Christ the Lord

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 5)

There have been many works written about the life of Jesus, but none have ever presented him, as Anne Rice does in Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, as a seven-year-old boy telling his story from a child’s point of view. Rice’s novel begins in Alexandria, Egypt, with a bully attacking the young Jesus, who wishes the other boy dead. Die the bully does. Jesus is immediately distraught that he has somehow caused the boy’s death and wills him back to life. With this raising from the dead, the question of just what kind of being he is first enters the mind of the young Jesus. He then remembers being able to cause clay pigeons to fly, and more questions arise. The remainder of the novel is devoted to the year in Jesus’ life during which he comes to understand exactly who he is and to deal with the intimations of what he must grow up to do.

On the day of the death and raising-up of the bully, Jesus also learns from Joseph that King Herod is dead and that it is time to return to Nazareth, the home they left for Bethlehem, from which they had fled. Before they leave, Jesus has a final visit with his Egyptian teachers, who wonder how Joseph knows Herod is dead, a question that also bemuses Jesus. Among the teachers to whom Jesus bids farewell is the philosopher Philo, a person not connected in any historical reports to Jesus but certainly an important Jewish intellectual in Alexandria and a thinker who had significant influence on Saint Paul and the writers of the Gospel of John by combining Jewish thought with Greek philosophy. Indeed, there are those who consider Philo the first Christian. While there is no evidence, it is entirely possible that Jesus had contact with Philo in Alexandria. The introduction of Philo in the story creates intellectual excitement for the knowledgeable reader and demonstrates the extensive research Rice did before undertaking her novel.

As Joseph’s extended family prepares to leave for the Holy Land, Jesus is party to a family conversation about why they will settle in Nazareth and not Bethlehem, a conversation filled with innuendoes about wise men and shepherds and some sort of horrendous event. When Jesus asks about these things he is told gently but firmly that this is not the time to discuss such matters, which makes him feel more unsettled. He is further disturbed by his brother James telling him that Nazareth is a very small town and that he must never again exercise his powers to fell a bully. As Jesus contemplates the implications of James’s instructions, the news arrives of Herod’s death, and all in Alexandria are puzzled as to how Joseph knew beforehand. Without explanation, Joseph loads his extended family on a boat to the Holy Land. On the boat Jesus hears much conversation about how wicked the dead King Herod was, including a reference to a slaughter in the town of Bethlehem and some talk about Mary’s being visited by an angel in Nazareth. Finally the ship docks, and the family is on its way to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem.

As they camp outside Jerusalem, Jesus’ uncle Cleopas, now quite ill and feverish, decides to tell Jesus that he believes that an angel appeared to his thirteen-year-old sister, Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. Jesus is working hard to understand, and Cleopas says that Jesus must endure growing to manhood just as King David had to spend his youth as a shepherd boy. Jesus now realizes that he is not Joseph’s son, and Mary confirms for him that she has not ever been with a man.

With much on his mind, the boy Jesus arrives at Jerusalem with his family and is overwhelmed by the size and beauty of the great temple there. They have no time to enjoy it, for almost immediately a horde of soldiers comes thundering down upon the pilgrims arriving at the temple and begins to drive them away from Passover worship. When the crowd resists the soldiers, a massacre takes place, and a great civil war follows. Jesus is witness to a brutal murder of a man destroyed by a soldier’s spear. Jesus begins to cry, and, indeed, Rice’s description of this dreadful scene is so vivid and powerful that many a reader will no doubt be urged to tears as well.

The holy family leaves for a village outside Jerusalem where Mary’s relative Elizabeth lives with her son, John. Elizabeth announces...

(The entire section is 1758 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Booklist 102, no. 5 (November 1, 2005): 5.

Boyd, Gregory A. Cynic Sage or Son of God? Wheaton, Ill.: Bridgepoint/Victor, 1995. In an effort to refute the portrait of Jesus offered by John Dominic Crossan, Boyd summarizes and counters Jesus Seminar arguments about Christ.

Crossan, John Dominic. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994. A member of the controversial Jesus Seminar, Crossan portrays Jesus as a social rebel and revolutionary, but a starkly human one, whose birth was natural and whose resurrection was, at best, a metaphor.

Entertainment Weekly, November 4, 2005, pp. 32-34.

Fredrikson, Paula. From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988. Examines the historical and cultural background behind images of Christ as depicted in the Gospels and letters of Paul.

Kirkus Reviews 73, no. 19 (October 1, 2005): 1050.

Library Journal 130, no. 18 (November 1, 2005): 70.

The New York Times 155 (November 3, 2005): E1-E9.

Newsweek 146, no. 18 (October 31, 2005): 54-55.

People 64, no. 20 (November 14, 2005): 52.

Publishers Weekly 252, no. 40 (October 10, 2005): 38.

School Library Journal 51, no. 12 (December, 2005): 178-180.

Wharton, Gary C. Jesus, the Authorized Biography: The Eyewitness Accounts by Those Who Personally Knew Him. Green Forest, Ark.: New Leaf Press, 2005. Brings together in narrative form the various accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry as found in the Gospels and Epistles.

Wright, N. T. The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999. An accessible distillation of Anglican theologian Wright’s work on searching for the historical Jesus while remaining within theological orthodoxy.