A novelized synthesis of Jesus’ story in the New Testament.
Whitworth’s debut takes the four Gospels and reworks them into an I, Claudius–style historical novel, told from the viewpoint of the Apostle John. Readers first meet John as a teenager living in the Galilean fishing town of Capernaum, and the story follows a straightforward chronological line as he describes events that will be familiar to readers of the Bible. He meets a charismatic itinerant preacher named Jesus and follows him, along with a steadily increasing number of others, including such famous figures as Matthew, Peter, and Judas. They and their master experience such events as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, his walking on water, the feeding of the multitudes, prophetic teachings, the entry into Jerusalem, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. Through it all, Jesus himself is alternately very direct (“God’s kingdom is no longer coming; it is here now, standing right in front of you”) and steadfastly aloof—hence the book’s title, referencing Jesus’ remark that “Nobody knows the son.” But readers conversant in the New Testament will find John’s (and Whitworth’s) Jesus to be significantly more approachable than the one in Scripture. This version tells his Apostles, “You are shocked by what I said about my family yesterday, and you deserve an explanation”—and then actually gives a straightforward explanation, free of cryptic parables. This Jesus even clarifies some of his more baffling comments, as when he flatly declares that nothing a man takes into his mouth can defile his body, and then offers an elaboration found nowhere in the Gospels. Whitworth’s reconfiguration can cause problems regarding fidelity to the source material, but it does show a thoroughly human Messiah and provides a rich portrait of his friendships with his Apostles. Readers of Christian historical fiction will find it thought-provoking and immensely enjoyable.
An engaging novel of a Jesus who’s very much man as well as God.