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King Jesus: A Novel (FSG Classics) Paperback – October 1, 1981

4.1 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“My solution to the problem of Jesus's nativity implies a rejection of tke mystical Virgin Birth doctrine, which no longer has the same force in religious polemics as it had in Justin's day; to the mass of people nowadays the choice is between a Jesus bom in the ordinary course ofnature and one as mythical as Perseus and Prometheus.” ―From the Author's Commentary

“This is not reading for the easily shocked; it definitely presents Jesus as a sage and a poet, if not divine. It moves, as does all Mr. Graves' writing, at a brilliant fast pace, and with a tremendous style.” ―Kikus Reviews

“Mr. Graves is a poet; both the knowledge of a scholar and the imagination of a poet are brought to bear upon Jesus as child, boy, and man. The book is a bold speculative adventure.” ―Harold Brighouse, Manchester Guardian

About the Author

Robert Graves (1895-1985) was a British poet, novelist, translator, and critic. His many books include the historical novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God, the autobiography Good-bye to All That, and the mythic/literary studies The White Goddess and The Greek Myths.

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Product Details

  • Series: FSG Classics
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374516642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374516642
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having grown up in an Episcopalian family in the Southeastern US, I am very familiar with Christ the Savior from St.John's gospel and the epistles of Paul. Graves offers the viewer two alternative interpreations of Jesus in his book,King Jesus. These two alternative views are based on Hebrew concepts of a political/military messiah and the mystery religion of the triple goddess, which requires the sacrifice of the goddess's consort to bless the land and people with his sacrificial blood. There is no doubt that these two world-views, religions, concepts were dominant in the Mediterranean Roman world. For example, St. Paul's epistles strongly condemn the mystery religions of the triple goddess, which he identies as Artemis (also known as Diana in Roman mythology).

I realize that my many fundamentalists Christian friends would find this book disturbing but I would invite them to read this exceptional historic novel to gain more insight into the Hebrew concept of a worldly military messiah destined to overthrow Roman domination or the concept of the consort of the triple goddess, destined to be sacrificed for the well being of the land and people.

First, the book is a political novel about the efforts of the Hebrew leadership to bring about the birth and development of a young man to be their military leader and savior. Jesus is the son of Mary and Herod's oldest son,Antipater, hidden in the home of Joseph until the time he will arise as the Hebrew ruler. Graves was a scholar of Hebrew religion and he brings his considerable knowledge of the Hebrew faith to the novel.
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Format: Paperback
Reading this book is a rewarding challenge. It's weird, esoteric, and somehow simultaneously iconoclastic and reverent. As is often the case with Graves, it's clear that he's done a lot of serious research, and from there has gone off on his own curious tangents. (It looks like he got some material from Robert Eisler's book from the '20s, "The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist"). Graves's methods drive some scholars crazy, because they want a clear line drawn between the research and the tangents. "King Jesus" is clearly more propaganda for Graves's "White Goddess" theology, but as propaganda it's great fun. Indulge Graves early on in the book--material that may seem pointless eventually does inform what follows. With few exceptions, the book is sympathetic to Judaism, but the exceptions should not be read as anti-Semitism; rather, the reader should recognize that Graves is equally discriminatory towards all religions where they don't gibe with his White Goddess-ism.
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Format: Paperback
Easy reading this ain't, especially while you're first trying to get into it, but it's hard to think of a more rewarding way to spend your time and intellectual effort. The research is astonishing, the hypothesis is brilliant and revelatory, the theology flawless and the narrative lucid and inspiring. Moreover despite Graves' atheism the novel remains utterly respectful of Jesus Christ. A riveting book with which I expect to bore my friends by quoting for probably the rest of my life.
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Format: Paperback
The thesis of the book is really brilliant. How would an historian in the first centuries of the first millenium view the life of Jesus, the so called "King Of The Jews"? The act of imagination that Graves has taken is breath taking. He fleshes out most of the gaps and mysteries surrounding the Gospels, without attacking or defending Christianity. The book could have been a cringe inducing "Da Vinci Code" but it is a great example of the historical novel.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert Graves always did considerable research for his historical novels, and this one is no exception. He had clearly read deeply about the religious traditions of the ancient world, not just Judaism, and it shows here. The result is an interesting version of the story of Jesus, which stresses his Jewishness, and explains his philosophy entirely in the context of Jewish belief. There is also a back story on his parentage which puts the title "King of the Jews" in a very different light.

Our fictional narrator is one "Agabus the Decapolitan", writing ca 90 A.D., who briefly met Jesus, when he, Agabus,was a child, and has been fascinated with him ever since. Historically, this was a time when Christian doctrine was very unsettled, somewhat exacerbated by those gentiles who wanted to become Christians without being subject to Jewish law. Agabus has some critical comments about "Gentile Chrestians" (sic), and the ways in which they distort the teachings of Jesus.

There's something here to offend everybody who is inclined to take offense at a discussion of ideas. Believing Christians may well object to the demystification of many of Jesus's actions, the natural explanations for such occurrences as the miracle of the loaves and fishes, for example. They may also object to the narrowness of his mission, since he is clearly concerned primarily with the Jews, not with all mankind.

On the other hand, resolute non-believers may lose patience with the failure to provide a natural explanation for other supposed miracles, and the implication that there are some actual supernatural goings on.
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