Book Project Review: Mary of Nazareth by Marek Halter
Summary: Mary was born into a Palestine oppressed by Herod the Great; she is accustomed to living with uncertainty and unrest. But when her beloved father is wrongly imprisoned by the Romans, she takes action. She calls upon a well-known rebel by the name of Barabbas, and together they set out to save her father. A daring escape is planned. And against staggering odds, Mary’s father is saved from crucifixion. Barabbas—flush with his success—is intent on leading a full-scale rebellion against Herod and the Romans. But as he speaks before Jewish leaders, Mary feels great frustration as the men endlessly debate morality, rebellion, and God’s will. She has almost lost her father, but she is nevertheless compelled to speak out against violence. To her surprise, one man listens: Joseph. He makes Mary an offer that will change her life—and the history of the Jewish people—forever.
This is another book in my year-long book reading project. I had very mixed feelings about this book. For the most part, I enjoyed it. There is not much written in the Bible about Mary prior to her giving birth to Jesus. The author was able to recreate Mary’s supposed life with great detail and elegance. Along the way, you meet people you may be familiar with: Joseph of Arimethea, Elizabeth, and even Mary Magdalene and Joseph, but not necessarily as you might have imagined them to be (based off the stories in the Bible). The book ends with Mary already declaring that she is pregnant, and soon after she and her friends and her family have to go to their hometown to take part in a census that had been ordered by Caesar Augustus.
But, there is more to the story. The author creates a scene sometime in the present where he visits an old woman in Warsaw (also named Mary, who lost a son, Jesus, in the concentration camps) and is presented with a text written by Mary, in which she describes her son to be very unwilling to fulfill his destiny as the Messiah. Mary, in this text, also recounts the story of the crucifixion and how Jesus did not actually die on the cross, that he was in fact given a special potion by Joseph of Arimethea that would make him appear to be dead for three days, and then he would wake up. So what is a reader to make of this?
I wish the book did not include the modern-day scene with the discovery of Mary’s text. It was wholly unnecessary. What was the author’s purpose in doing so? I am actually quite shocked that this book did not make the news that it could have made. If The Da Vinci Code was considered blasphemous for its suggestion that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, then how did this book go under the radar? I’m sure the author wanted to give another view of this story, but to freely suggest the foundation of Christianity did not happen……?
I’m not trying to denounce this book, or put it down in any way. This is not my intention. I guess I just find this prospect a bit unsettling. Hence, the mixed feelings. I’m not sure what to do with this idea that this author presented. Has anyone else read this? What do you think? Tom Robbins’ book Another Roadside Attraction also touches upon the resurrection of Jesus, but he does it differently and he does it in his own Tom Robbins way, which did not create any feelings like this particular book has. The only other book I’ve read by this author is Sarah which I also enjoyed. I guess this book just requires some more thought on my part, and more wondering as to what the author’s intention was.