The Liarsí Gospel Review
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Over the last 2000 years, the story of Jesus has been told over and over again by a multitude of people. But rarely do we stop to think about the origin of the stories, as author Naomi Alderman does in her thought-provoking novel, The Liarsí Gospel.

The Liarsí Gospel offers a different take on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. This isnít the story of the Messiahóthe Son of God. Itís the story of a popular preacher who was most likely a bit off his rocker, as seen by people who tended to embellished the truth where convenient, to tell the story that they wanted people to hear.

This, then, is a story told through the eyes of a lonely mother, a disgruntled disciple, a politicking high priest, and a ruthless rebel against Rome.

As you might expect, The Liarsí Gospel is a challenging novel. Itís important to remember, of course, that it isnít a true account of history; itís an artistís interpretation. But it still offers some interesting insights into the time surrounding Christís life (and death) nonetheless. Alderman uses great detail to depict the unrest in Jerusalem, which was brought about by the Roman occupation of the city, and she shows how the historical context played into the story thatís told in the gospels.

  
 
At the same time, the novel also challenges readers to take a step back from the gospel stories to see Jesus the way that others may have seen him at the time. A former Orthodox Jew, Alderman makes her viewpoint quite clear: that Jesus was one of many preachers of the day, but his tragic story was twisted and exaggerated and turned into anti-Roman propaganda. Some of the assumptions and observations that she makes will obviously frustrate Christian readers from time to time. But the story poses an interesting question: if you were around at the time and observed Jesusís behavior, how would you react? Would you believe him and follow him, or would you think that he was just another crazy man, preaching on the street corner?

Another challenge, meanwhile, is Aldermanís style. She insists on using original translations of the charactersí namesóMiryam instead of Mary, Yehoshuah instead of Jesus. And her insistence on doing so feels self-servingóbecause while it proves that sheís clearly done her research (and some may be impressed by her knowledge), it really only serves to distract and frustrate readersómost of whom would have been much more comfortable with the familiar versions of the names.

The novelís focus also has a tendency to wander. While the first two stories tend to revolve around Jesus, the last two seem somewhat irrelevant to the story. The story of Jesus is just a brief aside for Caiaphas, the High Priest, whoís more concerned with keeping his job, keeping the peace, and (especially) finding out whether his wife has been unfaithful. And the rebellious Barabbas (Bar-Avo) only encounters Jesus briefly, toward the end of his storyóthough the encounter does resonate quite strongly.

Despite its occasional distractions, though, The Liarsí Gospel offers a fascinating new perspective on the gospel story. Your own beliefs are sure to color your readingójust as the authorís beliefs colored her writingóbut if youíre willing to keep an open mind about its interpretation of the events, youíre sure to find it both interesting and insightful.


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