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?
8 thoughts on “A Life of Jesus”
OK, I admit it – I’m the kid in the back of the room who never complained about an assigned reading ever because I simply and truly love to read. I will read anything – I give it all a fair shake. And in that spirit, I always finish whatever I start. OK, with the one exception of the one book I simply could not finish – Wicked. Worst book ever. Perhaps someday I will give it another try because, frankly, it haunts me that I did not follow through to the end. But ugh.
I have read much about the book Zealot, but have not yet read it. Books about religion fascinate me – I had a minor in Christian Theology in my undergrad. Around here, we are often particularly intrigued by books in that category because we are a multi-faith family and I personally love seeing how things fit together. So I’ll be interested to check out this one as well as the required reading you mentioned at the top – have never heard of it and I think it’s one I’d enjoy.
Thanks for two recommendations to add to my always-growing to-be-read pile!
I love reading, too. I admire your ability to stick with books all the way through to the end (we will leave “Wicked” out of the equation).
“Zealot” has a lot of really interesting information. I think you’ll enjoy it. That and “A Life of Jesus” are very different perspectives on their subject.
Oh, I’m a rereader. I’ve kept books from college simply so I can reference them years down the road. I have to admit that one book in particular was interesting to me. I reread a history book that I found really fascinating. The nerdy thing about it was that it was a textbook. Yeah, I read a textbook for fun, but the amount of information in it was eye-opening. It’s amazing what you can read and forget only to reread it and realize just how much you forgot the first time you read it.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Reza’s book, but I haven’t had a chance to actually pick it up or browse through it. I honestly have so many other books on my to-read list. I figure I’ll eventually get to it.
What a great experience to find a textbook interesting enough to want to reread it!
With so many books out there, I find it a guilty pleasure to reread one. I know what it is like to have a seemingly endless to-be-read pile. Being part of paperbackswap means I have a whole stack of things I need to read sitting there begging me to read them!
Oh I love the different perspectives, Tammy. One of my favorite books was one I picked up at a Student Union library about world religions. It wasn’t even for a class I had. And the LDS church’s view of Jesus is fascinating too. These would interest me, as well.
And a favorite textbook of mine from my college days, which I still have, is A History of the English Language.” It’s filled with so much history and language and insight into how our crazy language came to be and is still evolving. They are a living, organic thing.
The LDS view of Jesus is fascinating to me, too. I just read a book from that perspective, and it was great.
I’ll have to check out “A History of the English Language.” I love both history and language. What a wonderful combination.
Most recently I reread The Catcher in the Rye because it was one of my favorites, having reread it a couple of times in high school. I so related to his cynical nature.
This time around I found myself thinking, “Holden Caulfield is a spoiled brat” and being aghast at his animosity towards women. I’ve read a few articles since then about this very subject, that even teens today can’t relate to his brand of angst.
I read Catcher in the Rye the year after I graduated from college and my response was the same as your recent reading. I couldn’t understand why someone didn’t just smack him. I also never experienced his brand of angst (I love that turn of phrase!).