Generous Orthodoxy  




Monday, November 14, 2005

The Gospel according to Anne Rice

I don't plan to read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (wonderful title, though). I read The DaVinci Code when I was drunk on Vicodin after surgery, and I will say this-- it distracted me from the pain. But it is without a doubt "a farrago of historical nonsense," to quote from a new Wall Street Journal review, and I will add that it is even more a farrago of artistic nonsense. (Besides, Leonardo da Vinci is not called "da Vinci." He is called Leonardo.)

Anyway, the WSJ review of the Rice book is intelligent. The writer, George Sim Johnston, seems very bright. He says that Ms. Rice, unlike the execrable Dan Brown, "has made good use of reputable sources" to construct the historical milieu for her story. He quotes Ms. Rice's afterword on the subject of the Jesus seminar, which is delicious: "The whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified...that whole picture which had floated around the liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for thirty years--that case was not made. Not only was it not made, I discovered in this field some of the worst and most biased scholarship I'd ever read."

The most striking part of the review, however, is Johnston's grasp of the uniqueness of the New Testament portrayal of Christ and the impossibility of constructing a "life of Jesus," not that it hasn't been tried over and over. Here is some of what he says:

"It is a foolhardy enterprise to make Jesus Christ the main protagonist of a novel. C. S. Lewis once observed that in the world's narrative literature there are three characters who come across so strongly that we need only half a quotation to identify them: Plato's Socrates, Boswell's Johnson and the Jesus of the Gospels. There is no way that even the most talented novelist can improve on the originals.

"But Christ presents unique problems, especially if you make him the narrator [as Ms. Rice has done]. Much of the power of the Gospels comes from the inaccessible distances in his personality. But these are obliterated if he tells his own story..." (emphasis added)

At the end, referring to Ms. Rice's attack on the Jesus Seminar, he concludes:

"Whatever one's final take on the events in Palestine 2000 years ago, no one should have any patience with bogus constructions of a life that in many respects split history in two. Ms. Rice, a smart student of history, is right to blow the whistle [on the revisionists]. But she may want to think twice about rewriting a story that was already well-told the first time around."

--(The Wall Street Journal, November 12-13, 2005)