by Randall Allen Dunn
I sat down and leaned against the low wall. I could barely see over it now. With all the families huddled so near, and so many backs to me and so much chatter and soft singing to children, I thought I was hidden.
It was dark now and there was torchlight all over the city, and loud happy cries, and plenty of music. Cooking fires still, or maybe fires for warmth as it was a little colder. I was a little colder. I wanted to see what was going on below. Then I didn’t. I didn’t care.
An angel had come to my mother, an angel. I was not Joseph’s son.
In Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, an adolescent Jesus grows up surrounded by family, and surrounded by mystery. He knows that he is unlike other children his age. He also knows that his parents and several family members know why. But none of them will tell him. Over time, he has to discover the truth for himself.
More remarkable than this fictionalized account of Jesus’ search for his true identity, however, is the author’s personal search for truth. This well-researched portrayal of the life of Christ was penned by Anne Rice, the famous author of Interview with a Vampire and its successive horror novels.
The paperback edition of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt contains two revealing afterwords in which Anne Rice describes her return to her Catholic faith in 1998, after many years of resistance. She realized that, in many of her novels, she was questioning the nature of God, and the nature of people. She wanted to know how people and societies can be so passionately devoted to moral causes without any connection to God whatsoever. She questioned what morality is, what faith is, what life is, in various cultures throughout the world. She ultimately concluded that she didn’t have the answers, but that she believed in God. She writes:
I went from being a committed atheist, grieving for a lost faith which I thought was gone forever, to realizing that I not only believed in Jesus Christ with my whole heart, but that I felt an overwhelming love for him, and wanted to be united with Him both in private and in public through attendance at church. … I’d lost faith in atheism. It no longer made sense. I wanted to affirm the presence of God because I felt it. Yet I was tormented by a multitude of theological questions and social issues that I couldn’t resolve …
I realized that none of my theological or social questions really made any difference. I didn’t have to know the answers to these questions precisely because God did. … And why should I remain apart from Him because I could not grasp all that He could grasp?
When her husband suffered a terminal illness, he encouraged her to continue pursuing her newest goal: writing a series of books depicting the truth of Christ’s life. Although he remained a committed atheist, he praised her for her progress in researching the difficult subject.
I wanted to write the life of Jesus Christ. I had known that years ago. But now I was ready. I was ready to do violence to my career. …
Even then I did not know what my character of Jesus would be like.
I had taken in a lot of fashionable notions about Jesus – that he’d been oversold, that the Gospels were “late” documents, that we really didn’t know anything about him, that violence and quarreling marked the movement of Christianity from its start. I’d acquired many books on Jesus, and they filled the shelves of my office.
But in her research, she discovered to her amazement that many New Testament scholars, having dedicated their lives to studying Christ, didn’t respect the subject of their studies. And she found no evidence to support any of their theories, which seemed to be based on opinion and speculation.
I was unconvinced by the wild postulations of those who claimed to be children of the Enlightenment. And I had also sensed something else. Many of these scholars, scholars who apparently devoted their life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ. Some pitied him as a hopeless failure. Others sneered at him, and some felt an outright contempt. … I’d never come across this kind of emotion in any other field of research, at least no to this extent. It was puzzling.
The people who go into Elizabethan studies don’t set out to prove the Queen Elizabeth I was a fool. They don’t personally dislike her. They don’t make snickering remarks about her, or spend their careers trying to pick apart her historical reputation. … People studying disasters in history may be highly critical of the rulers or the milieu at the time, yes. But in general scholars don’t spend their lives in the company of historical figures whom they openly despise.
So Anne Rice decided to do something radical: to research the historical Jesus of the Bible. She spent years researching the Jewish customs of Jesus’ time, his family relationships, and the political turmoil the Jews faced under Roman occupation. The result is a surprising view of Jesus that highlights the miraculous, without ever losing the sense of his humanity and helplessness.
This is a book I offer to all Christians – to the fundamentalists, to the Roman Catholics, to the most liberal Christians in the hope that my embrace of more conservative doctrines will have some coherence for them in the here and now of the book. I offer it to scholars in the hope that they will perhaps enjoy seeing the evidence of the research that’s gone into it, and of course I offer it to those whom I so greatly admire who have been my teachers though I’ve never met them and probably never will.
I offer this book to those who know nothing of Jesus Christ in the hope that you will see him in these pages in some form. I offer this novel with love to my readers who’ve followed me through one strange turn after another in the hope that Jesus will be as real to you as any other character I’ve ever launched into the world we share.
Thank you, Anne Rice, for diligently seeking the truth.
Check out Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt at amazon.com!