King Jesus, long out of print, is one of the most controversial historical novels of all time. In it, Robert Graves has summoned his superb narrative powers, his painstaking scholarship, his wit and unsurpassed ability to recreate the past, to produce a magnificant portrayal of the life of Christ on earth.
About the Author
Robert Graves (1895-1985) was a British poet, novelist, translator, and critic. His many books include the historical novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God, the autobiography Good-bye to All That, and the mythic/literary studies The White Goddess and The Greek Myths.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Robert Graves treats the story of Jesus with imagination and courage, developing a narrative that accounts for most of the detail of the Gospels while going further to explain contradictions and unrealistic stories than any writer ever has. Graves places Jesus within the House of Herod, making him the issue of a secret marriage between Antipater (son of Herod the Great) and Miriam, a young temple virgin. Because of the threat to his life from Herod the Great, Jesus is reared in Alexandria, the world's center of learning. The young Jesus is a prodigy, mastering the elements of his religious instruction at a pace that shocks and enrages his elders. On his family's return to Judea, Jesus joins the Essenes, only to understand their greatest mysteries so quickly that he is expelled. He begins his sojourn, meeting along the way all the personalities we know through the Gospels. Graves' great facility with poetry and ancient traditions allows him to postulate new paths to the fulfillment of prophecy. As Jesus approaches the end of his tale, Graves gives us a messianic figure in the throes of failure. Jesus' strange behavior prior to his arrest and execution make more sense here than in any writing I've ever come across. This novel is probably not for the devout Christian, since so many conventions of Christianity are discarded for more reasonable and historically plausible explanations. But for those intrigued with Jesus' story, yet unconvinced by the accounts in the Gospels, King Jesus is superb. I personally have serious doubts as to whether Jesus really existed. King Jesus is the most compelling argument that he may have, and is the best explication of the various details attached to Jesus' story ever published. On the down side, the vocabulary is challenging, and the scholarly treatment of prophecy is exhaustive. The book may require multiple readings before its central notions become easy to reflect upon. It is certainly worth the effort, and for his pains the reader is rewarded with a dense tapestry of prophetic fulfillment and archaic Jewish mysticism. I rate King Jesus as one of the greatest books of the 20th century.
King Jesus provides an alternative semi-historical account of Jesus including the possibility of his secular legal right as king of the jews. Research also prompts Graves to give alternate meanings of biblical terms such as 'amen' (he was firm) and the real name of Jehovah. A tough read for those not familiar with religion at the time of Christ but worth it for lovers of Graves' historical novels.