I've never read a book by the Thoene's before. Quite honestly, I've never even known how to pronounce their last name. (It's pronounced "TAY-nee" by the way.) I've always thought the Thoene's wrote Amish, sappy, girly novels (according to the cover designs), so I never even picked one up off any bookstore shelf. The title of the book, "When Jesus Wept" sounded intriguing, so I figured it was a perfect chance to read one for free.
Am I ever glad I did!
HISTORICAL FICTION: As I read just the first few chapters of this historical fiction novel loosely based on the life of David ben Lazarus (aka Lazarus), I turned to the back pages and read about the Thoene's. Apparently, they have a number of historical fiction novels and series that are anything but sappy sounding.
"When Jesus Wept" is the story of Lazarus, and it is narrated in first-person by Lazarus himself. It's as if he were narrating to you his life story at the dinner table. It was rather interesting, because the story takes the reader into the life of Lazarus as he meets a new man on the scene, Jesus. Jesus and his teachings seem to be having profound influence on the people and the religious authorities of the region. And what impact it has on Lazarus, his family, and his livelihood have relevance to any reader today.
As Lazarus told his story, the teachings and life of Jesus inter-twined that of Lazarus's everyday life. Familiar stories were made more personal -- like the crippled beggar at Solomon's Portico (who was young and given a name) and the cripple at the pool of Siloam (who was a man who once defrauded Lazarus's father, and whom Lazarus forgave), etc. Although the stories' details are not necessarily biblical, the fiction aspects provide the reader with a little more personality and imagination in the biblical narratives.
ONE PROBLEM: I had only one issue with the book. On page 269, Lazarus is engaged in a conversation with a certain loved one in heaven (before he was raised from the dead by Jesus). I will not mention who it is, but this person, when referring to heaven, says, "I was not sorry to return home...here." This troubled me theologically because, after all, a return implies a person or thing was once somewhere, went somewhere else, and then went back to the original place. Return. And there is one particular cult that suggests humans existed as spiritual beings before their physical birth. After physical death, then, they return to their creator in heaven. Thankfully, they did not suggest in the novel that the particular loved one became a god.
This particular view is NOT one that is taught in the pages of the Bible. However, I searched in efforts to find out if the Thoene's had theological views other than Biblical Christianity. Since I could not find anything that either confirmed or denied my question, I relegated it to the possibility that the authors made a poor word choice in this particular conversation.
THE END: I was a little disappointed with the ending of "When Jesus Wept". It wasn't bad; just not what I had expected. However, it certainly left the door open for a second book in "The Jerusalem Chronicles".
RATING: Overall, I give "When Jesus Wept" 4 1/2 stars. I loved it, to be completely honest. Bodie's writing style is unique and highly descriptive, and I found myself clinging to her word usage, and Brock's historical research made the story even more believable.
Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Booksneeze (Thomas Nelson Publishers) in exchange for my unbiased review of. All opinions are mine. I was not threatened or coerced to provide a positive review.