CHRIST THE LORD – OUT OF EGYPT


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You cannot possibly read this book and find out more about Jesus. You can only know more about what Anne Rice thinks Jesus said thought and did when He was 7 years old. Dreamers and self-styled mystics will have a hay-day with it. Don’t you be one of them.

Anne Rice is on a journey. By all indications thus far, a good one. Histories of conversion have always fascinated me and I am no less intrigued by hers. Incomplete though it may be. Author of 26 novels, each of which she says “reflected my quest for meaning in a world without God”, she appears to still be on that quest. For the present, she seems to have found her way back from ghoulish preoccupation with soulless vampires, through mere Deism, to the apostate Church in Rome. My prayer is that she will not stop there, and that by God’s grace will press all the way into Christ Himself.

The most interesting thing about having read Rice’s “Christ The Lord”, subtitled “Out of Egypt” is that I learned nothing about Jesus, but did come to care for the soul of Anne Rice. And that is good. The very best part of the book (and I am not being facetious in the least) is the 18 page “Author’s Note” at the end. This is where I came to appreciate – her. I found in those pages an enormously attractive and bright individual whose earnest and energy in the pursuit of a knowledge of Jesus and His times, ought to shame most evangelical Christians to the core of our spiritually apathetic performance. The “note” is a standing rebuke to a reader-less, research-less, happy-to-gloss-over-the-surface, sound-byte, entertainment driven, consumer Christianity. That is not her intent mind you, but it serves the purpose nonetheless.

All that aside however, I have come to critique Rice’s book, not her. A task not nearly as pleasant.

Christ The Lord is an attempt to muse on the silent years of Jesus’ life. The Biblical narrative provides us the details of Jesus’ birth. Sometime shortly after (perhaps as much as two years later) Joseph is warned in a dream to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt because, “Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” At a later time, Joseph is told by God to return to Israel because Herod had died, and via yet another revelation, end sup in Nazareth. We have few specifics on the timeline here in Scripture. Biblically, we have no further historical information on Jesus until His visit to the Temple when He was 12, where he “astonished” those who heard Him with His answers and understanding. Once again, we are met with a gap in any biographical information on Jesus and His life or family until He appears near 30 years of age to be baptized by John. Enter Rice. And so many others.

For some reason, the years where the Bible is silent are the subject of the most intense interest. We can speculate as to why. Man has always resented and mistrusted God, so that deep down we suspect He is hiding something from us to our eternal detriment. The Fall is a good example of what happens when man mistrusts God and assumes God is doing something shady. For others, such dark eras as the unaddressed years of Jesus’ life provide endless opportunity to re-contextualize Jesus into something and someone other than the way Scripture presents Him. It is the opportunity to make God after our own imaginations. Still others are simply drawn off after the curious rather than the revealed, because its sexy. Others yet and most tragically, at the encouragement of the Enemy of our souls, get lost in endless, speculative research after the unknowable. This, the Devil promotes lest they confront the real, living Savior of the world and be wrested from his dark chains and brought into the saving grace of Jesus Christ. You see the Gospel cannot be found in what the Bible doesn’t reveal – but only in what it does.

Someone recently wrote that the reason why reality TV has captured America so, is because we would rather watch life than live it. Its safer. Less risky. And for many, research about Christ – however disconnected from the revelation of Scripture – is preferable to confronting Christ Himself. Its gets them close enough to pacify their consciences, while staying far enough away from having to yield to the authority of Scripture and its message.

Then again, there may be one more class of investigator into the fringes of Christological truth. A species of inquirer whom God is genuinely drawing by His Spirit. Someone whose eye has caught a glimpse of the burning bush from afar, and is making their way through Horeb’s desolations. Who, though drawn only by the spectacle at first, will at last find they need to put the shoes off their feet, for they have come at last not to the bush, but the God who made it. I want to believe Rice fits that last profile most.

Now as to the book itself, I fear I did not find it a worthy read at all. I had hoped much more. But found myself terribly disappointed. The reasons are few, simple and need little comment.

Here are my problems unceremoniously and plainly plopped down in no particular order.

First. The book is written in the first person. Jesus is purportedly narrating this year of His life Himself. Obviously then, there is not one single thing that can be taken as truth. It, by default, must be 100% speculation and fiction and cannot possibly be of any use in coming to a better knowledge of Christ. In fact, it can only obscure that knowledge as some will no doubt plug some of these ideas into their understanding of who Jesus Christ was and is. We do not know what He felt. Nor how He reasoned. Why? Because if that had been of the slightest importance to us, no doubt, God would have recorded it for us Himself. He did not. To speculate on those Divinely omitted matters is a fruitless exercise at best, and diverting from what we DO need to know at worst.

Second. Superstition. Rice centers the whole of her speculations on Jesus’ 7th year. It opens with the family living in Alexandria Egypt, and to the book’s first encounter with Jesus. While playing a game with the other neighborhood kids, Jesus shouts at the bully Joses, “You’ll never get where you’re going.” Joses drops dead. Jesus accidentally kills him! Only to resurrect him shortly after. This motif is reinforced when Rice introduces the Qur’anic myth that Jesus made little birds out of clay, breathed life into them and they flew away. This superstitious view of Christ and His power – as though the magical, generic power of Marvel’s X-Men mutants or some other comic book super hero – is very sad. It is not surprising, given the Roman Catholic penchant for incorporating superstition into its spirituality, nor the same tendency among some of our Charismatic of Pentecostal brethren to do the same. But it is a dangerous and undesirable element to be sure.

Third. Writing style. I mean no disrespect here to Ms. Rice in any way shape or form. I assume the stilted, painful style was due to an attempt to perfume the dialogue with a sense of reverence, to avoid flippancy. It failed. What prevailed instead was a choppy diatribe that sounded very much like the poorly written lines put in the mouths of actors in the epic Biblical movies. At one point I could only think of Mike Meyers when he was doing “Lothar of the Hill People” on Saturday Night Live. Jesus not only doesn’t sound like a 7 year old, none of the other children do either. No one speaks normally. Perhaps she was trying to give something of Greek or Aramaic syntax in English, but it was just horribly distracting and difficult to read.

Fourth. It is excruciatingly pedantic. Because there are no facts to deal with, all must be composed out of nothing. And long, interminable descriptions of nothing are hard to read. By the 20th or 30th time “Jesus” mentioned that His uncle Cleopas “laughed under his breath” you begin to wonder what is the world is going on? I understand the need to make the characters human – but this made no sense. Page after page is filled with uninteresting, unnecessary, un-useful details of nothing.

Please forgive my compulsion to supply an example. On pages 146 & 147, Jesus has gone off by Himself in Nazareth and is on the grassy slope of a nearby hill.

“My eyes went back to the closest thing I could see before me: the little creatures moving, running so fast over the broken bits of earth. It came to me that in lying down as I had done I had crushed some of these creatures, perhaps may of them, and the longer I looked at them, the more little creatures I saw. Theirs was the world of grass. That’s all they knew. And what was I, coming to lie down here, feeling the softness of the grass and loving the smell of it, and robbing so many little creatures of life?

“I was not sorry for it. I felt no sadness. My hand lay on top of the blades of grass, and the creatures moved beneath it faster and faster, until their world was all fluttering around without a sound that I could hear.”

Say what?

A few of these interludes we might smile at. Hundreds of pages of them adds up to precious little.

Fifth. A failure to keep to her quest for historical accuracy. In the “Author’s Note” Rice writes: “Every novel I’ve ever written since 1974 involved historical research. It’s been my delight that no matter how many supernatural elements were involved in the story, and no matter how imaginative the plot and characters, the background would be thoroughly historically accurate. And over the years, I’ve become known for that accuracy.”

Why then, would Rice take a Biblical event, with unambiguous historical referents, and anachronistically insert it into Jesus’ 7th year? So it is chapters 24 & 25 have Jesus dialoging with the teachers at the Passover in the Temple when Scripture clearly states He was 12 years old. Why sacrifice famed and lauded historical accuracy for the sake of a plot line? Because the truth isn’t intriguing enough? We want the power to write it our way. We want Jesus our way. And that is a very dangerous thing.

True to her Catholic roots, Rice feels the need to protect Mary’s perpetual virginity. But that is no great shakes. I simply note it for those who care.

All in all I have to say that “Christ The Lord”, Out of Egypt” is not at all worth the time or money one needs to invest to read it. Even as a mere work of fiction. It is poor fiction. Then again, why even read the fiction, when you can have the truth? Why have an imaginary Jesus, when you can have the Living God in human flesh? Why speculate on unknowable, unprofitable events, when you can meditate upon the glories of the REAL person and work of Christ? Why kiss a photograph of your wife, if she is sitting right beside you?

You cannot possibly read this book and find out more about Jesus. You can only know more about what Anne Rice thinks Jesus said thought and did when He was 7 years old. Dreamers and self-styled mystics will have a hay-day with it. Don’t you be one of them.

There is no doubt that Anne Rice writes adoringly of her 7 year old Jesus. But she is adoring the product of her imagination, not the Jesus revealed in Scripture. As John Owen said so wisely those many years ago: “the ancient Christians told those men the truth, — namely, that “as they had feigned unto themselves an imaginary Christ, so they should have an imaginary salvation only.”

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3 thoughts on “CHRIST THE LORD – OUT OF EGYPT

  1. Hi Reid,

    I came across your review while seeing if the one I just wrote showed up in a search. I must say – your review is the one I wish I could have written. Very well put.

    Chris

  2. I came across your comment while looking to buy the book. Thank you for saving my time and money. I won’t honor a book of that nature.

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