Through Martha’s Eyes by Corinne Brixton

by
29 September 2017

Sarah Hillman sees the New Testament coming alive

WHAT was life really like in first-century Palestine for a Jew? How did the arrival of a new and exciting teacher, miracle-worker, and healer change daily life for those who fol­lowed? How did culture and religion shape the lives of those who lived at the time of Jesus?

Corinne Brixton uses the character of Martha to give a lively and vibrant picture of everyday life. From the Bible, we know that Jesus chided her for not taking the “good part” that her sister had chosen at the feet of Jesus. We read about what happened when her brother Lazarus died, and later of a meal given in Jesus’s honour at Bethany, at which Martha served and Mary anointed Jesus with perfumed nard. But that is all.

Brixton paints a much more detailed picture, creating a wider family for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, with cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents. Simon the Leper appears as a key character, with a wife and children; other residents of Bethany who are not mentioned in the Gospels are also given lives that intertwine with the three siblings.

The story begins in AD 6, the year given as the one in which Martha was born. As she grows up, she takes over the running of the household her mother dies after Lazarus’s birth. It ends in AD 33, the year the author chooses for the crucifixion and resurrection. Martha tells the story of the intervening years in her own somewhat breathless fashion, as the vehicle for the author’s primary stated aim, which is “not to re-tell stories from the Gospels, [but] it is to provide the reader with a cultural, historical and religious framework within which these stories might be better understood”.

I felt that this at times possibly gave Martha’s voice a slightly arti-ficial feel, as she crammed as much detail into accounts of events as she could, thus making the narrative subservient to the image of first-century life which was being created; but Brixton has certainly achieved her stated aim to bring the world of the New Testament alive for her readers.

 

The Revd Sarah Hillman is Priest-in-Charge of Puddletown, Tolpuddle, and Milborne with Dewlish, in Dorset.

 

Through Martha’s Eyes: One woman witnesses the greatest event in history

Corinne Brixton

Matador £8.99

(978-1-7880-3628-3)

Church Times Bookshop £8.10

 

 

 

100 Best Christian Books

How many have you read?

Visit the 100 Best Christian Books website to see which books made our list, read the judges' notes and add your own comments.

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

The Church Times Podcast

Interviews and news analysis from the Church Times team. Listen to this week’s episode online

Forthcoming Events

5-6 May 2018

Church Times Festival of Poetry
With Sarum College, Salisbury. More details coming soon - register your interest here

Subscribe now to get full access

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

Non-subscribers can read up to twelve articles for free. (You will need to register.)