In "The Crown and the Cross," Frank G. Slaughter … has written yet another fictionized life of Christ. Inevitably one asks, Why another? Does the author have a new interpretation of Jesus? A new angle of vision? A fresh vividness of insight and presentation? Dr. Slaughter has none of these….
The Jesus of "The Crown and the Cross" belongs to the meek-and-mild school. His impact is felt at several degrees removed, and the reader is driven to wonder how such a man could inspire so dedicated a loyalty in his followers. And it is a static Jesus, who seemingly never undergoes inner struggle and development. He moves like the stiff figures in a Sunday-school pageant.
Dr. Slaughter admittedly has done a smooth job in harmonizing the four Gospels and weaving a coherent narrative from them. He appears to know a good deal about the background of the period, including the Essenes and the Dead Sea scrolls. And quite properly he has given himself the freedom to utilize the story of Veronica and invent outright fictional characters. What he has not done is breathe life into the dry bones of either history or fable.
Perhaps the man who would tell the story of Christ has few alternatives. He can settle for the Gospels, or else write a stylized, liturgical type of drama or narrative…. Dr. Slaughter has followed none of these methods. He has apparently aimed at the kind of realism characteristic of the novel, but shallow psychology and drab piety result in a general dullness. The only exception is after the raising of Lazarus. From this point on, the sheer power of the actual events takes over….
Chad Walsh, "His Story Retold," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1959 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 5, 1959, p. 37.