Mar 9, 2014

In Defense of Son of God by Roma Downey, Mark Burnett

This tie-in book is a quicker read as opposed to the film series

Son of God by Roma Downey, Mark Burnett
Published February 18th 2014 by FaithWords
Paperback, 160 pages
eGalley offered through NetGalley
Burton Book Review Rating:

The book Son of God is a tie-in with the major motion picture of the same title, slated for wide theatrical release (through 20th-Century Fox) on February 28, 2014. Like the movie, the book possesses an epic scope, providing a panoramic picture of first-century Judea as it recounts the events and reveals the meaning of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection.


Though based on New Testament accounts, including the four Gospels as well as the book of Acts, Son of God reads like a contemporary novel, delving deeply into the character of Jesus and the personalities and motives all of those who surround him, both his followers and his enemies. Even minor Gospel characters (Mary Magdelene, the servant Malchus, the Jewish elder Nicodemus) come vividly to life in the book, and its portrayal of the political machinations behind Jesus's trial and death-the contest for power between the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and the high priest Caiaphas-is especially engaging.


Beyond depicting the historical milieu in which Jesus lived, Son of God deftly explains the customs and culture of the Jewish people and the Roman officials and soldiers who oppress them, enhancing readers' understanding of the biblical record. In its final part, the book extends the Christian story past Jesus's resurrection to show how Jesus's followers, impassioned by their faith, began spreading his message of salvation throughout the wider world. Grittily realistic, Son of God pulls no punches in conveying the harsh realities of Jesus's era. But it is also inspirational, showing how Jesus transformed the lives of the humble and the powerful alike-and conveying Jesus's message of comfort and hope to present-day readers.

This book is a short one at 160 pages, and created as a tie-in for the Son of God film that released this season in theaters. For my fellow History Channel viewers, you may remember The Bible mini-series that came out during the Lenten season last year. Son Of God is created from that series, just skipping through the Old Testament chapters and straight to the life of Jesus. I watched the show last year and cried myself through several scenes, so when I heard Son Of God was coming out this year I was overjoyed. Then when I started reading this book, I realized it was just a re-do of the same series as last year (minus some scenes like the Obama lookalike Satan) and was disappointed it wasn't entirely new. Since the book being reviewed here is distinctly about a specific film, it is going to be hard to distinguish between the two mediums, so you'll just have to bear with my thought process.

The book starts off a bit stunted, with small dividers between the text as it was switching scenes. As I was reading the text I could easily re-imagine these scenes in my mind from what I remember from the previous year. It is certainly no literary masterpiece, and at 160 pages compared to what the huge expanse the actual Bible is, well you could hardly compare the two. Son of God is a dramatization, a retelling, an interpretation, and there is only so much time a movie script would allow for. I am sure theologians, priests, historians can nit-pick the book/series/film and point out some discrepancies and quote the scripture from their favorite version of the Bible that the film somehow misportrays.. since the world has argued over religion for the last two thousand years why should we stop now, right?

"Paul is alone. For nearly three decades he has preached the Word of God. It has been a hard life, full of deprivation and suffering. Yet in all the chaos and carnage that has marked the growth of the Christian church, Paul knows that the Word will survive him. The Word is love."

Once upon a time, there was Adam and Eve. But yet, there was also a lady named Lilith (or WAS there?), and then there are all those Lost Books. Realistically speaking, one could argue against the merits of this dramatization as it is not word for word Scripture based; that same 'sacred' scripture that a select few decided to include in the Holy Bible as they ignored other historical texts written in biblical times. Blasphemous is a word too easily used in this day and age when we should embrace tolerance. I don't quote scripture, I am no expert, but I have faith. I was raised Roman Catholic, I am raising my children as American Old Catholics and there are good parts of doctrine I adhere to and others perhaps not so whole-heartedly. It is my faith, and mine alone, and let no man put that asunder. I enjoyed having a new 'modern' text to read as it brings me closer to the love of Jesus's testimony. If you don't want to have Jesus in your life, this is not the book for you. If you enjoy reading/watching new interpretations or maybe see this as a worthy excuse for entertainment as opposed to another repeat of Pawn Stars, I recommend it. If you enjoyed the Bible mini-series last year and would like a quick reminder of the gorgeous Jesus scenes, here is your chance.

Additionally, in a world where we get to watch the evil of the world through the nightly news, and then watch a comedy, reality show, violent movie or cartoons - perhaps a little Son of God on the boob tube would do us some good. It's about the message - not the exact interpretation as you see it/believe it. Take from it what you will, let you become inspired by whatever it is you take from it - hope, faith, charity and forgiveness being possible - and relish the fact that once a year there is something faith based being shown on the television/big screen and just enjoy it instead of showing the world how much better you are. If you could do a better movie, please do. I'll be waiting.