Historical fiction about Jesus sans ax to grind?

I’m looking for fictionalized account of the story of Jesus. One that isn’t written as propaganda. Can anyone recommend one?

I’m not sure this is what you’re looking for, as it’s really, really fictionalized, but it’s a book I enjoyed so much I always try to work it into conversation: Lamb : The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. Now it’s a humorous novel, but in that wise satire I’m-saying-something-important-here kind of way. Very Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchet in feel. It’s certainly not trying to be historically accurate as such, although most of the details of daily life are pretty accurate (and those that aren’t, like the invention of coffee, are pretty obvious.) It is not a retelling of the bible story, but an imagining of what Jesus might have been like as a real guy. It does include episodes that are suspected by some of happening, but not canon, like bringing dead birds back to life as a child and studying Buddhism in his twenties. It’s an interesting read and axe free.

I don’t think there are any such books. We know essentially nothing of Christ’s life other than what’s in the Bible. Anything we add must inevitably come from our own beliefs and hence be propaganda, in some sense. I think the book that WhyNot recommends is intended as satire and includes much that is the author’s own guesses and beliefs.

I quite liked the Last Temptation of Christ. It´s Kazantzakis´ answer to the question “who was Jesus the man?” It´s not at all satirical, and in fact is considered a wee bit heretical by some. A wacky friend in college wouldn´t even watch the movie with us because he claimed the book is on the Vatican´s list of banned books. (Sidenote: Is this true? I never bothered to check if the Vatican even maintains such a list. I expect both the tropics are on it, though…)

Anyway, I wouldn´t say it had an axe to grind, but it definately has a point of view.


Ok, and also, it´s not really about the life of Christ, as told in the Bible. It´s the life of Christ as a somewhat unwilling vessel of God, who isn´t sure what´s happening and how exactly to deal with it.

Oh, and after you finish reading the book you can watch the movie with Willem the Foe for the best Jesusifying ever caught on film, bar none.

Best part: “Don´tcha get it? I´m the farmer!”

Ask and you shall receive: The Greatest Story Ever Told, by Fulton Oursler.

King Jesus by Robert Graves. I found it to be a fascinating read. It only roughly follows the biblical text.

cckerberos, I’ve never heard of that book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I loved his Claudius novels.

“The Last Days of Jesus Christ the Vampire” by E.G. Eccarius probably does have an axe to grind, but that axe is like, really insane and stuff.

I like The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, by Jose Saramago (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature a few years ago). It does have an axe to grind, I guess, but it doesn’t pound you over the head. Also, it has the benefit of being absolutely brilliant.

They used to have such a list, but it’s been done away with for quite some time now. I think by the time LTOC came out, it was long extinct.

Well, I guess that rules out Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Perhaps The Robe?

Brothers: The Untold Story of Jesus’ Evil Brother. Very disturbing.

Well, I might get totally laughed out of this thread, but since you didn’t mention what format you were interested in, I just wanted to throw Jesus Christ Superstar out there. In addition to great music, I find it to be a non-glossed over way of telling the last 7 days of Jesus’ life. It also spends some time looking at it from others’ points of view.

It’s only as in-depth as any 2-hour musical can be, but I’ll still take it over Sunday School any day.

Good point. And it’s pretty Biblically accurate as well. The composer’s father was a minister, who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, so he composed this to show his father that there’s more than one way to bring the story of Jesus to the peeps. (Or so I read in a program years ago.) The composer being Andrew Lloyd Weber, of course. [/hijack]

This may not be quite what you’re looking for, but I love this book:


It’s by Jim Crace, very well-researched fictional account on Jesus’ 40 days in the desert rendered in less supernatural terms. Almost like what would happen if Monty Python did serious work instead of comedy. I think it’d be a great movie if somebody could do it without problems with more extreme elements of the viewing public.

It holds up well to additional reading, too.

Since they’ve done it for Jane Austin and Mark Twain and various others, I expect that we’ll very shortly see a series of mystery books…

  • Jesus Christ and the Case of the Stolen Loaves
  • Jesus Christ and the Case of the Missing Wine
  • Jesus Christ and the Case of the Dense Water

Jesus Christ and the Prisoner of Azkaban would be a sure-fire best-seller.

I think every single book mentioned so far is an example of rewriting the life of Jesus with an ax to grind. Just because the worldview in the book you mention happens to match your worldview doesn’t make it any less a piece of ax-grinding. An interpretation of the life of Christ is just that - an interpretation.