An adolescent Jesus develops his divine nature in Bear’s debut religious fiction.
The Bible offers only a glimpse of Jesus’ adolescence, but this novel presents one possible course of events for readers to mull over. Bear builds his tale around a Celtic legend about Jesus visiting the people of first-century Britain. In his version, Jesus goes to Britain with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, and his cousin, Daniel, when his uncle travels there to start trading tin. Jesus is aware of his status as Messiah but doesn’t yet understand what that position truly means. He spends years in Britain, living among Celtic people and their druids and slowly developing his divine nature through his experiences there. Though initially lacking in compassion, he’s eager to prove himself a capable warrior, and he eventually confronts the truth that his kingdom will not be on Earth but in heaven. Learning to accept this truth and its tragic implications is difficult even for the son of God. The book also follows a mysterious “tunic cross” that features an image of adolescent Jesus. Eventually, a modern boy encounters the cross, and its connection to the past is gradually revealed throughout the book. Jesus’ story is, of course, theologically controversial. Bear addresses a major point of contention in Christian thought by speculating on how much of his divine nature Jesus understood as he grew up. Some of the images might be difficult for faithful readers to accept, especially those involving a sword-wielding or compassionless Jesus. Bear’s version of adolescent Jesus makes mistakes and has misunderstandings, but he ultimately acts within the Heavenly Father’s will. Overall, Bear successfully creates a character who technically remains sinless while still struggling with the process of growing up. With vivid side characters, an intriguing backdrop and steady pacing, the book is also a strong piece of writing. Occasional allusions to Jesus’ ministry evoke a sense of completeness, too, as when Jesus develops the idea for his parable of the prodigal son after listening to a Celtic tale and dealing with an errant tribal prince.
A stimulating story that challenges readers to consider and appreciate the coming-of-age a young Jesus may have gone through.