Thursday, August 16, 2007

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

This post is reproduced over on my blog as well, except for the last paragraph.

I read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It's not my usual reading fare, but it sounded interesting, so I thought 'what the hell heck.' And it was interesting. This is a novel written by Anne Rice (yes, she of the vampire fame) from the point of view of Jesus as a 7-8 year-old boy. It is a believable story about the events that may have taken place within Jesus's family, thoughts he made have had as a young boy and his awareness or lack thereof that he is somehow different than the other children. Now, I admit that I'm no Bible scholar. I have not read it cover-to-cover (I've tried a couple of times, but I somehow never get past Exodus), and I only know the well-known stories. So I may say that I wondered about something that Rice touched on in this novel, and you may be thinking, "Well, duh, it says all that in the Bible," and you would be right that I am ignorant of it being right there where I could have eased my wondering mind all along.

What I liked:
I liked that Rice gave voice to things I had wondered about regarding the virgin birth. For example, in the novel, it WAS a scandal, people DIDN'T believe Mary. When she returns to Nazareth with Jesus, he is almost denied admittance to the school to learn from the rabbis, because he is thought to be a child conceived in sin. All of this is only alluded to, no one ever comes out and says that people assumed Mary had had sex with someone and become pregnant, but everyone thinks it.

I liked Mary's brother, Jesus's Uncle Cleopas. He's a lot like me in that he was continually amused by people not just saying what they mean. Everyone danced around what they knew, and refused to just come out with it, but Cleopas thought that was ridiculous. The only reason he stayed silent was because he promised Joseph.

I liked that Jesus was portrayed as a real kid, one that liked to run and play, though he was obviously wise beyond his years. It was through play that he realized he had "powers" that others did not - the power to kill, the power to give life. He desires things, as children do, but his desires actually happen. When he wishes for snow, it unexpectedly snows. The wise beyond his years part was what kept him in check. If my almost seven-year-old discovered that whatever she wished for happened, my house would be full of Webkins, and we would eat every meal at Chuck E. Cheese's. But Jesus realizes what is happening and decides to only pray for things that are God's will.

I liked the sibling rivalry. That James, Joseph's older son, could envy and at times even hate Jesus, knowing he was the son of God, was a true testament to the intensity of sibling rivalry.

I liked Jesus's reaction when he finally put together the story of his birth and realized what had happened because of it. Not that it was a happy part of the book. I liked it because Jesus had a very human reaction. We'd probably call it a nervous breakdown. This was the only part of the book that elicited an emotional response from me.

What I didn't like:
There wasn't really anything in particular I didn't like. It was a bit of a slow read, and seemed to drag in places.

One thing I didn't like, because it just wasn't mentioned at all, was that while Mary was 13, Joseph was 60 or thereabouts (right?). And they were betrothed. Pedophilia anyone? Now I know things were different back then, but today Joseph would be in jail, so I thought maybe it deserved a mention and some sort of rationalization.

Overall, it was an interesting novel that I'm glad to have read. It was nice to read some speculation, particularly well-researched speculation, on Jesus at ages that aren't mentioned in the Bible. I think in the Bible we see his birth, he pops up around the age of 12, and then we see him as a man. But what of the child? I'm glad Anne Rice addressed this. BUT... I would have liked to see a more mischievous child-Jesus. I would've liked to see Jesus play some practical jokes with his powers. Something that would have made me able to relate him to my nephews at that age. Maybe next Rice will speculate on a teenage Jesus, call it 'God's Rebellion' or something.

As a side note, the 'Author's Note' at the end of the novel was really worth reading. Rice gives her religious history, details the research involved in writing this novel, and wonders about the various ways to portray Jesus.

I selected this novel from Jill(mrstreme)'s list. I think her choice of this book tells me that she is a person who is interested in knowing people in a more in-depth way than what is presented to the world. In other words, what was this person like aside from the stories we've heard? I'd have to say that Jill is not one to "judge a book by its cover," but is willing to take the time to find out what's inside the book, why someone bothered to write it.


naida said...

great review..I want to read this one too.

Anonymous said...

Actually most historians believe Joseph to be more like 40 than 60, which granted compared to 13 is still pretty old.
Mary and Joseph were most likely betrothed from before her birth, a matter arranged by both their families and niether one having anything to do with it. Men were older so that they were established in the community, andfinancially capable, though it does seem that Joseph may have been a touch older than the norm, for reasons never recorded.
Women were married quite young in those days as well 13-16 being the norm, and always to men around 30 years of age.

So yeah-it seems oogey, but only to us. To them it was normal.

Jill said...

Thank you for picking this book. Your review of it is dead on, especially your "What You Liked" section. And you nailed me dead on - I am a historian at heart and like to think there is more than one perspective, even if it's a fictional perspective.

Happy Reading!

Madame Rubies said...

I want to read this one day.