Anne Rice's Ultimate Supernatural Hero

When most people hear the name Anne Rice, images of vampires, witches, and New Orleans emerge. Astute readers can detect more than horror in the gothic queen’s oeuvre though. Rice’s investigation into the supernatural is imbued with the divine, revealing an intense theological interest in novels like Memnoch the Devil and Vittorio the Vampire. In her latest novel, Christ the LordOut of Egypt, Rice presents fans with her most personal work, a extended meditation on the hidden life of Jesus.

Libraries are filled with tomes on the life of Jesus Christ—whether literary, historical, political, or mystical. Rooted firmly in the Jewish tradition of midrash, that prayerful story-telling that seeks to open the Word of God to deeper understanding, Christ the Lord is technically a work of speculative theology posing as historical fiction. As with all her writing, Rice has done her research; she spent more than three years examining New Testament scholarship of every political and theological stripe. The result is an eye-opening encounter with first century Judea and the family life that Jesus might have lived.

If we think of the Gospels as trilogy, part one is Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem while the third part begins with Jesus’ baptism and ends with the resurrection. The middle section centers on a single story of Jesus in the Temple, lost for three days while his parents searched for him. For the rest of those in between years, the Gospels remains silent, saying simply that Jesus grew in grace and wisdom. Christ the Lord imagines a year in Jesus’ life from the time the holy family leaves Egypt and returns to Nazareth until that fateful trip Jerusalem and Jesus’ three days in the Temple.

Jesus bar Joseph, Yeshua as he is called in Aramaic, is seven years old, living in Alexandria, Egypt, surrounded by an extended family that includes his father Joseph (who Jesus knows is not his father), his mother Mary, his step-brother James (from Joseph’s first, dead wife), his uncles Cleopas, Alphaeus, and Simon (brothers of Mary and Joseph), their wives, and a gaggle of cousins. Like most Jews living in a Roman city as cosmopolitan as Alexandria, the young Jesus speaks Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. He studies the Torah with a learned teacher in the morning, and he helps in the family trade, carpentry, in the afternoons.

Joseph, as head of this large clan, announces that it is time for the family to return home, saying, “We go home because it is our home, and because it is the Lord’s land. And because Herod is dead.” Over the next year, Jesus unravels the mystery that surrounds his own birth in Bethlehem, a mystery about which he is forbidden to ask. Uncle Cleopas tells the boy about the angel that appeared to Mary when she was betrothed to Joseph. From his brother James, Jesus learns of the appearance of shepherds and magi in Bethlehem who bow before the manger proclaiming Jesus a king. Finally, it is a Rabbi at the Temple in Jerusalem who informs Jesus of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.

While learning of his past, the young Jesus experiences a severe loneliness brought on by his encounter with the miraculous. In one instance, he prays for snow and wakes to find the hillside covered in the white fluffiness, while at other times he cures the sick. Jesus’ isolation is further increased by a dream encounter with a winged being who tells him, “Your cause is lost, I know it’s lost, it’s lost every day and every hour, you know it is. You think your little miracles will help these people? I tell you, chaos rules. And I am its Prince.” Unable, or at least unwilling, to tell anyone about the dream, Jesus sinks further into seclusion finally turning to God with the words, “Lord, tell me who I am. Tell me what I am to do.”

In all of this, the child Jesus is completely believable. Rice’s prose is both economic and effusive. She wastes not a single word, yet her style draws the reader into a world hitherto unknown in all its luxuriant reality. Whether the description of blood sacrifice in the Temple or a dying man singing the Psalms in the Jordan River or a mother telling her kith and kin what is to happen to her child when she dies, Rice places the reader in the scene, making you a participant. This is not just good writing, but it draws on Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual practice of Biblical contemplation.

In imagining the hidden life of Jesus, Anne Rice uses her gift for character development, so finely tuned after three decades of writing, to create portraits of the people who would have had the greatest influence on the young Jesus. Joseph, who disappears from the Gospels before Jesus begins his ministry, is portrayed as a rock of faith. He is an ethical man who follows the Law and he trusts in God when angels speak to him. When the local Pharisee, Rabbi Jacimus, gives a hard lesson on living water and the purification rituals, Joseph helps his boys understand the ways of the Pharisees. “See two paths on a mountain ridge. One is close to the edge, the other is farther away. The one farther away is safer. That is the path of the Pharisee—to be farther from the edge of the cliff, farther from falling off the cliff and into sin, and so Rabbi Jacimus believes in his customs.” Is it any wonder that the adult Jesus would accuse the Pharisees of laying undue burdens on God’s people?

Anne Rice set for herself a challenge that few, if any, in the last two thousand years have met. “The true challenge was to take the Jesus of the Gospels…and try to get inside him and imagine what he felt.” She has done just that. Christ the Lord is a gift—to the Church, to believers and non-believers alike. Everyone who wishes to know more about Jesus should read this book. Everyone who wants to know about first century Israel should read this book. Everyone who enjoys a good story should read this book. In short, everyone should read Christ the LordOut of Egypt.

Comments

Robbi said…
I love her historical fiction. Can't wait to read it!
Just Me said…
Truly hoping for a true "Anne" book a la Cry To Heaven. Dare I dream? An Anne-fan to the dork extreme!
Anonymous said…
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cellos-3E7E0E said…
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"deep south" said…
Anne Rice and Mel "Gibson ought to get together to make the movie of The Revelation. Ideally with a Bob Dylan score!

/sdt aka "deep south"
OneVoice said…
There is no Biblical evidence that Jesus performed miracles (a Miracle is something only God can do) before the changing of the water to wine. And that was an announcement that He had come as promised to do what was promised.

There is no evidence that Joseph had more then one wife, ever.
Jesus had brothers but the Bible doesn't say if they were older or younger and no evidence has ever come to light (unless some one here has a text volume and page they can send me to) suggest that these were older than Jesus.

Anyone who would really like to know more about Jesus should read the Bible. It is ALL about Him as promise and as promise of grace and salvation and redemption fulfilled and promise of judgment yet to come.

Ms. Rice's book will no doubt be a dandy read.
For the real Jesus see the real Book about Him.
the Holy Bible
Jonathan said…
Hmm...I assume you've never heard of the "Protoevangelium"?
Max Marie said…
Lovely site. Thank you for the review. I am very much looking forward to this book.

Dear friend One Voice, There is no evidence that God exists. So why do we believe? In truth though, there are non canonical infancy gospels. Think too - apparently his mother was well aware he had some extraordinary talent since she knew he could do something about the wine situation.
Lyn said…
We would do well to heed the example of Bob Dylan (who seems to have left the evidence of his conversion back in the 1980s) and not put Anne Rice on a pedestal. A new believer who views Jesus through the lens of a supernatural thriller makes a poor spokesperson for historic Christianity.
More at Bloggin Outloud
Anonymous said…
As a believer, I'm thrilled that Anne has taken the initiative to show all that God can use her in a mighty way.
Dear friend Max Marie; if you understand that fact combined with fiction was NOT written before modern day, you would recognize that the vast majority of the entire Bible, and especially the gospel according to Luke, are filled with fact. Making fiction/myth impossible. For a more juvenile way of thinking of it; there's not proof that God does NOT exist. If he doesn't-you'll find out when you're dead. Have you considered what would happen if you were wrong?
Anonymous said…
It's sad when someone states "There no proof that God exist" and the response is "There no proof that God doesn't exist". Unfortunately, either way doesn't prove anything. As far as the Bible being factual is misleading. Any intelligent person knows that all history are exaggerated and herofied.(herofication) What is more sad is when someone has to relied on other people story over thier.
There were people like Jesus in every civilization. Because of the people in control (power) thier story is the dominent. I'm looking forward to reading this book only because I'm interested in the storytelling. I personsally do not believe in God and I am not afraid of what will happen to me when I die. Remember, as part of the human race we were given a choice. Therefore, all of the fantasy that people chose to believe is thier choice. I've made my choice once I'd found out the truth.
Anonymous said…
I will be praying for Anonymous tonight. Yes, you're right...we are all given a choice. God gives us all free will to choose. I pray that somehow you will see the light. God bless you and keep you.
CTB1939 said…
By the grace of God, I heard of and believed about Him, Christ, and His Holy Spirit at age 50.
By the grace of God, I began regular fellowship with other believers.
By the grace of God, I was inspired to begin systematic Bible Study at age 55.
By the grace of God, today at age 66 as I continue to study, my faith, trust, and the assurance of my eternal destiny is unshakable.
By the grace of God, I have the liberty to read imaginative historical fiction about Jesus and to enjoy it as much as I would any other of the genre.
I've never read Ann Rice but two of my three daughters have and I'm looking forward to sharing the experience with them through this novel.
People have learned of Christ in many different ways and their lives have been transformed as mine has been.
Who knows what reading this story may encourage in a seeker?
As I have matured in the grace and knowledge of God, I'd like to believe that it could lead to reading the Bible for themselves.
Thank God for His gift of communication given to Ann Rice.
Thank you Ann for using your talent in such a way!
Perpetua said…
Great review...I am looking forward to reading this book for my birthday this month.

Years ago I was a witch and obsessed with Vampire stories...I had started reading Anne's books when I was 15 and met her at a book signing when I was 18...(Memnoch).

After becoming a believer 7 years ago a love of vampires was left behind as was Anne's books.

When I recently read the reviews for this book and Anne's recent struggles I was moved to tears, of sadness and joy.

Initially I was skeptical when I found out what the books was going to be about...I didn't know Anne had come back to her faith and I was worried the books would be blasphemous...I am thrilled to hear this isn't the case and that her faith is genuine...it will be nice to have Anne's work in my life again...like tea with an old friend!
A.P. said…
I too cannot wait to read that book. I deeply admire Anne Rice, and I respect her decision to take such a big step in writing "Christ the Lord" . I'm sorry for those who bashed her online, and didn't realize how worthy of admiration that woman is.

I hope the book will be released here in Italy soon. Otherwise, I'll just have to order it, and read it in English - which would be even better, for, as good as it can be, translation is always a filter which alters the original texts. I have read a few books by Anne Rice in English and I love the way she writes.
Anacaona said…
No matter what you wrote I would have run out and bought this book, read it and loved it because I totally respect anything Anne Rice has put into writing.

Nevertheless, I have now directed people towards your review so that they too can feel how I feel.

Thank you.
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Pedro said…
Thanks for the review - I greatly appreciated it.

As a pastor I feel oblidged to investigate things such as Anne Rice's new book and I have to say I really enjoyed it in the same way I enjoyed Gibson's The Passion of the Christ - as a work of fiction created out of reverence and devotion.

People would do well to avoid the trap of determining their beliefs based upon this book (or any other book/film for that matter)...but as a pointer to the authentic Christ of the Gospels I think Rice has done an amazing job.
Pedro said…
P.S. Yeah I know I can't spell.
Mardi Gause said…
I think it is wonderful to read something from Anne besides vampires. I have read all of her books and find this very refreshing. I can not say I would not like another vampire story, but a person will tire with the same old same old. I am impressed with her range and research.
Marakesh said…
I find it wonderful that Anne Rice has found the Lord and turned from the dark side.

To respond to OneVoice's statement that "There is no Biblical evidence that Jesus performed miracles... before the changing of the water to wine," I would say that when Mary turned to her Son Jesus at the wedding feast to have Him "solve" the little problem of running out of wine, her action implies that both He and she knew that He could fix it, and that they most likely had had some previous experience with His miraculous power.

I look forward to reading my first Anne Rice book! I pray that many of her former readers will stay loyal fans and read her new material as well.
Jatico said…
Wow, there are a lot of very good comments here, I have so much to say to so many... unfortunately I don't have the time.

As an old fan of rice, and a strong Christian, I worry about books like this. I worry not for believers, but for unbelievers, who are incapable of sorting fact from fiction. Just look at the buzz that the Da Vinci code has caused, I know several people who take that entire book as fact! They have not nor will not take the time to check facts. Yes I said facts. The Bible can be proven. The truth is out there. But even if there wasn't proof if one would just take the time to apply the same principles given to other bodies of literature the Bible would not be scoffed at.

But that’s just my opinion.
As a devout Christian "missionary", I have little concern recommend this book to any reader, as I believe that it reflects an entirely faithful and creative consideration of the early years of Christ. Any place where Rice uses creative license, she acknowledges in the authors notes- though, even in these instances, I find no cause of concern that the person, life and message of Christ are in any way compromised by them.

This book has served to bring Jesus to a deeper and truer reality in my own faith. I look forward to reviewing it on my blog soon.

Peace,
Jamie
Linda Robinson said…
Haven't read the book yet but I hope to soon; I'm a bit troubled about the idea Jesus' unfolding knowledge about His identity; being no theologian I hate to make any flat statements but I believe that the Catholic Church teaches that He was always aware of His divinity. I'll try to find something in the Catechism -- can anyone help me out here?
Anonymous said…
I thought my appetite for reading would never again be fulfilled when I turned the last pages of the Vampire chronicles. Alas, this book, Jesus, Out of Egypt, has done it again! I am so captured! Thank you in so many ways for what you have done, you have created a hunger in me, so to speak, for the story and life of Jesus. I have begun to read some of the books that you have attributed to your research. I am looking forward to your next book of the life of Jesus. Please continue!!!
A bit of humor…… I always share my books, however, this book is something different, so rather than part with it, I purchased several copies and gave them as gifts! Thank you for this beautiful creation! I applaud you!!!
On pins and needles for your next, Lorie
Anonymous said…
I thought my appetite for reading would never again be fulfilled when I turned the last pages of the Vampire chronicles. Alas, this book, Jesus, Out of Egypt, has done it again! I am so captured! Thank you in so many ways for what you have done, you have created a hunger in me, so to speak, for the story and life of Jesus. I have begun to read some of the books that you have attributed to your research. I am looking forward to your next book of the life of Jesus. Please continue!!!
A bit of humor…… I always share my books, however, this book is something different, so rather than part with it, I purchased several copies and gave them as gifts! Thank you for this beautiful creation! I applaud you!!!
On pins and needles for your next, Lorie
Mary Louise said…
I am 65 and a reader of many genre. I am a Christian, a searcher of "truth" (fiction or nonfiction)and have found "truth" in many places within literary works, via various other media, through converstation, experiencing the natural world, etc. My truth is found everywhere I choose to see it, hear it, feel it, experience it. I thank God for my individaul mind to think while, walking with Him, as I live my life. Anne Rice has prompted me to open my mind to many aspects of life,(evil as well as good, the supernatural as well as the natural)she has made me think in ways and down avenues I had never thought I would venture. CHRIST THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT has again provoked me to think in new ways and brought me closer to "my truth" which will bring me closer to GOD'S TRUTH. I thank EL for the gift of free thinking and seeking!!
It is within all of us to make our own choices. I disagree with many forms of organised religion, most of all with some of those based mainly in the red states. It is common belief in some of these places that thier way is the only way, and as we were all born with free will so were we all blessed with the gift of finding our own way to god, or lack thereof.
Anonymous said…
Those who blast Anne for her belief in God, look at yourselves..... Just why are you so angry with her????? strange.....
Isnt belief a personal choice? Shouldnt such open-minded individuals such as yourselves have the "open-mindedness" to respect that without insult and rolling of the eyes..... Not as open minded as you all claim to be.... what a surprise....
Anonymous said…
I have read the book...although it was a few months back. I am an avid fan of Anne Rice, and have been so far numerous years.

As far as I'm concerned, God is everywhere and in everything..whether you're a "Christian", "Muslim" etc...it doesn't really matter (in the bigger picture...I hope you catch my meaning)

This book was incredible.

Anne Rice is such a talented creation of God.

I love all her work
Anonymous said…
If only it was possible to review a religious book without getting one's personal beliefs involved.
I applaud Anne Rice's audacity and skill - her narrative and imagination are astonishing. The characters feel real and wholly believable, they invoke the reader's concern and sympathy every step of the way.
Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think this book was written or published as a way of raising the profile of Christianity or as a tool to convert new Christians therefore to use it as such without the author's intent is vulger.
Likewise is insulting fellow reviewers (to Mr Anonnymous two above me in particular.)
As regards the book - it's as much a delight to read as a work of fiction based on a historical figure as it is a devotional aid for believers.

P.S. personally, for the curious, I'm an atheist
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