Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have made a fortune with their series of runaway bestsellers known as the “Left Behind” novels. From what I understand, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 million books in print, with another series, called “The Kids,” checking in at $100 million in annual revenue. Add to this their latest series, dubbed “The Jesus Chronicles,” and you’ve got yourself a pair of veritable scripture superstars.
I really couldn’t tell you how good most of their books are. I never read them. I don’t know why, but the “Left Behind” idea just never appealed to me, especially seeing as how the whole rapture thing isn’t even scripturally supported. But that’s another node, for another noder.
What I can tell you is that one of their books in the latest “Jesus Chronicles” –- Mark’s Story –- is not very good. In fact, it’s pretty bad. First, though, let me explain how I came to read this particular book.
I recently moved into an apartment near the Healing Place. I don't have a TV, which is just fine by me, but that means I need books on a regular basis to while away the evening hours. So, on my last trip to the library, I was just passing through the novels section, and the title of this book just jumped out at me.
It was for purely egotistical reasons, mind you. I thought the cover read Masha's Story, instead of Mark's Story, and was curious to see if there was actually a book with the title of one of my nodes. No such luck, of course, but I thought I'd give the book a try anyway.
Well, I can't say it was a complete waste of time, but it was pretty close. The characters were wooden, the dialogue stilted, and the story . . . well, let's just put it this way. If you didn't know the story already, there is probably zero chance you'd like the book. If you are familiar with the story, you'll probably like the book, but you'd probably prefer to spend you time reading it in the original.
As in, this book tracks the Bible pretty much word for word, in King James English, no less. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to spend my time reading a novelized account of Christ’s life, I want there to be something I haven’t seen or read before.
But then, of course, I’m not part of the fundamentalist bloc that represents the authors’ bread and butter. And for those particular individuals, changing the story in any way . . . even one iota . . . is sacrilegious. See Last Temptation of Christ. Sure, Nikos Kazantzakis played with the Gospel a bit, and there’s always the infamous “temptation” dream sequence, but the “what if” of that book was what appealed to me. I mean, get me to think about Jesus a different way, even if it’s not the "right" one. Otherwise, I’m better off just reading the Book.
There were a couple of bright spots. The description of the Jewish-Gentile conflict in early Christianity was enlightening, and the authors did venture into some theorizing beyond the scriptural text on occasion. There was, for example, an interesting passage where Peter explains to John Mark, his life-long scribe, how the apostles were genuinely afraid of the power shown by Jesus’ miracles.
At another point, the authors take liberty with Jesus’ admonition not to lead children astray (Mark 9:42) by claiming that Jesus was really referring to those new in Christ, not to literal children. Now, that may be true, and I prefer the looser interpretation myself, but I imagine there were some literalists who were offended by even this slight deviation.
A less-than-solid effort aimed squarely at its target market, I would steer clear of this sermon to the choir.