The Kingdom of Christ
A bold new take on the historical Jesus raises questions about a centuries-long quest
But faith need not be undercut by historical fact. A dramatic example of how historical research can shore up even a very traditional Christian reading is novelist Anne Rice's new book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. Written after her return to the Roman Catholic Church after a 30-year hiatus, the novel is narrated by a 7-year-old Jesus. It takes him and his family from Egypt back to his family's home in Nazareth by way of Jerusalem, where Jesus sees a Jewish uprising being quelled in the bloodiest fashion. For her book, Rice plowed through much of the best scholarship re-creating Jesus's Jewish milieu. But useful as Rice found that research, she says she was unconvinced by the efforts of many scholars to discredit what she considers the crucial claims of the canonical Gospels. "In sum," she writes, "the whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified by nobody and had nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and would be horrified by it if he knew about it--that whole picture which had floated in the liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for 30 years--that case was not made." People may find fault with Rice's attempts to fictionalize the way the child Jesus comes to understand his divine character, but her extensive use of the historical sources is no more creative than Tabor's.
Or is it? That is the great argument of our time, the cultural, intellectual, and social debate pitting religion against science, faith against fact. But perhaps the many conclusions coming out of the quests for the historical Jesus suggest that none can ultimately claim to find the "real" or "true" man. It may be that the elusiveness of Jesus, his life and his meaning, is part of his enduring power and mystery.