As part of my Lenten study/practice this year, I am reading a historical fiction book entitled, Mary Called Magdalene, by Margaret George. It essentially tells the story of Jesus’ life, but from the perspective of Mary Magdalene. In truth, not much is known about Mary Magdalene, although Bible scholars have many theories about her, so a great deal of the book is the author’s invention. However, she did use both the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) as well as some of the gnostic gospels for her research, in addition to some historical sources, and the storyline follows quite closely the stories told in the Bible. So while fictional, Margaret George’s book is really as plausible a story as any!
It’s a thick book (629 pages!), so I’ve been reading it for a few weeks now, and I am loving being immersed in Biblical times during this Lenten season. I enjoy historical fiction because it fills in so many of the details that make a story come alive for me such as descriptions of the landscape, the clothing, the food, and cultural practices. This book allows me to feel like I’m there, and has really helped me to understand the stories in the Bible so much better because now I have clearer pictures in my mind to accompany them. I feel like this book is not only giving me a better understanding of the story of Jesus’ life and how the various events unfolded, but I feel more connected to the story, the times, and the various characters.
I usually try to read something about Jesus during the Lent and Advent periods as a way of deepening my relationship to these ancient stories and getting to know the figure of Jesus better. I believe Rev. Vicky has a similar practice. I tend to prefer books with a historical basis, but sometimes the more creative or inventive ones can be fun also, and can give us a new insights about things we thought we already knew or understood. For example, last year Vicky and I both read The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, which is a wonderfully moving story about the fictional wife of Jesus told from a woman’s perspective.
If you think you might like to read something about Jesus to help you understand his life and teachings better, here are a few more recommendations: Son of Mary by Randy Ingermanson, Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg, Joshua: A Parable for Today by Joseph F. Girzone, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. You might even find one or two of these books in our church’s lending library or in the Sacred Grounds bookstore. Happy reading!