In college I took a “History of World Religions” class taught by my favorite college professor (the one that gave me my superhero name). One day that quarter I was waiting for a friend in the Student Union, and I pulled out my required reading for that class: A Life of Jesus by Shusaku Endo.
I was completely engrossed in its pages, when some guy I’d never met before approached me. “I hate to ruin it for you, but he dies at the end.” He then walked off. Now, I’ve already said how much I hate it when people do spoilers, but even my uptight self saw the humor in that.
In thinking back to college, that is one of the few books I read because I had to that was also thoroughly enjoyable, (well, that one and all the ones I read for my American cultures class). The strange thing is that all I remembered about the book was the comment made in the student union and a feeling that it was good.
I decided to reread it.
It was still a good read, but a darker one than what I remembered. The Jesus in these pages was a highly tormented soul. Endo keeps focusing on Jesus’ eyes and the pain behind them. This book was designed to introduce the Japanese population to Christianity in a manner that fit with the cultural backdrop of the island nation. Seeing the familiar stories through a different lens was enlightening to me – the emphasis on Jesus’ human side and the burden that he carried throughout his life was so different from those I’d heard in Sunday school growing up.
After the huge controversy about Fox news and the book Zealot, written by Reza Aslan, a New Testament scholar who is Muslim, I put that book into my library queue.
When I received it last month, I was excited to see yet another perspective. If it had been assigned reading in college, it would have been an interesting one, but it didn’t have enough to draw me in without the threat of a grade lingering over it. The emphasis of the first part (the only part I read) was about the temple system in Jerusalem. I did learn some really interesting things – that Herod’s official title was “King of the Jews” and that his family had converted to Judaism generations back. Part of his spending so much Roman money on the temple was in an attempt to be fully accepted by the Jewish community. That type of information really excited me, but there wasn’t enough to keep me turning pages.
Have you ever re-read some assigned reading years later out of nostalgia? or Am I the only one that finds the entire concept of religion fascinating?