The Young Messiah, the cinematic adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, is coming soon to theaters and Ballantine Books is rereleasing this modern spiritual classic as The Young Messiah to tie-in with the movie. We thought we’d therefore take the opportunity here at PopMythology to reread it and review it freshly for those who have not yet discovered it. (Last spring we also discussed both of the books in the Christ the Lord series and how they relate to what we perceived as the spiritual journey of Anne Rice as reflected in her novels).
The book is a fictional interpretation of the life of a seven-year-old Jesus. The story centers around the return of the young Jesus’s family to the town of Nazareth after the flight to Egypt to escape the mass slaughter of young boys by King Herod. The book does include the sole biblical reference to Jesus’s childhood, his visit to the temple in Jerusalem, but it also contains many other stories imagined by Rice whose painstaking background research for the book is clearly evident, and the settings and events maintain historical plausibility.
The Young Messiah is also interesting from a couple of theological angles.
First, it approaches an area head-on where the Bible is oddly mum, Christ’s childhood. I would imagine this gap has vexed many a Christian scholar over the years. Of course, it is possible that some of the non-canonical gospels given the boot by Pope Innocent I and now lost to time contained more stories of Jesus’s youth. But it is also an interesting conundrum to consider the young Christ and what his inner life might have been like. A child is unformed in character, with partially developed thought processes and reasoning – what does it really mean to be a non-adult Messiah? Or if Jesus was born fully knowing and precocious, how is it that Christ actually experienced all that it was to be human? Rice’s approach is an interesting one: in her imaginings, the divinity is present but latent. Christ’s realizing of his Godhood comes from the experiences of his childhood, each human encounter coloring in principles of Christianity. Thus the tales in the book become concrete examples that exemplify teachings of Christ’s ministry.
The other intriguing aspect of The Young Messiah is from a standpoint of controversy, or lack thereof. There is much Christian literature in existence – stories of spiritual journeys, re-imaginings of the live of saints, etc. But this book is a new fictional story of Christ himself. I would expect that in that past, penning such a tome would likely have gotten one burned at the stake for heresy. In fact, it was not too long ago that Salman Rushdie was nearly assassinated for writing The Satanic Verses and bookstores were firebombed for carrying the novel. It is refreshing to see that there has been none of that with Rice’s Christ the Lord series, even from reviewers such as The Christian Post. Instead, the books have been embraced for what they are, the reflection of one woman’s journey of faith and contemplation of what the story of Jesus truly means.
Beautifully written, meticulously researched and infused with palpable passion, The Young Messiah is very highly recommended not just for Christian readers but anyone who can appreciate intelligent and historically rich spiritual literature.
The Young Messiah will be in available in bookstores Jan. 26.