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Book review: 'The Five Books of Jesus' is a fictional look at the life of Jesus and his disciples

By Mike Whitmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, April 14 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"THE FIVE BOOKS OF JESUS," by James Goldberg, CreateSpace, $12.95, 330 pages (f)

Serious students of the New Testament are fascinated with the stories and teachings found in the four major gospels or testimonies of Jesus Christ’s disciples. The rich messages give substance to individual lives and help many as they try to live righteously in a difficult world.

But there is much missing from the writings that would be of great interest to the common person. Very little is mentioned concerning the day-to-day activities of Jesus and his disciples as they traveled throughout the Holy Land. And not much is known about the individual personalities of the apostles and other disciples.

James Goldberg’s new book, “The Five Books of Jesus,” is a thought-provoking fictional story of how things might have occurred in the lives of those who encountered Jesus of Nazareth during his ministry. Friends and foes alike had strong feelings for the man from Galilee and his message, but the author does not shy away from examining difficult perceptions. Romans, Jews, believers and former followers share experiences as Jesus moves throughout Judea teaching the word of his father.

Set in the combustible days of the Roman occupation of Israel, the story has all the characters readers recognize from the New Testament. Yet, with some poetic license, Goldberg has humanized many of the players and circumstances from the old stories.

For instance, when Peter challenges Jesus’ declaration that he must soon die (see Matthew 16:22), the conversation is expanded to offer a possible reality:

Peter leans in close and his whisper comes out harsher than he intends: “Then what’s the meaning of this scripture? I call heaven and earth to testify this day against you, that I have set before you life and death …: so choose life that you and your children after you can live. Don’t tempt me, says Jesus …. Then stop talking that way, says Peter. Jesus tears his arm away. Get away from me Satan!! Whose side are you on? (p. 183)

Written in a very poetic and lyrical style, “The Five Books of Jesus” is easy to read and understand. The insights are the author’s own additions but seem to follow the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This book would be a good addition to any gospel library and would bring pleasure to those who give it a chance. Goldberg is a Latter-day Saint and is currently a teacher at Brigham Young University.

"The Five Books of Jesus" is a 2012 Whitney Award finalist in the historical category. The Whitney Awards recognize the words of Mormon novelists.

Mike Whitmer lives in West Valley City and loves to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. His email is grundelwalken@gmail.com or he blogs at mtwhitmer.blogspot.com.

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