I was reminded of Don Delillo's 'Libra', an imagined reconstruction of the Kennedy assassination whilst reading it; it seems like History but imagination fills the gaps and the blending is done so skillfully, you have to remind yourself that it's a novel and not a textbook on nascent Christianity. On top of that, Carrere works himself into the story, much of which is told with analytical It's important to read the front cover of 'The Kingdom', because it clearly states under the title "A Novel".
On top of that, Carrere works himself into the story, much of which is told with analytical self-revealing honesty.
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Ostensibly a reflection on the writer of Luke's Gospel, it is at once revealing at a human level but frustratingly credulous on so many aspects of nascent Christianity that I couldn't help the feeling that Carrere is pulling his punches or not altogether abandoning his Catholic roots and looking at the actual evidence with a sufficiently critical eye. Others however will read 'The Kingdom' and consider it profane.
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Ultimately, it's a dense and rewarding work that's more than what it seems, whether it's dealing with the journeys of Paul and Luke or the autobiographical journey of the writer from Christianity to nonbelief to somewhere altogether more satisfying than both. Extraordinary book. Perhaps I'll write a blog post about it. I thought it was a boring book, since it's about the first Christian communities after Jesus' death.
But I was wrong. The author has been able to make it really enjoyable even thanks to his irony and his great ability. I don't consider myself a Christian, but I think anyone interested in the topic should read this book. I have always been curious about the writing and evolution of the Bible.
If you enjoyed "Zealot" by Reza Aslan you'll probably like this.
It is as if he spoke your language but mispronounced it. How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right? But Carrere fits the bill. Carrere is fascinating and frustrating, and his greatest assets are his compelling style and transparency. First, a note about genre. At least the first third is memoir, as Carrere recounts his life as a writer of books and screenplays who once had a three-year Catholic revival phase. Now, decades later, Carrere looks back on the man he used to be and tells us his historical theories about how the New Testament was written.
But Carrere projects his own doubts onto Luke as well, and he clearly goes too far in putting himself at the center of this story. Carrere has a strong voice that carries the reader along. He assumes he knows what words mean and what people are like and walks the line between funny and glib, between self-mocking and sneering. Too often, he confidently assumes the worst and imports a modern view that comports suspiciously close to that of Imperial Rome, confirming my own suspicions that Roman empires and modern empires alike both have a visceral, unconscious antipathy to the gospel message that they cannot see themselves.
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Carrere gets how Christian worship and Eucharist are ordinary things filled with glory and grace that run counter to default human behavior. My awareness is not the point of prayer, so I can even pray without being aware of it. Carrere follows the age-old academic argument of putting a wedge between Jesus and Paul, and between James and Paul, and between Old Testament and New Testament witness, and even at a late point between Luke and Paul, no matter how central Paul is to Acts! This was a crisis but not the earth-shaking crisis that Carrere assumes. Like with prayer, Carrere is overly literal about end of world and adopts an attitude that presents itself as modern but literally predates atomic theory.
Obliteration is the return of a Gnostic Jesus! Several times Carrere indicates that his biggest influence is Ernest Renan, whose Life of Jesus is years old now, and it shows in sections like this. Everything old is new again. The differences are real and probably do reflect some authorial differences, but maybe not. Just look at 1st and 2nd Corinthians and note that the style differences between these even within these!
Two of the best parts of the book are in the Epilogue for opposite reasons. The second is much scarier. Carrere starts to imagine why good Roman emperors would nonetheless harass and murder Christians. He says it must have seemed like Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which your friend is not your friend anymore, and implies that your friend is not even human anyone. This is entirely plausible and a chilling window into how very good people can be led to do very bad things. This is how it happens, and with this wedge between the human and the Christian, Carrere plays the role of the good Roman citizen with his confident allegiance to Empire uber alles.
The Christian community is different views living together, Jew and Gentile, men and women, all one in Christ.
We have a model of that community in the canon itself. John, Paul, Mark, and Luke are indeed contrasting voices but the question is whether they relate in harmony or dissonance. As a reader of the community of scripture, I can choose to embrace each author, learning to love and live together, or I can try to place wedges, saying one must be right, and I have to choose between them. Accepting the different voices of the canon is itself an act of following the Sermon on the Mount and emptying yourself.
Carrere slices away everyone else and is left with himself and Renan. Ok, as many reviews have suggested, you have to get past the relentless and overwhelming narcissism of the book before you realize you are reading an absolute masterpiece. Given our times, I suppose that it is somehow suiting that a book so taken with the self like this could become a representative masterpiece and it is interesting that the book functions so well as such. Even the Bible is here to illuminate the hero's self-love.
Not what can he say about life and the early church but what can Ok, as many reviews have suggested, you have to get past the relentless and overwhelming narcissism of the book before you realize you are reading an absolute masterpiece. Not what can he say about life and the early church but what can life and the early church say about him? You will hate him. And yet, make no mistake this is a great masterpiece. It really calls to mind the Brothers Karamazov, which the author refers to several times in fact in the book.
A philosophical novel in the old tradition-or a memoir gone crazy?
His early church story is dazzling. It is also a fascinating meditation about what is belief and faith. Someone who had not been once a believer even for a short time span probably could never have written this book. He was a Christian who now flirts with Yoga and Buddhism and is very self-conscious of this all. Also, for anyone interested in Philip K. Dick, Carrere is brilliant. I don't think he has made any theologians mad yet either.
The author's spiritual journey, described so compellingly and honestly in the first part of this book, engaged me tremendously. Alas the rest of this work failed to reach the same level and eventually I had to just stop reading. Travelling outside the boundaries of his personal path, Carrere has handed us a mess of a text, blending self-indulgent thought experiments with haphazard synthesizations of a collection of religious scholars.
This Frankenstein approach lurches from paragraph to The author's spiritual journey, described so compellingly and honestly in the first part of this book, engaged me tremendously. This Frankenstein approach lurches from paragraph to paragraph, one situated in daydreams about what might have been, the next advancing insufficiently documented historical analysis and critique.
It's an irresponsible approach and no doubt many readers will walk away believing they have learned something about events from long ago, when in reality we have no way of critically evaluating the basis of the author's non-fictive statements without pulling out, completing, and tracking down all of the half referenced sources he draws upon.
The big take away for me is that novelists and journalists are not historians and should not enter that space unless they can commit to a rigorous historical method. Jul 05, Anna Maria Ballester Bohn rated it liked it. At times I was convinced this was going to be a four-star book, but I lost my interest a bit towards the end, which may of course not be the author's fault at all, alas.
If you are at all interested in Christianity as a historical phenomenon and really you should be if you want to understand western civilization , this is a must read. It's full of humor, compassion and really interesting to read, so it shouldn't be too hard to do. Certainly recommended. The first 90 pages were some of the best introspective writing I've ever read. The imaginative ideas that Carrere dreamed up in The Kingdom can never fully dilute his polarizing personality. But whereas Aslan sought to create a historical Jesus, Carrere focused instead on trying to explain the appeal of early Christianity.
This purpose established two interwoven narratives that comprise the core of The Kingdom: one is a personal The imaginative ideas that Carrere dreamed up in The Kingdom can never fully dilute his polarizing personality. His account never felt compelling because he seems to shy away from discussing it with any personal depth.
Instead of focusing on how he felt during this period in his life, we are treated to his recollections of the various activities he did in the name of his piety. Even when Carrere discusses material from the fifteen journals he wrote during this period, most of the content seems to be meditations on various biblical passages.
This unwillingness to interrogate the inner-workings of his faith is particularly frustrating because this account takes up a considerable amount of space within The Kingdom. Borrowing from Hyam Maccoby, his Paul is failed Sadducee rabbi, prone to bouts of perpetually illness, and paranoid of any dissent or attempt to usurp his authority in promulgating his vision of a new faith. However, Carrere is at his best when he envisions plausible scenes in which these characters interacted.
He depicts Luke, a trained doctor, meeting Paul for the first time when the latter is critically ill. As Luke treats and keeps watch over his convalescing patient, Paul reveals his revelation and purpose for his life. By the time Paul is recovered, the two have formed a bond and leave to proselytize together. Carrere wants the The Kingdom to be an exploration into what motivated the earliest followers of Jesus to dedicate their lives to spreading his teachings.
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It succeeds in moments when historical fact merges with inspired invention to form a story about how various followers collectively remade the kingdom Jesus described as one not of this world to ensure that it would proliferate. While he plotted to corner Christians, he realized that he was avoiding the most obvious interview subject, his former self, assiduously detailed in journals years before. As his reminiscences and his tale develop, he reveals the secret that lurks in the book: he wanted to write about the historical Jesus, and was too afraid to do so because of the emotional and spiritual implications of such a project.
Instead, he edges around the man, or the Man, as he once believed—he details the historical development of Christianity through history and Biblical scholarship as they touch Luke and Paul as apostles, writers, and historical figures. His publisher classifies this as fiction, which it is, in part, so I was worried that I might not be able to tell what was pure speculation and what came from historical research or, in a third category, what came from church doctrine but was without confirmed historical basis.