(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

A first century Roman tells the story of the wonder-worker Jesus, born to Mary, a temple virgin and an “Heiress of Michal” (King David’s wife). In ancient times, according to Simon, the High Priest, title to the land passed down from mother to youngest daughter by ultimogeniture. Thus David unified Israel by marrying the heiresses of the twelve tribes, and pharaohs of Egypt married their sisters. Therefore, Simon, in order to assure the claim to the throne of Prince Antipater, over his treacherous brothers, secretly marries Antipater to Mary. To protect the pregnant Mary from the dangerous intrigue of the unstable King Herod and his ambitious family, Simon announces her betrothal to Joseph, a kind and pious old man, instructing him to retain a small part of the bride price, without which the contract is not yet legal. Joseph assumes the role of protector, but after Herod murders his own son and seeks the child reportedly born in Bethlehem, Joseph pays the rest of the bride price to Simon and flees with Mary and the child Jesus into Egypt.

This novel creates a new legend of Jesus, his birth, ministry, and death, using much of Graves’s knowledge, intuition, and speculation about Hebrew and pagan mythology, especially the cult of the Great Goddess. Here the goddess is Jesus’ most important adversary. According to Clement of Alexandria, quoting from The Gospel according to the Egyptians (on the flyleaf), the Savior said, “I have come to...

(The entire section is 591 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Cohen, J. M. Robert Graves, 1960.

Graves, Robert, and Joshua Podro. Jesus in Rome: A Historical Conjecture, 1957.

Graves, Robert, and Joshua Podro. The Nazarene Gospel Restored, 1953.

Kernowski, Frank L. The Early Poetry of Robert Graves: The Goddess Beckons. 2002.

Seymour-Smith, Martin. Robert Graves, 1956.

Snipes, Katherine. Robert Graves, 1979.

Stade, George. Robert Graves, 1967.

Vickery, John B. Robert Graves and the White Goddess, 1972.

Ziolkowski, Theodore. Fictional Transfigurations of Jesus, 1972.