(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In Christ the Lord, Anne Rice presents a narrative of Jesus Christ’s youngest years, beginning at age seven. The opening scene is familiar to those who have read any of the infancy narratives. In this story, Jesus strikes a playmate dead and returns him to life, at Salome’s urging. The resurrected boy’s parents want Jesus and his family to leave Alexandria, Egypt. However, the Teacher comes to his defense, saying Jesus and his brother James are his best students at the House of Study.

Jesus’ stepfather, Joseph, decides that it is time for the family to return to the Holy Land, in part because Herod, who had been a threat to Jesus, is dead. The Teacher and another minor character, Philo, try to persuade Joseph to let Jesus stay and continue his studies, but Joseph is firm. The family will stay together and go to Nazareth, where more relatives await. Soon Jesus’ family is on a boat, leaving Egypt forever. Throughout this period, little Jesus has far more questions than answers about who he is and why he is different. What happened in Bethlehem? Why did the family leave for Egypt?

The journey homeward includes a visit to the temple in Jerusalem. The family’s joy and awe soon turn to horror, however, as soldiers massacre worshipers, putting a brutal end to Passover festivities. Elizabeth tells of the foreordained birth of her son John the Baptist and his father’s death at the hands of soldiers and insists her son will be raised by the Essenes. Jesus is struck by the way the solemn John keeps staring at him.

Elizabeth and John remain behind and the family continue on their trek. They pass through unsettled regions and see the effect of war, rebellion, and Roman reprisals on villages. They also fall victim to bandits, who say the money they demand is going to the resistance effort against the Roman Empire. The family reaches Nazareth to find it seemingly abandoned. Fearing soldiers, the townspeople have hidden in tunnels. Soldiers do appear and want to take one of the family members back to Rome in reprisal against the Jewish rebellion...

(The entire section is 853 words.)