My book reading has slowed down a lot this year - mainly because of the arrival of a wonderful but distracting baby in January - but I just finished The Kingdom
by Emmanuel Carrere and it’s one of the most extraordinary books I’ve ever read.
It’s part searingly honest memoir, part revisionist history of Christianity and part imaginative reworking of the Bible. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if after a glance at James Woods
‘ or Jack Miles
’ reviews you think you might like it, you almost certainly will.
There are so many fascinating aspects, but the bit I’m most struck by is St Paul’s incredible success in spreading Christianity, ultimately to billions of people, despite having never met Jesus and facing significant opposition from his original followers. There’s a wonderful passage in which Carrere imagines Paul, previously a persecutor of Christians, turning up in Jerusalem to meet the disciples after his Damascene conversion:
“Imagine that around 1925 an officer of the White Army, who had distinguished himself in the fight against the Bolsheviks, asks to be received by Stalin in the Kremlin. He explains that a personal revelation has given him access to the pure Marxist-Leninist doctrine, and that he plans to see it triumph all over the world. To that end he demands that Stalin and the politburo give him full powers, but refuses to submit to their authority.”
If this sort of thing appeals, it’s a real treat.