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June 14, 2005

Jesus: An Intimate Portrait

{NOTE: This is my blogging review of the book Jesus: An Intimate Portrait by Leith Anderson. I received this book through Mind and Media as a gift from the publisher (Crossway), who donated the books for the reviewers.}

I haven't really finished the book I had intended to read before this one, but I found myself in need of some lighter fare after slogging through Part 2 of Total Truth. In looking at this book, and reading some of the reviews, I thought that it would be a fictionalized biography, similar to Taylor Caldwell's Lion of God and I, Judas -- both of which I have read and enjoyed. This book isn't what I thought it would be.

Anderson seems to be undecided about which direction to take his book -- fictionalized account or conversational non-fiction. The book certainly begins as if it were fictionalized, discussing the needs for the trip to Bethlehem and the condition of Mary. And much of the book is written in that vein.

But that is what makes the departures all the more jarring. And I'm not referring to the sidebars that Anderson has peppered throughout the book (which while helpful, would have been better appreciated as footnotes). The best example of this can be found in Anderson's discussion of Christ's childhood. He starts off, "Little is known about the rest of Jesus' childhood." While true, this is a somewhat jarring intrusion of a non-fiction narrative in the midst of an otherwise fictionalized account. I think this entire section could have been included as an appendix, with a note at the end of the chapter pointing readers to this further information.

The narrative that Anderson has written is tied so closely to the Biblical text that the book could simply have been marketed as a paraphrase of the four Gospels. I was expecting more; Anderson certainly has the knowledge to have written something on the scale of Caldwell's works, but doesn't here. I also didn't gain much more understanding of the land or the people, certainly not the "intimate portrait" promised by the subtitle. That can be excused as the error of a marketing executive with an overactive imagination (and an overused thesaurus). Unfortunately, the expectation that this marketing ploy creates is not fulfilled in the book, and that is the ultimate criteria by which the book should be judged.

I think this book is a good resource, particularly for new Christians who want to study the Gospels but are intimidated by studying the Biblical text directly. For nonChristians who have not read the Gospels, this book is a good introduction to Christ's life as portrayed in the Gospels. But the book fell short of my expectations, and that is unfortunate.

Posted by Warren Kelly at June 14, 2005 07:30 PM | TrackBack
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