I have never read all of the Old Testament and none of the New Testament. My research-minded husband did read through the whole thing a couple of years ago and shared aloud bits and pieces here and there. But he said the Bible, for the most part, was intolerably boring, repetitive, plodding, and self-contradictory.
When I began reading Jehoshua: Signs and Wonders by Garrett Glass, I had no idea how much he’d based on the Bible and how much on other sources or purely on his imagination. Happily, Glass does include in his appendices a section called Historical Fact vs. Fiction. He includes, too, a list of characters, several maps, and a bibliography
My reason for reading Jehoshua was to see if it was a good story and if the author, Garrett Glass, had created a well-written novel.
The story begins just before the crucifixion of Jesus, known throughout as Jehoshua. Those early scenes are fairly graphic and even suspenseful. It doesn’t matter that you already know Jesus is going to die, because this is a novel, after all. The second half is less edge-of-the seat exciting, as it’s about how the first Gospel came to be written, including side trips to Egypt and accounts of a conference about such crucial matters as whether Gentiles ought to be admitted into the new Christian sect (and, if so, would circumcision be required of the men). Even without as much thrilling action, these chapters kept my attention, and as it turns out, they are largely based on historical fact. I love history, and I especially enjoy learning about it via carefully-researched good stories.
This is Glass’s first novel, and it’s self-published, so it deserves credit for lacking the preponderance of the sorts of flaws I often see in such work. Typos and exclamation marks were very few. The dialogues could have contained far fewer long speeches, however, and who was speaking could have been made slightly clearer.
So was Jehoshua/Jesus a healer, a magician, a prophet, someone who used the terms “son of man” and “son of God” metaphorically or literally? As the author himself has written in interviews, his own original Catholic faith was utterly shaken when he first learned that the Bible wasn’t literal history. In Jehoshua, within the first generation after the Crucifixion, many who met him followed him because of his amazing healing skills. And whether he had greater knowledge of herbs and anatomy than most in his environs, or whether he additionally had the ear of the Jewish omnipotent deity wasn’t that critical a factor in the new religion’s earliest spread.
There’s lots of period detail that allows the reader to feel immersed in that era. As I read, I began to get the sense of how one tiny offshoot of a religion could achieve a ripple effect and spread, even without weapons (yet). Of course, by the end of this volume of Glass’s projected trilogy (or more), in Year 50, Christianity had only gained a toehold.
Glass has said he wrote this specifically to honor his wife on their anniversary, working in secret for a year, making use of thoughts and scenes he’d been developing over many previous years while working as a banker. Now he’s working on the sequels with his wife. It will be interesting to see where they take the story.
I recommend reading the interviews with the author and other material posted for the Patheos Book Club, where you’ll learn why Glass doesn’t call himself an atheist.