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on January 11, 2007
I'm a huge fan of LaHaye and Jenkins, and I love almost all of their other books. I'm a big fan of Historical Christian Fiction. But this book is just plain awful.

The character development is non-existent. I just finished the book last night, and there are only four characters that I can even remember (John, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Cerinthus). I didn't feel like I knew any more about those characters when I finished.

The plot is dull and unimaginative. It's basically just wrapping a boring, pointless story around the Gospel of John and The Revelation of John. Just reading those two books from the Bible would have been far more rewarding.

If you want to see how Biblical Fiction can be done well, read any of Ellen Gunderson Traylor's early works. They're page-turners that expand upon the truth found in the Bible, illustrate the personalities of people from the Bible, and highlight the nuggets that are so easy to miss in the Bible. The only thing that kept me turning pages in "John's Story" was the hope that it would improve. It never did.
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on December 1, 2006
I agree whole heartedly with the first reviewer. At first I was excited to see LaHaye and Jenkins together again. I had read the entire Left Behind Series and I am eagerly awaiting the final book Kingdom Come. I was disappointed in some of LaHaye's other works like the Babylon Series but was wiling to give him another chance in this new series since he partnered back up with Jenkins. But I have to say that this new book which from what I gather is the first in a series of 4 books of each of the Gospels was very disappointing. Like the first reviewer I was hoping to get some sort of insight into John himself, maybe a bit of Christian history.....not so. This book was the Bible verbatim! After the first chapter it's been all down hill since. I'm only half way through and I'm finding it a struggle to finish the rest. It's a far cry from the Left Behind books which I could finish in a day or two. I will most likely finish the book but will not bother purchasing any more in this series.
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on January 10, 2007
I also recieved "John's Story" as a present and was very excited to get it. I have read all of the Left Behind books, (multiple times) and even another by Jenkins, "Soon," which is not part of the LB series, but similar. "John's Story" is a "page turner" in some places, but the padding with verbatim text from the NIV version of the Gospel of John is too much. There is nothing mentioned about John's ministry from AD 33-90ish, where John is one of the three pillars of the Jerusalem church...no mention of any family (wife, children...why not?) Also, I believe that in Ephesus (sorry, don't know the modern name of the town) there are four graves in the shape of a cross. One is purported to contain John, another grave contains Mary, and I don't know who's in the other two graves (maybe Polycarp and Ignatius?) If that's the case, Mary most likely accompanied John to Ephesus where she later died.

"John's Story" could have had more detail about his life before, during and after his interaction with Jesus.

If someone loans you a copy, fine. Read it. Buy it used if you must. I am looking forward to the FINAL Left Behind book, though.
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VINE VOICEon January 24, 2007
John, the disciple Jesus loved most, is the only disciple left. All the others have been killed for their beliefs. Currently in prison awaiting his sentence, John wants to get his story about his life with the Messiah out to the rest of the world. When an attempt to boil him in a pot of oil fails, John is sentenced to exile onPatmos. Before he goes, he dictates his story to Polycarp in hopes that others will listen to it and believe.

When I first heard the premise of this novel, I was excited. I thought it was going to be the New Testament through John's eyes during that time period. I thought the story would be first person narrative from John's point of view from when he grew up, to meeting Jesus, throughout Jesus' ministry, after Jesus died, etc. Unfortunately this book was not at all what I expected. I didn't feel this book to be on the level as the Left Behind series. To me the story was just verbatim the Bible with a little background story for continuity thrown in. I did find the Gnostic believer and his arguments with John very interesting with that belief brought to contemporary popularity these days. I wish they had included more of that discussion. I also did find John's attempted death in the oil fascinating. However the rest of the book was not exciting or even uncovering anything new. Also the author's felt the need to include all of John's works from the Bible in the book. So really, the 300 page book is only half a novel. This wouldn't be such a problem if the story wasn't EXACTLY what was in the Bible. It almost feels like the authors were afraid to create a character for John, different that how he is always portrayed. You don't know anything about his personal life at all. Seeing as how John was the disciple Jesus loved the most, I expected more from this book. I only hope that for the other books, they change the format and include more original story and less repetition.
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on June 5, 2007
Who was the last eyewitness to testify about seeing the miracles of Jesus with his or her own eyes? Regardless of the number of times one has read the New Testament, many have forgotten this key fact about John, the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel of John, three Epistles and, finally, the book of Revelation on the Island of Patmos. JOHN'S STORY, by Left Behind authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, marks the first installment in The Jesus Chronicles, a four-book series that features each Gospel through the eyewitness author.

The opening pages begin in Rome in 95 A.D. with the aging disciple almost 90 years old. He appears before the Emperor Domitian, who had a reputation for cruelty with Christians. The Emperor labels John a heretic and, before a huge coliseum crowd, sentences him to be boiled in oil. Manacled at his hands and feet, the Apostle is lowered into oil until he is kneeling. In the heat, his manacles soften and he boils to death, while the crowd watches and cheers. To everyone's surprise, Jesus works a miracle on the order of the Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego story. Thousands of people believe in Christ upon witnessing John's preservation from the boiling oil. Domitian is furious and wants John killed, but this is impossible because the sentence already has been carried out. Instead, the Emperor assigns the old Apostle to hard labor on the Island of Patmos.

>From this dramatic opening, the authors flash back to the previous year and the events in Ephesus, which motivated John to write his eyewitness account about Jesus. The rise of Gnosticism among the Ephesians is served to readers in the vehicle of John's stories about Jesus. Cerinthus leads a group of Christians into forming a Gnostic church that denies the power of Christ and promotes the idea that someone can work their way to heaven, which is a contrary message to the teachings of Jesus. This drives the elderly Apostle to write his stories with the help of his scribe, Polycarp.

After the creation of his Gospel, soldiers come one night and take John to Rome. At a chapter break, the story picks up with John working tirelessly on Patmos and his vision that becomes the book of Revelation. Some readers will be surprised to find the New King James Version Bible text for John's writings in the final third of this volume. It shortchanges expectations for a full-length novel, and instead they receive a novella-length story.

LaHaye and Jenkins have written a book true to the messages of Scripture. They use the vehicle of fiction to help people understand the hardship and faith walk of the Beloved Apostle. I found it to be a fascinating journey and recommend it wholeheartedly.

--- Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin
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VINE VOICEon December 6, 2006
. . . because there is no "Zero" star option.

Upon putting this book down, I didn't know whether to cry or to retch.

Yes, it is that bad.

Just to clarify a few points, before I get bashed as an anti-Christian kook:

I am a devout Christian; I have been all my life; I have dedicated my life to serving God and the Church, and to spreading the good news; I am a teacher, and spend my time encouraging the study of Scripture and Church History.

I am also, by training, an historical theologian. To me, this book is worse -- WORSE -- and more dangerous to authentic Christianity than was the atrocious "Left Behind" series. The "Left Behind" series sensationalized a view of the "End Times" popular amongst certain groups of fundamentalist Christians, using a discredited 19th century interpretation of Revelation. Fine. If someone wants to misinterpret the Bible, they are free to do so.

But "John's Story" does more than that. It is a dishonest and distorted view of history. And frankly, the authors have no excuse -- because it is obvious to any trained historian that primary source material was used. Real names of real Early Church Fathers are mentioned, for example, Ignatius and Polycarp. Real Church traditions are recounted, for example, the attempted execution of John in a vat of boiling oil. The authors obviously know what the early Church documents say -- and they deliberately distort them.

I fault "John's Story" not so much for the things that are related -- but rather for what is conveniently left out, and what is re-interpreted to fit a 21st century, independant fundamentalist mindset.

Item: The account of the wedding in Cana of Galilee is used to support a very "symbolic only" theology of Communion.

Item: The account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand completely omits the entire "Bread of Life" discourse -- which independant fundamentalists find very problematic.

Item: The role of Mary in the life of John is almost obliterated. Yes, it is noted that Jesus gave over the care of His Mother to John -- but the importance of why He did so is distorted and minimized. Then -- Mary pretty much drops out of the story, even though the Apostle cared for her for the rest of her natural life.

Essentially, the authors used primary source material to provide character names -- and conveniently omitted anything in those very same primary sources which might have caused them theological angst.

The authors' vision of the Early Church is just not predicated in reality -- and the reader needs to know this going in. Forewarned is forearmed.

If the reader of this review does not believe me, I would challenge him/her to examine the primary source material for him/herself.

Check out:

The Didache. (AD 75-100)

The Letter of Clement to the Corinthians. (AD 90's)

The Letters of Ignatius of Antioch. (AD 117)

The Martyrdom of Polycarp. (AD post 155)

See for yourself. Ask yourself this question: "Did LaHaye and Jenkins give an accurate portrayl of the Early Church and the leaders of the Early Church?"

I think that you will find that the answer is a resounding "NO"!

Leaving theology aside, the book is just plain poorly written. The dialogue is vapid at best, and the book is heavily "padded". The last third of the book is nothing more than a reproduction of the Johannine corpus taken directly from the New Testament. I teach on the university level, and I see "padded" papers all the time. I fear that "Dr." LaHaye and "Dr." Jenkins would have a difficult time passing my Introductory course!

Don't waste your time. Don't waste your money.
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on November 30, 2006
First of all, I want to make it clear that the single star rating is not for the subject of the book (which I endorse wholeheartedly), but for LaHayes' and Jenkins' exploitation of the Bible. First they gave us the Left Behind books which they stretched into an entire series over a period of time longer than the Tribulation itself, ostensibly to "help spread the Gospel" but - more likely - to generate as much income as possible. Now we have "John's Story: The Last Eyewitness."

I was excited to get the book and settled down to read it, expecting something along the lines, perhaps, of Taylor Caldwell's "Great Lion Of God," a fictional account of the life of St. Paul that brought him to life and made him "a real person" whom I could really relate to. Unfortunately, that is NOT the case with this sorry excuse for a novel.

The book is divided into three parts. The first two are supposed to be a fictionalized account of John's last years, just before he wrote his Gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation. I was eager to learn more about the customs of the times, more about everyday life, and - especially - about Patmos. Unfortunately, this part of the book was pretty much a combination of the Gospel of John, verbatim, interspersed with vapid lines of dialogue between John, Ignatius, and Polycarp, usually drivel like: "What did He mean?", and "I think He meant...." Did I learn anything new about John, or about his world? No - and neither will you, unless you don't already know that, despite several attempts to kill him by the Romans, John was the only apostle who died a natural death. (And now that you know that, if you didn't already, you don't need to buy the book!)

The last part of the book consists of the writings of John, exactly as you can find it in your Bible - that's it.

My recommendation? Don't waste your money by giving it to this pair; give it to someone in need, or buy a book that will add to your knowledge of the Word, not just repeat what's in it. There's nothing in "John's Story" that you won't get by reading the Bible itself. These men should be ashamed of using the Word for personal gain - they're supposed to FEED the sheep...not fleece us!
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on January 15, 2007
First, understand that I am a fan of the Left Behind series. I found it a little long (I mean really, 12 books? C'mon) but it was compelling overall.

I looked forward to what LaHaye and Jenkins would do with the Gospels. Well....they've done nothing. NOTHING. Nada. Zip. Zilch. There's almost no background of John, his associates in later life, his time with Jesus, nothing. All they've done is basically taken dictation from John word for word, with a little tension thrown in. This is the biggest money grab I've seen in a long time. These two are capitalizing on their fame by scamming fans. They should be ashamed.

Save yourself some time and money. Buy a Bible. Read the Gospel of John (and everything else in it, for that matter). It's better than this book can ever hope to be.
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VINE VOICEon December 6, 2006
Amen to the first reviewer. This book is awful, a poorly written attempt to sugarcoat a grand idea with fundimental propaganda. John was a wonderful man, the beloved. In this book he is a cardboard comic book character. Thank heaven it is fiction, and a good thing the last half is the Gospel and writings of John otherwise I could never finish it. Give alms to the poor but don't waste your money on this commercial pulp paper.
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on December 10, 2006
I've read all the Left Behind books, and have to agree with the other reviewers here. This book was a real disappointment. They make John sound more like an Earl in England than a person in Rome 95 AD. There appears to be a great deal of "poetic license" taken in this book, and unfortunately, it is not that entertaining or insightful. ZZZZzzzzzzz.
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