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Old 05-27-2003, 10:50 PM   #1
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In tale of Jesus, the wonder's in the details

A more human Jesus.

This is only a book. Fiction.

The movie "The Last Temptation of Christ" created some controversy.

If this book goes to film, I am sure it will , too.

It sounds interesting. What do you think?

Quote:
In tale of Jesus, the wonder's in the details

Testament: A Novel, Nino Ricci, Houghton Mifflin: 458 pp., $25
By Bernadette Murphy

Special to The Times

May 27 2003

The Jesus presented in the New Testament's Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is a bigger-than-life charismatic personality, traveling the Galilee region, curing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the multitudes, turning his cheek, entering Jerusalem to wave palm fronds and songs of praise, and ultimately, triumphing over death. The result of a virgin birth heralded by angels and overseen by a star, this Jesus is no common man. He is imbued with the mythical light afforded by the Gospels' backward glance.

"Testament," by Canadian author Nino Ricci, introduces us to a different, more earthly Jesus. Following in the footsteps of the best historical-fiction writers, Ricci re-imagines the life of Jesus, steeping his narrative in highly detailed, well-researched background. By weaving together a plausible tale based on fact, he illuminates Jesus as a flesh-and-blood human with foibles and idiosyncrasies who lived his life in a specific time and place. In a way that the New Testament accounts, employing their hagiographic tone, cannot accomplish, Ricci ("The Book of Saints") immerses readers in the visceral details, making the familiar account blossom anew and the story of Jesus tangible.

Ricci's Jesus is subject to fits of anger and depression, a man who turns his back on his family and often lives on the street. As the illegitimate son of a Roman legate, he is proscribed from entering the temple. Because of his own exclusion, he rallies for inclusion of all people in God's kingdom — lepers, fallen women, tax collectors, insurrectionists, pagans. Many of the miracles attributed to the biblical Jesus are tales that have been exaggerated with each telling. Yet, the understated wonders he does perform — urging people to open their eyes to the choices they have, to embrace religious faith without its exclusionary trappings — stand out as more life-altering than the biblical miracles. "When will the kingdom come, people asked him, and he always replied, It's here. He said, Look at the trees, or the birds or the lake. Look at the wildflowers that come up in the spring Open your eyes and see."

The story is presented in four Gospel-like narratives as seen through the eyes of three personalities from the New Testament and one fictionalized follower.

There's Judas, who's portrayed as the only one of Jesus' followers able to keep pace with him intellectually and whose involvement in a liberation movement against the Roman occupation roots the story in its historical time and place.

Mary Magdalene is the unmarried daughter of one of Jesus' first supporters. Smitten by Jesus, her worldview and options as a woman are opened up by her association with him. "I thought of the girl I had been when Yeshua had first come, so coddled then and innocent, when now I had travelled half the roads of Galilee, and had respect, and saw things differently."

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the one character most unlike her biblical counterpart. She finds herself in a scandalous predicament after her father, trying to improve the family's fortunes by making an advantageous marriage for her, hands her over to the Roman legate who impregnates her and then skips out. Mary's father arranges her marriage to Joseph, a much older, cold-hearted man. This Mary is unable to move beyond the shame at bearing an illegitimate child. Her son grows more inscrutable to her by the day, and when, as an adult, he moves into the public eye, she envisions his downfall.

Simon of Gergesa is a pagan shepherd who's drawn to the itinerant preacher, and though not mentioned in the New Testament version, could easily have been one of Jesus' many followers. Simon brings into the picture a rapscallion, Jerubal, who makes tall tales of Jesus' actions, serving to explain how some of the biblical miracles (the overflowing catch of fish, for example) came to be attributed to Jesus.

In the way the best historical fiction re-imagines the past so that it can transcend the boundaries of facts and become animate, so does Ricci's wonderfully vibrant narrative. And by making Jesus seem more human than divine, his charisma and example carry a weight that is difficult to dismiss. There are blemishes: The four sections are quite lengthy and lack chapter breaks, making for long stretches of uninterrupted text, and the voices of the narrators are too similar in tone, offering no sense of individuality. Still, these flaws are minor in an otherwise rich tapestry delineating one man's version of the first-century story on which all Christianity is based.
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Old 05-27-2003, 10:59 PM   #2
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I look forward to reading it. I loved The Last Temptation.
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Old 05-28-2003, 10:00 AM   #3
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Re: In tale of Jesus, the wonder's in the details

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Originally posted by deep
he illuminates Jesus as a flesh-and-blood human
That part IS true. Christ was 100% human and 100% God at the same time.

As for the rest of the book, sounds like something that would really make my blood boil. But oh well, the author has the freedom to write things that make my blood boil. And I'm sure he would say the same thing if I were a journalist and he read my scathing review of the book. But I guess to write a scathing review of teh book, I'd have to read it, and you all know the chances of that happening...somewhere between fat and slim.

As for the writer of the article, she's not exactly biased, is she?

"the mythical light afforded by the Gospels' backward glance"

...and she's not even right about that. The Gospels were of course written by people who actually walked with Christ, except Luke, and even he was alive at the time it all happened. How is that a "backward glance"?
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Old 05-28-2003, 11:33 AM   #4
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What is the track record for this author? Are other Nino Ricci books worth reading? It seems the subject matter is designed, in part, to inflame those who see Jesus as 100% man and 100% God.

The author will certainly gain plenty of free publicity for the effort.
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Old 05-28-2003, 02:13 PM   #5
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Re: Re: In tale of Jesus, the wonder's in the details

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Originally posted by 80sU2isBest


"the mythical light afforded by the Gospels' backward glance"

...and she's not even right about that. The Gospels were of course written by people who actually walked with Christ, except Luke, and even he was alive at the time it all happened. How is that a "backward glance"?
No comment on the book itself, but perhaps by this the author means that the gospels were all written after Jesus' life and so are a sort of "backward glance" at His life. Just a thought.
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Old 05-28-2003, 03:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
It seems the subject matter is designed, in part, to inflame those who see Jesus as 100% man and 100% God.

The author will certainly gain plenty of free publicity for the effort.
Nino Ricci is a very well-respected Canadian writer. He is a serious novelist, not an attention-seeking trashy writer. His work has been praised by serious literary critics as well as members of the clergy. I don't know why you'd assume from the review that part of his intention is to inflame anyone. Methinks it was a bit of a kneejerk reaction.

I haven't read the book, but what I've read about it sounds like the work of a serious and sincere writer. The book has already won a prestigious Canadian book award.
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Old 05-28-2003, 03:44 PM   #7
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This sounds like a very interesting read...thanks for the post.
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Old 05-28-2003, 03:49 PM   #8
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Previous recipients of the Trillium Book Award (which Nino Ricci has recently received for Testament) include Anne Michaels, Alistair MacLeod, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro and Dionne Brand. In other words, Canada's most distinguished writers.
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Old 05-28-2003, 04:00 PM   #9
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“The movie "The Last Temptation of Christ" created some controversy.

If this book goes to film, I am sure it will , too. “

My post was a bit awkward. I meant to imply if this book becomes a film it will be controversial.


80s,

I respect your religious convictions and your right to take exception to this book. You, nbcrusader and other that participate in this forum seem to have come to a place where you believe that you are fortunate to have been blessed to have a greater truth than many. I cannot say you are not correct in your beliefs.

When I posted this it was not with the intention to incite devout believers.

I have often thought about historical figures. I believe strongly in the historical Jesus. Many faiths claim to have a proper and precise accounting of who and what he is.

I am not an avid reader and will probably not read this book. When I was a very young man, about 27 years ago. A girlfriend gave me Gore Vidal’s book, “Burr”, about the 2nd American Vice President. It was a colorful fictional book, peppered with historical facts. It made the American Revolution real for me.

The historical Jesus is enough for me right now. His teachings of love, charity, ministering to the poor and sick, helping an oppressed people are actions that all should admire and emulate.

I have passed the half way mark of my mortal life, and thinking about things like this cause me to be more conscience of the choices I make.


NbCrusader,

He has published other books. There are online reviews and commentary.
He is Canadian.

Of course no real American would write such a book.
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Old 05-28-2003, 11:40 PM   #10
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Don't get me wrong, Deep. I didn't think you were trying to incite believers. Not at all. I don't think nbcrusader did, either. We were talking about the author of the book.
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