Glass’ first novel in a planned trilogy retells the early days of Christianity, with the followers of Jesus as the main characters.
The prologue is a well-researched, highly informative survey of historical Jesus studies. Glass walks the reader through theories about the writing and spread of the Gospels and how that knowledge informs current ideas about the early church. The novel starts with Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate and keeps some distance from the actual crucifixion, which ducks the most common problem with these types of books—depicting Jesus in the flesh. Many authors make him too human, like Nikos Kazantazakis and Norman Mailer, or too divine, like Anne Rice. By dramatizing Christianity’s birth through the followers of Jesus, Glass shows a vibrant community, sometimes at odds with itself, sometimes coming together in the face of oppression. Peter, Mary Magdalene, Paul and James the Just are the leads here, performing miracles and traveling to talk with people about Jehoshua. Like other fictional Gospel books, Glass describes a sexual and emotional relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and presents Peter as a healer relying on divine intervention, as well as some medical knowledge. Each chapter portrays a different follower. For instance, the chapter “Gamaliel” jumps ahead 20 years to investigate Gamaliel’s relationship with Paul and the gathering of the first council of early church leaders in Jerusalem as they discuss the different sects that have sprung up within the new religion. Glass skillfully fleshes out the characters and illustrates the theological issues without confusing the reader, bringing to life the early Christian community. The introduction and appendix outline the historical facts behind the characters in a simple, accurate way.
Creatively portrays a classic story that both believers and nonbelievers may enjoy.