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Before Bethlehem [Kindle Edition]

James J. Flerlage
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (450 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $10.95
Kindle Price: $2.99
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Book Description

The Pinnacle of History through the Eyes of a Boy

This spellbinding work of historical fiction offers the eyewitness account of 15-year-old James, son of Joseph bar Jacob, and the dangerous and heartrending choices his family must make in the days leading up to Joseph’s relationship with Mary, and the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

With crisp prose, tangible description and thought-provoking insights, Before Bethlehem takes readers on a vivid journey to the dusty Galilean village of Nazareth, where Joseph is summoned by Rabbi Boethus, a Sadducean high priest, to marry an orphaned virgin in Jerusalem. By accepting the Rabbi’s request, Joseph unknowingly thrusts himself and his family into a bitter and emotionally draining life-or-death conflict.

Joseph fights to maintain his spiritual integrity while trying desperately to keep his family together and his farm alive. He and James witness abhorring violence at the hands of the Romans, and outlandish abuses of power by their own religious leaders. As his family’s faith and hopes are threatened by scandal and scorn, James struggles between the boy he is and the man he must become.

Before Bethlehem is an eye-opening account of the Nativity story told in a suspenseful, historical context that dares to ask the question: If Joseph should have turned Mary over to be stoned, why didn’t he? His profound answer is one that forever changes the life of his son, James. And it may just change yours, as well.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"A historical novel set on the eve of the birth of Jesus Christ. 

Set in early first-century Palestine, Flerlage's historical fiction debut is narrated by James, the son of Nazarene carpenter Joseph, who, after his first wife died, went on to wed a young girl named Mary and have with her their more famous son, Jesus. Young James tells the story of normal small-town life spiked with social and political unrest simmering just under the surface. Tension among the Jewish people, their religious leaders and their imperial Roman overseers lurks behind the scenes Flerlage effectively dramatizes. Although many moments are quiet and quite evocative--the larger-scope bitterness is never far away: 'It seems that every time our people protest or revolt, the Romans end up crucifying, spearing, burning, boiling, and ultimately killing anyone in their way, including innocent people.'

Joseph and James travel to the great Temple in Jerusalem, the heart of both Jewish faith and Jewish unrest, and all along, Joseph displays intelligence, impatience with Roman rule and a wry sense of humor. 'How do you know if a man is really speaking on behalf of God?' James asks Joseph, to which he chuckles and replies, 'I have no idea, but if you ever meet a prophet, would you introduce me?' Flerlage fleshes out the story with excellent pacing and dialogue, and he doesn't fail to deliver what many readers will be expecting: Joseph's meeting Mary--their marriage and the babyhood of James' half brother, Jesus. 

A warmly personal portrait of Joseph, earthly father of Jesus.

Readers who've enjoyed religious fiction from Taylor Caldwell and Francine Rivers will particularly enjoy."

- Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

James Flerlage is an experienced writer, researcher and speaker. His articles have appeared in national and international magazines and in syndicated business and technology publications. Among other credentials, he holds a master's in business administration, a graduate certificate in professional writing, and is a graduate of Sewanee University’s Education for Ministry program. James is happily married, the proud father of two daughters, and active in his church and community. In his spare time, James enjoys drumming, fishing and reading. He is currently working on his next novel.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1067 KB
  • Print Length: 295 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0989828107
  • Publisher: Dreamscapes Publishing; 1 edition (November 16, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GNIIW8K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,622 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
156 of 160 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars masterful storytelling, but Biblically inaccurate December 13, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
So here's the thing. If you are not Catholic, and want to read this story, you need to make up your mind right now to accept that this book is going to stray from nearly everything you know to be true. If you read it as a work of pure fiction, you will enjoy it. However, if you read it as "Biblical fiction", you're going to want to throw your Kindle across the room a thousand times. Save yourself the aggravation and just don't buy it if you are looking for something that will line up with Scripture, because this one strays so far from it, and so frequently, that it will be a waste of your money.

BUT... if you are willing to read it as simply a work of fiction that is (very, very) loosely based on something resembling the Bible, then cozy up on your couch for a great read. Despite a few typos that should have been caught by the editor, James J Flerlage writes a beautiful tale that brings the characters into vivid focus.

Because I am not Catholic, I do forewarn readers what they can expect to find troublesome... So here are the highlights... or should I say the low-lights... and this is definitely not an all-inclusive list.

NOTE: The list below may be considered spoilers, although I am taking care to be as vague as I possibly can while still giving the heads up about what contradicts Biblical teaching.

* Based on Catholic theology; Mary claims to have known no sin. The book follows the traditional Catholic teaching of perpetual virginity and assumes that Joseph already had a family with a previous wife who had died. His youngest son is almost as old as Mary is.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far more enjoyable than I expected December 30, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am a lover of SF, but I am also a Christian who makes a kind of vow that at Christmas time I try to read at least one book in memory of that remarkable period when Jesus Christ was born. I chose Before Bethlehem and glad I was that I did so. This thoughtful book makes clear the harsh realities of Roman-occupied Palestine, the hard choices that Joseph bar Jacob had to make not only in taking Mary for his wife, but in keeping her after she was found to be pregnant. The book ends shortly after Jesus is born and as the Holy Family is about to make the trek to Egypt. I am hoping that Mr. Flerlage will write a sequel or two to finish out the story. This story was so good that I shared it with my church when I was done. Get this book. It will give you much more of an understanding of what the God of the Universe gave up when He came into this world as a little baby, in a land boiling over with strife and hypocricy, but also it will show you a side of the common Jewish family as they strove with all their might to understand God's will for them and serve Him faithfully. Again I say, get this book. It will entrance you.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Bethlehem November 12, 2013
Format:Paperback
James Flerlage delves into the times and the spirit of the era into which Jesus was born. While Before Bethlehem is historical fiction, his research places the emphasis on the historical and the spiritual. The political-religious climate of the times into which Jesus was born were charged with Roman abuse which tends to be overlooked when the nativity story is portrayed in the sweet baby Jesus mode. The reader will close the book at the end with a greater knowledge of the dangers faced, the faith and courage revealed by the Holy Family. Descriptions of travels through the countryside, sites in Jerusalem and beyond, sounds and smells in the streets, waves in the Jordan bring the reader into first century Judea. Quite an amazing book!
And did I mention that the characters come alive on the pages. Felt the emotions, suffered the anguish as well as their joys.
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104 of 126 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
The area that Jesus was born into was Judea not Palestine. (That Roman insult to the Jews wouldn't even happen until 100 years after Jesus' crucifixion and in response to a revolt against Roman rule.)That is why Jesus was a Judean (Jew) and not called a Palestinian, even though those that practice religious supersessionism seem to think any insult to Jewish history is fine.

Why would anyone want to read a book that claims to be based upon history but doesn't even know the name of the nation in question?
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! November 28, 2013
Format:Paperback
I loved this book and never really considered what might have taken place leading up to the birth of Jesus. The story is compelling, suspenseful, and drew me in immediately. It is evident from the detail that the author thoroughly researched what everyday life was like during this time. I highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wortwhile January 3, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
While I don't think anyone can really know what is historically accurate, I found this to be a very enjoyable book.
It presents a view of life in a time of oppression, strict religious law and doctrine.
A powerful theme of forgiveness, family, and struggle to interpret and accept God's will.
Some very thought provoking issues are raised in various discussions that are very relevant today.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Bethlehem by James J. FLERLAGE January 6, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This tale is a powerful insight into Palestine and the Jewish culture at the Tim leading up to the birth of Christ. Particularly poignant is the treatment of women in that society. I recognize the way women are currently treated in today's Muslim women are treated today. This is a well crafted story and I highly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I liked the book , but doubt the accuracy of the story.
Published 4 hours ago by linda jenson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyed reading this.
Published 5 hours ago by Charlotte Tupps
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I hope there's a a sequel!
Published 5 hours ago by andrea stilwell
4.0 out of 5 stars very interesting Christmas story.
Flerlage presents a fascinating, unexpected and doctrinally possible story of the nativity. Be prepared to be challenged on your preconceptions, but everything here is within the... Read more
Published 21 hours ago by Vernon Fueston
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD READ
Only about 1/2 done - But so far it is excellent.
Published 1 day ago by Donna
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I really enjoyed reading this prior to Christmas this year! The characters are well thought-out and felt authentic.
Published 1 day ago by Shirley conder
5.0 out of 5 stars A Long Way To Grow
Before Bethlehem is a must read if, like me, you have ever wondered how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lived, let alone survived, their travels and travails before Jesus began His... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Bob
5.0 out of 5 stars Did you think of this angle?
This is an interesting take on the birth of Jesus. The author takes the reader into ancient religious controversies and then a twist on Jesus' birth.
Published 1 day ago by Dee
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book. The Christmas story from Joseph's view
Very good book.The Christmas story from Joseph's view. So good I am purchasing a copy for my Mom for Christmas! One I will read again and again.
Published 1 day ago by Barb Davis
4.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff!
Very interesting. Poignant.
Published 1 day ago by Candie's Sanity
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More About the Author

James Flerlage is an experienced writer, researcher and speaker. His articles have appeared in national and international magazines and in syndicated publications. Among other credentials, he holds a master's in business administration and is a graduate of Sewanee University's Education for Ministry program. James is happily married, the proud father of two daughters, and active in his church and community. In his spare time, he enjoys drumming, fishing and reading. He is currently working on his next novel.


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