“A prophet is never respected in his own country,” people say. How much more true that must be within the prophet’s own family. It is a conceit of the human experience that we all imagine ourselves on the right side of history, whether by that we mean speaking truth to Stalinist power or choosing to embrace the philosophy of a little-known and by the standards of the time seditious Galilean carpenter.
Alas, most of us are not so gifted as to recognize the Messiah in our midst. But this month’s interview at New Books in Historical Fiction—with Ann Swinfen, author of The Testament of Mariam
and many other books—addresses exactly this question. Suppose the
prophet is your brother, known to you since birth? Suppose his best
friend is your fiancé? Would you follow him along his journey? Could you
bear to watch him on the cross? Or would you, like other members of
your family, declare him mad and wash your hands of him, only to change
your mind after the fact?
The rest of this post comes from New Books in Historical Fiction:
a town in eastern Gallia, circa 65 AD, an old woman learns that she has
lost the last of her siblings, a man she has not seen for thirty years.
The news propels her back into memories of her past as Mariam, the
rebellious young daughter of a carpenter in Galilee and her experiences
with her family, including her oldest brother, Yeshua—the New
Testament’s Jesus of Nazareth.
Yeshua struggles to find his
place and his mission in Roman-occupied Judah, a hotbed of unrest where
Galileans are especially suspect. For a while, he lives among the
Essenes, where he masters their medical knowledge, but after a year he
realizes that his low social standing limits his advancement within the
order. The Essenes’ philosophy is, in any case, too restrictive for him.
Yeshua returns home, determined to aid the poor as a healer and a
teacher. But his neighbors, and even his own family, have little
sympathy for Yeshua in this new role. So he sets off on a journey that
will lead him to the Sea of Galilee and on to Jerusalem and a fateful
confrontation with Roman power. Throughout this journey with all its
doubts, failures, and successes, he is accompanied by Mariam and her
betrothed, who is also her brother Yeshua’s best friend, Yehuda
In lucid and captivating prose, Ann Swinfen
traces the story of Yeshua the Galilean as he and his sister Mariam
travel through the first-century Levant in pursuit of his destiny. The Testament of Mariam
(Shakenoak Press, 2014) contrasts this story with the heroine’s life in
old age to present new and compelling insights into the familiar Gospel
Come back next week, when I will post more about Ann Swinfen’s books and her journey toward self-publishing as ShakenoakPress.
Audio book fans, note that The Testament of Mariam is now available as an audio book as well as Kindle and paperback.