Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lapses of Attention -- A Review of James Goldberg's The Five Books of Jesus

by James Goldberg

Not long ago, I gave you (my dear readers), some advice on how to review The Five Books of Jesus without even having to read it. If you have not put one of the recommended glowing reviews up on Amazon yet, please do so before you read my actual review of this book.

Done? OK. Let's proceed.

The Five Books of Jesus by James Goldberg is one of the most engaging and sloppy books I have read in a long time--and not just because I read very few books.

Take the title itself. It's pretty clearly a play on the five books of Moses--and sure enough, this book is split into five "books:" "In the Beginning," "The Gathering," "And He Called," "Sinai," and "Words." Since "In the Beginning" is the Hebrew title of the Book of Genesis, it seems like everything matches. But if you actually go to check, you'll notice that the author only gets the first, third, and fifth books right.  The second book should be "Names," not "The Gathering," and the fourth should be "In the Desert," not "Sinai." Sloppy! What is he thinking?

Focusing on a few naming mistakes may sound nit-picky, but they're part of a larger pattern. Take the story where an apostle cuts off someone's ear and Jesus says that "Whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword." In the Gospel of John, that apostle is identified as Peter. But for some reason Goldberg identifies the chopper as James instead. Is this author just careless? Or actively crazy?

Take another example. After fleeing to the ten cities to avoid Herod, Jesus decides to send his twelve apostles back across the Jordan River into Galilee as missionaries--and miraculously, the waters of the river divide for them to cross. Miracles are common in stories about Jesus, of course, but Goldberg has the wrong miracle here--he seems to have confused Jesus with Joshua!

I could go on at some length, giving countless examples of the sloppiness in this book, from the 70 vs. 72 issue to the sudden absence of chapter numbers in Book Three. But I think you get the point.

This book has been called a "marred masterpiece," but it's mostly just a pile of mar. Whatever that means. Remember: just because an author is reasonably good-looking and has won a national award doesn't mean you should trust all his work.

(But, you know--buy the book anyway. The writer's kids are cute, and they deserve to have Christmas this year.)


  1. I'm glad someone else picked up on that James-as-Peter garbage. I nearly put down the book after that heresy.

    1. I did put the book down! Though, admittedly, I only put it down on the table in front of me. And it was still open. And I kept turning pages....

  2. Oh horrors! The women are too often portrayed in the *kitchen* of all places? Housework?? Yeesh. Let's hope my life never gets memorialized by historical fiction.

    1. Actually, Merrijane, my next work of historical fiction is set in early 2012, and a fictional version of you is the protagonist!

      But don't worry. I break up the housework scenes with your exciting work in the insurance industry and action-packed Facebook surfing sequences.

  3. I've written a letter to Deseret Book preemptively asking them never to sell it.

    1. And somewhere an editor at DB is either pulling her hair out or cackling with an insane sense of release over that letter.

      Not only does she have to deal with reader concerns over the books she's actually selling--you've vindicated her sense of by making her accountable burden for your responses to every book in the world.

      The preemptive letter was the logical extension of every DB editor's headaches. Good work, Katya, in making that letter a reality!


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