Friday, February 15, 2008

I signed up for the Book a Month challenge at this webpage: I read at least a book a week, so I figured how hard could this be. However, since I spent January in Israel, I never did get around to posting the book I read for this challenge.

I hope it is not too late.

Title: The Nazarene
Author: Sholem Asch
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading Level: Adult

I read The Nazarene by Sholem Asch. It was the perfect book to read while on my trip. It was also a good read for books on time, since it was book with time travel of a sorts as the method for telling the story of Rabbi Yeshua ben Joseph, otherwise known as Jesus.

Asch was a Polish born novelist who wrote much of his work in Yiddish. However, in 1939 he chose to write the life of Jesus - this book - The Nazarene. Many of the places that I visited on my tour of Israel were in this book so I spent a lot of the trip saying - I just read about that.

What I can't figure out is why Asch wrote this book. According to Ellen Umansky, Asch started this project after visiting Palestine in 1909. "Since that time I have never thought of Judaism or Christianity separately," Asch told a reporter of the New York Herald Tribune. "For me it is one culture and one civilization, on which all our peace, our security and our freedom are dependent." However, in 1939 it was the height of Hitler's power. The Jewish people could not have wanted to read about the G-d of their oppressors. Why didn't Asch just stick with what he had made popular.

Umansky's article ( is an excellent introduction to Asch and his Passion trilogy. And it does give some reasons why Asch may have chosen to write his trilogy.

I am not going to rush out to recommend this book to all and sundry. One of the early paragraphs went on for two whole pages. This is not the type of reading that an average 21st century reader is going to rush out and grab off the shelf.

However, if you want very different telling of Jesus' life - this is the book for you. I guarantee you this is not the story from Sunday School.