A grounded retelling of Christ’s life and the early days of the church from the gospel of his ailing nephew.
In this fictitious gospel, Joseph ben Jude, the nephew of Jesus (called by his Hebrew name, Yeshua), sets forth to correct the emerging myths that threaten to taint Christ’s legacy. Not long after his death, Yeshua’s origins have become steeped in superstition, with tales of a virgin birth of the literal son of God. Joseph tells instead of the careful planning and mystical divinations of the Essene Jews who selected his grandparents, Joseph and Mary, to conceive this prophesied Messiah. Luck (Melissa Etheridge: Our Little Secret, 1997) presents an accepting, progressive Yeshua who mingled his rabbinical studies with the teachings of the Hindus, the Zoroastrians, and the Buddhists. Joseph muses on Christ his uncle as much as Christ the Messiah, speaking at length about his father and other uncles, along with the extended family of Yeshua’s followers. Like in any family, there’s squabbling; the apostles struggle with how to lead after Christ’s death, and the public becomes confused and uncertain. These difficulties, along with competition and persecution from other religions, only serve to compound the misinformation Joseph seeks to debunk. Joseph’s prescience of the emergence of other philosophies is a clever conceit of the novel, which organically introduces gnostic and other alternative Christian teachings. Throughout the book, the resurrection is dissected as well, challenging the belief of Yeshua’s physical rebirth with the possibility of a spiritual one and breaking down the differences. These theories are impressively accessible and introduce new concepts that parallel fairly well-known historical and biblical events while using modern names for people and places throughout.
An ideal example of how fiction can be used to present and explore alternative concepts in history and religion.