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Friday, December 14, 2018

A LIFE of JESUS by Shusaku Endo. Translated by Richard A. Schuchert

First published in 1973.

Denial of Peter by Rembrandt (1606-1669)
Shusaku Endo was a rare thing - a Christian from Japan. He also grew up mostly away from Japan (in China) and spent a considerable amount of his young adult life in France. When he was in Japan, he was different because of his religion. When he was in France, he was different because of his ethnicity.

This re-telling of the Jesus' life emphasizes this idea of being an outsider. Jesus is never want people want him to be. John the Baptist's followers want him to continue to teach like John the Baptist. His early followers want him to perform miracles all of the time. His later followers want him to overthrow the king and drive out the Romans. Meanwhile, Jesus is teaching lessons about love and forgiveness that no one seems to want to hear.

Endo's Jesus is a melancholy man - who wouldn't be when your main message is ignored and everyone wants to you be something you can't be?

Endo chooses to pass over most of the miracle stories of Jesus because he wrote this book for a Japanese audience and he is convinced that his native countrymen will not accept those stories and will reject the entire message because of them. This has been a point of contention with some critics.

Endo also makes some assumptions that are interesting, but not necessarily in the Gospels. For example, he writes an interesting take on the story of Peter denying Jesus three times on the night that Jesus was betrayed by Judas. He looks at a few facts and makes a compelling (albeit completely circumstantial) argument that Peter didn't just deny Jesus, he went to the Temple leaders and made a deal with them that saved the lives of the disciples if they promised to only take Jesus. In effect, this makes them every bit as guilty as Judas and also makes them the very first people that were saved due Jesus' death on the cross. It has a compelling sense of completion and does explain why the disciples were not rounded up in the days following the crucifixion.

An interesting take on Jesus. Well worth the time to read it. 

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: A LIFE of JESUS by Shusaku Endo.

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