The Gospel According to . . .
A Fictional Story of the People
Who Encountered Jesus
Reviewed in the United States on May 15, 2015
The author does a good job of providing some possible answers to gaps to the story told in the New Testament--among others, the pressures on Pilate to condemn Christ and the apparent treachery of Judas. Well-researched and well-written, I recommend it.
Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2015
An excellent read. I find most religiously-themed literature insipid and predictable, but this novel has a realistic feel to it that was refreshing and interesting. Let's face it,we all know the plot, but the characters here really make it seem fresh.
Reviewed in the United States on March 5, 2017
A super good book on the spy game is 'The Gospel According to...' by Martha Carver Harris. The action takes place during Jesus's time in Judea. The protagonist is a Jewish spy sent to get something on Jesus. He reveals some of the tricks of the trade along the way.
Though the action it is taking place 2,000 years ago, Martha's knowledge of the Bible, the Middle-East and Spycraft is quite evidence. Good read anytime, but especially now. It is on Amazon!
A FICTIONAL STORY OF THE PEOPLE WHO ENCOUNTERED JESUS
BY MARTHA CARVER HARRIS ‧ RELEASE DATE: OCT. 27, 2014
A debut novel offers a literary reimagining of Jesus’ life and ministry from the perspectives of those who encounter him.
Darmud has no pretensions about his moral standing: “I knew I was a worm.” An incorrigible womanizer beset by greed, he establishes a prostitution ring in Alexandria, but his Uncle Alexander Lysimachus exiles Darmud when he discovers it. Alexander sends his nephew to Jerusalem to work for his friend Eleizer, a Pharisee and member of the powerful Sanhedrin. Eleizer tasks Darmud with vigilantly following Jesus, the “upstart Jewish teacher who thinks he’s a prophet.” The Sanhedrin fear that Jesus’ mounting popularity will be interpreted by the Roman authorities as the beginnings of a political insurgency and that they will tighten their control of the Jewish State as a result. Meanwhile, Mariamme of Sepphoris, a traveling tradeswoman, is falsely accused of adultery and dragged out into the streets of Jerusalem to be stoned to death. But Jesus intervenes and prevents the mob from satisfying its lust for violent punishment. She meets Darmud in Magdala, and the two become romantically involved, but he’s only interested in her as an instrument of carnal satisfaction and a potential source of information regarding Jesus. Later on, encouraged by her friend Nainah and servant, Amos, she attends some of Jesus’ sermons and becomes a devoted follower. But Judas Iscariot objects to her proximity to Jesus, especially after hearing the lascivious rumors Darmud spreads about her in an effort to sully her reputation. Harris chronicles Jesus’ ministry up until his resurrection, shifting deftly from one first-person narration to the next. Readers are treated to the impressions of a slave, a blind man granted his sight by Jesus, and notable biblical figures like Judas and Pontius Pilate, among others. The author’s dramatic interpretation of the New Testament is meticulously faithful to the historical record but also artistically inventive. She has a gift for the nuanced construction (and reconstruction) of authentic characters. Harris delicately depicts Judas’ internal struggle on the way to his betrayal of Jesus and the profound remorse he experiences when he realizes precisely what he’s engineered: “My heart stopped beating. At that moment I saw what would happen, and what I had done. I had brought it about. My cursed desire to please everyone, and to be everyone’s darling, my pride, my self-imposed isolation, my intellectual arrogance, my touchy dignity.” Darmud, too, is intriguingly cynical—while some see a savior in Jesus, he only perceives an “enigmatic, misleading, and slippery” con man, and he’s incapable of thinking otherwise: “I was out to find a sinister motive in Jesus and by damn I was going to find one.” The author allows herself some fantastical literary devices, which are powerfully employed, like the personification of fear and the “Powers of Darkness.” The entire novel reads like an espionage thriller and manages to unfurl with crackling suspense despite the conclusion’s being historically foregone. This is an exceedingly intelligent re-creation of a story so familiar such an authorial feat should not be possible.
A historically provocative and dramatically riveting tale.
Front Cover: In Roman crucifixions, a titulus or inscription was placed on the cross above the victim’s head designating what crime he had committed. According to John’s Gospel, Pilate commanded that a sign be nailed on Jesus’s cross stating “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS” in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. My book cover illustrates how the sign might have looked to one standing below the cross.
The book is Christian/historical fiction and relies on a series of first-person narratives by people (both Biblical and fictional) who encountered Jesus. Part I sets the stage for Part II. Its fictional characters depict the political sophistication, Hellenistic culture and moral corruption which pervaded First Century Palestine. Roman-controlled Palestine was a cosmopolitan and worldly-wise society – not at all the innocent pastoral setting depicted in 19th century paintings – and was heavily exposed to Greek culture, language, and sexual license. The Sadducee faction of the Jewish Temple leadership both accommodated and promoted Hellenizing tendencies, whereas the Pharisees fought to stave off foreign pollution of their religion and culture. This is the world that Jesus’s ministry had to confront, and His enemies multiplied over time. Part II concentrates on the characters and events leading up to Jesus’s Trial, Crucifixion and Resurrection. Its chronology derives mostly from the Gospel of John, but also has borrowings from Luke and Matthew. There is no attempt to contradict Scripture, but only to fill in possible back-stories -- what “might have been” if we had been privileged enough to witness it. Spicy, contemporary language plays a large role, but is not meant to shock so much as to portray the ambition, sexual immorality, pragmatism, and self-promotion of the power-elite in the days of Jesus. The story’s fictional antagonist Darmud, a member of the Temple’s unofficial staff, will later exercise his free-wheeling predatory instincts to devise the plot which ensnares Judas Iscariot and leads to Jesus’s arrest. Darmud – despite his often humorous monologues -- serves as a microcosm of the cold-blooded and calculating circle of enemies surrounding Jesus Christ.
I began this book with a curiosity about Mary Magdalene (an interest common to many readers of Scripture), what her background might have been, and what led her to Jesus. We know so little about her – only that out of her had been cast “seven demons” and that she was the first to encounter the risen Christ. We also know that she was one of a group of women who followed Jesus and His disciples and contributed to their material support. The latter point implies that she might have been a woman of means. The name “Magdalene” denotes that she had some connection with the town of Magdala, on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee. The story developed from there.
My other strong curiosity was about Pontius Pilate, and the internal struggles he evidently faced (based on John’s Gospel) before he condemned Jesus to death. This in turn led to looking into, and trying to reconstruct, the possible characters of Nicodemus, the Temple elder who came to Jesus by night; Malchus, the Temple slave whose amputated ear was healed by Jesus in Gethsemane; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. The spy motif (with the fictional Darmud) derives from Luke 20, verse 20, referring to the Temple leadership’s sending forth spies to watch and entrap Jesus.
Because of its off-color language, the book is not intended for young children. Instead, it is directed at more mature audiences (including young adults) convinced that Christianity is a boring pursuit and has only to do “with a bunch of ignorant peasants” more than 2000 years ago. I think they will find that the negative forces encircling Jesus have particular relevance to the evils of our present day, and that the courage, humility and true majesty with which Jesus faced His enemies can only come from God.