*** DEBUG END ***

Jesus: a harrowing narrative

31 January 2014

Naomi Starkey on the filling-in of the gaps


Missing: Three days in Jerusalem
Sonia Falaschi-Ray
Matador £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9 (Use code CT877 )

RETELLING Bible stories remains a popular way of casting new light on familiar episodes. From the quirky vignettes of Trevor Dennis to the majestic tome that is Walter Wangerin's The Book of God, Christian writers continue to enjoy the challenge of bringing alive the people and places of scripture and bypassing "tea-towels-and-sandals" clichés.

Missing brings together the three days when 12-year-old Jesus (Yeshua) goes missing in Jerusalem with the events that take place between the night in Gethsemane and Easter morning. For the most part, the book aims at faithfully reproducing an ancient Near Eastern setting, including details of contemporaneous food, clothes, home furnishings, transport, and so on. The descriptions of flogging and crucifixion are harrowingly vivid.

We meet a large cast of individuals, some of whom are additions to the Gospel accounts (the parents of the Bethany family, for example), while others whose names we already know (such as Joseph of Arimathaea and Mary Magdalene) are given imaginative back-stories. The biblical sequence of events is preserved, but also creatively expanded to explore the might-have-beens. A Good Friday encounter between Peter and Judas is particularly thought-provoking.

The book also, however, includes a Harrowing of Hell chapter, with sneering devils, sulphur, branding irons, suffering souls - including children - and Yeshua sounding rather too much like Gandalf the White ("We meet again, Satan, or should I call you Lucifer, you fallen angel?"). Including such Dante-esque horror in an otherwise more-or-less historical narrative could have the unfortunate effect of implying that this is what most Christians believe.


Naomi Starkey is a commissioning editor for BRF, and edits and writes for New Daylight Bible-reading notes. She has also written Good Enough Mother (BRF, 2009) and The Recovery of Love (BRF, 2012).

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

24 May 2022
Disability and Church: Intersectionality
A joint webinar from HeartEdge and Church Times.

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)