Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt is a phenomenal novel by Anne Rice. It’s a first person narrative following seven-year-old Jesus Christ as he leaves Egypt and is reestablished in Nazareth with His family.
The introduction to the paperback edition says, “This book seeks to present a realistic fictional portrait of Our Lord in Time.” It shows him discovering he’s different from other children, trying to understand what to do with the miraculous power he has, and uncovering the circumstances surrounding his birth.
The novel draws from the non canonical gospels and myths surrounding young Jesus but accepts the biblical view of him. The paperback’s introduction says, “[This book] is rooted in the faith that the Creator of the Universe became human in the person of Jesus Christ and ‘dwelt among us.’ The magnificent mystery of the Incarnation is accepted and affirmed as fact.”
The story itself blows me away. It’s fascinating to consider ways that Jesus could have been both man and God, and seeing his humanity drives home the sacrifice he eventually makes on the cross. It’s one thing to imagine a detached, angelic being bathed in light on a cross, but to realize that Jesus was once a child, was human, and could suffer and bleed and die, is completely different.
The story and writing are amazing; I don’t know what else to say but ‘go read it!’ There are two specific things that stood out to me about the act of writing the story, though, that I’ll go into more detail on: Anne Rice’s research, and her daring.
The author’s note at the end is Anne Rice’s testimony: how she was raised in an “old fashioned, strict” Roman Catholic church, “broke with [her] belief in God,” and eventually found Christ.
Rice would always put a tremendous amount of research into her novels. Outside of the fantastical elements, she would make sure the details were accurate to the time period. Somewhere in there, she got caught up in all of Christianity’s cultural impacts. It didn’t make sense to her without God.
She eventually became set on writing a story about Jesus, but was unsure what angle she wanted to take. She had an impression of him, believing that, “Surely he was a liberal, married, had children, was a homosexual, and who knew what?” But she had to confirm those impressions, so she devoured all the information she could find. Her research sustained her through her husband’s four month illness and subsequent death.
However, Rice couldn’t accept the views the skeptical critics put forward, the views she had previously assumed were facts. She saw that many of their arguments were based on assumptions. “[They] lacked coherence.” The more she read, the more she saw “a great coherence to the life of Christ and the beginning of Christianity.” Finally, she fully embraced the Bible’s teachings of Christ.
The amount of research Rice did helped her give an accurate presentation of Jesus, not just as the Christ, but in the day-to-day details of his life.
She was able to portray aspects of the Jewish culture, like the yearly rituals, the stories taught, and the family dynamics. These aspects really helped humanize all her characters, but especially the ones I was already familiar with, like Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.
Rice also emphasized the turbulent time Jesus grew up in. King Herod’s children were all fighting for the throne, watched by the Romans, while many Jews rebelled, hoping for a warrior Messiah.
Rice wouldn’t have been able to pull off humanizing and glorifying Jesus as well as she did if she hadn’t spent so long researching the mood of the world he grew up in.
In her author’s note, Rice admitted, “Anybody could write about a liberal Jesus, a married Jesus, a gay Jesus, a Jesus who was a rebel.” She realized, “The challenge was to write about the Jesus of the Gospels, of course!”
Who could dare to set out to write a first person narrative of the Jesus of the Gospels? Who could “try to get inside him and imagine what he felt”? It’s crazy!
And yet Anne Rice dared to.
What I took away from this book was a glimpse into the world Jesus grew up in and an idea of how to balance the duel nature of him as God and man. In other words, I took away what Rice wanted her readers to take away, as far as I can tell. Her daring paid off.
Research is an important part of many stories. Know your time period, know your geographical setting, know your social dynamics. These details can help shape your characters and are an important component to most stories.
Even more important than that, though, is daring. So, your concept is risky? So, you don’t feel qualified to write it? Whatever. You came up with the idea; you can write it! Maybe you need to wait a couple years to let it or yourself mature to do it justice. Then wait a couple years, and write it!
If authors never dared something risky, something hard, we would never get books like Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.