The Gospel of the Twin Hardcover – March 1, 2016
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The Gospel of the Twin is Ron Cooper’s story of Jesus, told through the eyes of his now 80-year-old twin brother, Thomas. I very much enjoyed Cooper’s first two novels and was looking forward to his latest. I can’t speak to the historical or biblical accuracy of the book, other than I recognized many events taught to me from childhood, but I found the story entirely compelling.
Thomas attempts to set the record straight about Jesus with weary determination and a perspective only available to him. Jesus and Thomas have a complex relationship. Thomas loves his brother fiercely, struggles to understand him, and ultimately decides to follow him. He is troubled by guilt over his failure to keep his promise to his mother to keep his brother safe.
Thomas’ Jesus is both ordinary and exceptional. He helps his parents, has friends, and occasionally fights with his brother. He is charismatic, idealistic, patient, kind, and wise, even as a young boy. His sagacity at times both inspired and frustrated his brother, and was an integral part of his charisma. Thomas’ naturalistic interpretations of Jesus’ alleged miracles may anger some, but I remained immersed in the story. Much of the pleasure of the book comes from seeing the beginning of a tiny movement against Roman oppression and a philosophy of “a new way of life,” which later became a religion that has come to influence billions.
Ron Cooper is a masterful storyteller, and I much enjoyed his gospel from the first page through the last.
Because Thomas is a retrospective narrator, readers are sometimes treated to his philosophical musings and growth as he is exposed to many cultures. He spends years wandering in India, Byzantium, Ethiopia, and Greece, while he tries to make sense of what he’s witnessed. Often he is tormented by guilt, wondering what he could have done to prevent his brother’s death.
Cooper’s provocative interpretations are sure to anger some readers and intrigue others. It often had me thinking, "Yeah, it could have happened that way." This is a deeply thoughtful and thoroughly researched story, one worth a careful reading and time spent in reflection.