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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Day Christ Died

By Jim Bishop
Harper & Row, 306 pp, 1957

This being the Lenten season, I figured it was an appropriate time to read this fictional account of Christ's crucifixion. Written by Jim Bishop, author of The Day Christ Was Born and The Day Lincoln Was Shot, it is an interesting but at times boring account based on the prevalent scholarship in the 1950s. I'm not enough of an expert on Biblical archaeology to judge the book's credibility or truthfulness, but I didn't read the book to get a history lesson.

I bought this at a used bookstore about a year and a half ago because it was cheap and looked interesting. As a life-long Christian, I'm familiar with the Passion story, but had never read a fictional account of it.

The book does provide various insights into the familiar story. The fictional narrative is broken up by background sections, in which Bishop offers non-fictional information about Christ's life and times. We learned how the Jews lived, worked, and played in Jerusalem, how the Romans ruled Palestine, and were given a brief account of Jesus' life and ministry. The background sections do provide some helpful contextual information, but much of it could have been worked into the story.

The story itself, at times, reads like a non-fiction account. Dialog is sparse as Bishop preferred to sum up conversations rather than detail them. Bishop writes from multiple points of view, shifting from one character to the next, and interjecting explanations of various passages and utterances.

The result is a novel that reads at times like an encyclopedia article. I usually finish a book like this in a few days or a week, but this took so long because it didn't hold my attention. That surprised me because I am very much fascinated with Biblical history.

If anyone knows of a better novel about Jesus and his times, please let me know.

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