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Book review: A trio of companion books to 'The Bible' TV series celebrate Easter, Christmas

By Denise Russell

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 11 2014 3:40 p.m. MDT

Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus in the film "Son of God."

Twentieth Century Fox

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett recently released three companion books to their TV miniseries "The Bible" or to the movie "The Son of God."

"THE BIBLE: A Story of Easter and All of Us," by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, Faith Words, $20, 127 pages (f)

Downey and Burnett tell the story of Jesus’ last days on earth, from the fulfillment of prophecies by Old Testament prophets with his entrance in Jerusalem while riding on a donkey to his merciless crucifixion at the hill Golgotha on the outskirts of the city.

Political intrigue involving the Jewish Sanhedrin — the high council made up of Pharisees and Sadducees — and the Roman governor, the astonishment of Jesus’ followers at his condemnation, Jesus’ betrayal and suffering are all brought to life through the use of photography from their acclaimed 2013 TV series, “The Bible."

The authors’ engaging, modern-day account of the events, which preceded the resurrection of Jesus, based on the New Testament Gospels and the last four episodes of the TV series, fills in the blanks for readers regarding what might have transpired behind the scenes in Jerusalem in the beginning of the first century. The book contains detailed description and photographs of the injuries inflicted upon Jesus.

The portrayal of Christ resurrected, along with the book’s final pages, help “A Story of Easter and All of Us” to convey a message of hope, a message intrinsic to the Easter season.

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"THE BIBLE: A Story of Christmas and All of Us," by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, Faith Words, $20, 124 pages (f)

“A Story of Christmas and All of Us” is another adaptation of biblical texts by Downey, best known for her role in “Touched by an Angel,” and husband Burnett, a television producer. The book presents, in present-day style, an account of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, focusing on how Joseph and Mary overcame difficulties through faith in and obedience to God in all things so the Son of God could come to earth.

Based on the sixth episode of their TV series “The Bible," the book takes readers through the events culminating on the night baby Jesus was born in a barn. Three Magi from the East follow the bright star hoping to meet the “great man," whose birth had been foretold by ancient prophets. Herod, the Roman self-proclaimed “king of the Jews," was weary of losing power to a Jewish child. Thousands of children and adults were killed in his paranoid fight to reign over the Jewish nation, but the life of Jesus is spared as Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt.

Photographs from the TV broadcast contribute realism to the storytelling, and the authors succeed in explaining in simple terms this important milestone in Christianity.

"SON OF GOD," by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, Faith Words, $15, 144 pages (f)

“Son of God” is a novel based on the New Testament. The book is a companion to the motion picture by the same name that tells the story of the life and mission of Jesus from his birth to his crucifixion. The novel dramatizes, in Hollywood style and with contemporary language, what is recorded in the Bible as it depicts the events celebrated for centuries by Christians. The events and language are so intertwined that one may find it awkward to read the authors’ rendering of Jesus’ words when Early Modern and contemporary English are used together: “Our Father... who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

Students of gospel doctrine may be surprised by some of the novel’s passages, such as their commentary on Christ’s mission, including that the star announcing his birth “also spread the news to those who need to hear it most: locals, shepherds, neighbors, and ordinary people. These are the ones whom Jesus has come to save…”

Downey and Burnett wrote an entertaining story with the purpose of acquainting non-believers with Jesus. This book accomplishes it, albeit with debatable gospel accuracy. As in the previous books, the photography heightens the story’s drama.

Denise Russell majored in psychology at the University of New Hampshire. She is an entrepreneur, blogs about quilting and crafts at www.piecedbrain.com, has three boys and a grandson. Email: derussell22@gmail.com.

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