Book Review: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

by Anne Rice

★★★★

I’m trying to be fair; this really isn’t my kind of book. It’s highly speculative and it’s fiction. Then I’m reminded of the book I just published about Revelation; it, too, is fiction (well, 1/3 of it is fiction) and it, too, will surely be considered highly speculative by many. I’d like to think, however, that my book is grounded in more solid research than Rice’s; mine is, after all, hailed by other scholars as historically plausible.

Given, then, that we are discussing a purely fictional account of Jesus’ years as a child, my review must be based upon whether or not the story held my interest. It did for a time; Anne Rice is a good writer. But I have a quest to learn (I seldom read fiction), and I really felt I was learning very little, so I nearly didn’t finish the book.

I think readers who do not have a background in early Christian literature will be at a disadvantage. For example, in the story, the child Jesus sculpts a bird out of clay, then gives it life and it flies away. Um, really? But scholars will recognize the story from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which Rice latches onto and includes in her book, caring not that no historian of this gnostic gospel considers it to be true. The story is pure mythology, and not even Biblical myth.

Who, then, is the audience for this book? Not fundamentalist Christians, who will take offense at this portrayal of the Christ child. It isn’t “biblical.” Not historians, who will be unable to take it seriously. If Anne Rice is celebrating her return to Christianity with this series (the book is the first of a promised series) then it’s an odd way to start out, wouldn’t you think?

The answer, of course, is that Rice is writing mythology after the manner of Gospels; she collects stories, builds a personality for Christ as a youngster, then puts it all together in much the same way as Gospel writers did 2,000 years ago…honoring Christ not in fact, but in storytelling. And that’s why I’m writing this review today, 5 days before Christmas. Today, as I drive down the streets of Minneapolis, I see manger scenes; scenes I know to be mythic, but beautiful and inspiring none-the-less. We have taken two contradictory Gospel renditions of Jesus’ birth (Matthew and Luke), spliced them together, added some nice touches, and created an idyllic Christmas picture. In the same spirit of honoring Christ in myth, we can enjoy Anne Rice’s fictive “gospel”, and even give it … well, four stars.

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