Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

Spring 2006 CSANews Issue 58  |  Posted date : May 27, 2007.Back to list

After more than 2,000 years, the name of Jesus of Nazareth continues to stir conflict. Recently, Mel Gibson produced a controversial movie about his death. Then Dan Brown wrote the Da Vinci Code, offering some fascinating conspiracy theories. The book has become a publishing phenomenon around the world and headlines herald the latest details of Brown’s court case. He has been acquitted on the charge of plagiarism by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

In a quieter vein, author Anne Rice has written the first in a biographical series on the life of Jesus. In her powerful and thoughtful book, Christ The Lord, Anne Rice presents as the narrator an intelligent but mischievous seven-year-old Jesus, who doesn’t understand his own powers. Rice did years of exhaustive research for this book, but some of the most tantalizing tales were recorded in the Apocrypha, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

We share the bewildered emotions of the boy Jesus, whose very anger at a young bully caused the youngster to be struck dead. In shocked disbelief, Jesus quickly restored Eliezer to life. Another time, Jesus was chastised for making clay sparrows on the Sabbath. His reaction was to turn the models into live birds and watch them fly away.

Not only was Jesus uneasy about his powers, he sensed that there was some mysterious secret about his birth in Bethlehem.

Joseph and the uncles of Jesus were successful, skilled craftsmen in Alexandria, but decided to leave Egypt and return to Galilee upon the death of the murderous King Herod. They had planned to celebrate Passover on their way to Nazareth but, as they got close to the Temple, they found themselves in the midst of bloody fighting. Rebels, Romans, outlaws and various sects were killing each other within the very Temple walls. Soldiers even announced that there would be no Passover that year.

Jesus heard his Uncle Cleopas scoff, “As if they can say there is no Passover. As long as there is one Jew alive in the world, there is Passover, when there is Passover!”

Rice writes in simple, lucent prose, as she tells the story through the eyes of Jesus; how his family travelled to their ancestral home and settled in Nazareth. She reveals details of family, communal and religious life in the Palestine of the first century.

We feel the deep bond of love between Jesus and his mother, Mary, and the admiration and respect which he felt towards Joseph. Rice uses Italics very effectively in highlighting the thoughts which came to Jesus. One example: “Joseph is not my father” and another, “You must grow up like any other child” and, “God is everywhere, and God is in the Temple.”

In her Author’s Note, Rice makes the comment that although she had had an old fashioned, strict, Roman Catholic childhood in the 1940s and 1950s, she broke away from the church at age 18. Anne chafed at being forbidden to read the works of Kierkegaard, Sartre and Camus. She knew good people who, “didn’t believe in an organized religion and yet cared passionately about their behaviour and the value of their lives.” Then she married Stan Rice, a confirmed atheist. Looking back on her life, Rice has come to the conclusion that many of her, “vampire novels reflected her quest for meaning in a world without God.”

Rice started researching the first century in order to solve some ultimate questions: “How did Christianity actually happen?,” “Why did Rome actually fall?” and the great mystery of the survival of the Jews and Jesus as a Jew. “How did these people endure as the great people they are?”

It was this mystery that finally drew Anne Rice back to God. In 1998, she returned to the Catholic Church and, out of love, her atheist husband remarried her in the church of her childhood.

When Stan died of a brain tumour in 2002, they had been married for 41 years. By this time, Anne had already committed herself to writing the life of Jesus Christ in the first person. Volume Two is almost completed now. Rice feels that this gift of purpose helped sustain her through her grief.

One of the main characters in Christ the Lord is James, eldest son of Joseph. James was the son of a wife who had died before Joseph married Mary.

James had bitterly resented Jesus for the upheaval which his birth had caused in the family. In the end, James finally confessed his feelings to Jesus and gave him the details of that miraculous night.

Through the recollections of James, Anne Rice gives new meaning to the familiar old story.

There were the shepherds who left their flocks in the snow to visit the baby in a manger. These same shepherds told of
hosts of angels in the heavens, singing, “Glory to the Lord in the Highest! And on Earth, goodwill to all.” They also told of one angel who appeared to them in the fields to reassure them: “Don’t be afraid, because I give you glad tidings of great Joy, for today, to you, is born in the city of David, a Saviour, Christ the Lord”.