration. Far too feisty for pious Uncle Hebron, not inclined to the suave political manipulations of his opportunistic father, Nathan heads unerringly toward the fleshpots. But a visit from Yeshu'a, and marriage to a pure Gentile girl. Helvi, till him toward godliness. Then a career as a gladiator, thief, sometime lover to an aristocratic Roman, and the murder of Helvi lead him to the Essenes and a confrontation with his lack of belief. Further adventures involve beatings and flights; aqueduct building for--who else?-- Pontius Pilate; a top echelon love-affair; and a ravaged love for the harlot Selom. As for the Bible-bending: seems that Nathan spiked the water at the Cana wedding: slipped some medicine to a dying girl before Yeshu's performed a ""miracle""; and appearing by accident in Essene robes, supplied a ""Resurrection"" for a mad Mary Magdalene. Although like his ""brother"" Judas, Nathan cannot accept the Messiah, he does recognize the ""miracle of love."" However, Yerby's spiritual path is densely obscured by all the whoring and gore-ing.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1968
Publisher: Dial