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A year after the death of Yehoshuah a mysterious figure who wandered Roman occupied Judea giving sermons and healing the sick four people tell their storiesA mother a friend a collaborator a rebel to each of these witnesses the young preacher represents strikingly different things But whether the witnesses are lying or telling the truth their accounts will change all that comes afterThis is a story of sacrifice and betrayal oppression and resistance and the courage it takes to make both war and peace THE LIARS' GOSPEL powerfully reimagines a tale we think we already know and invites us to see it in an entirely new light


10 thoughts on “The Liars' Gospel

  1. says:

    A historical novel depicting Yehoshuah the historical Jesus through the eyes of four different people who encountered him his mother Mary Judas Iscariot the high priest Caiaphas and the criminalrevolutionary Barrabas whom the crowd demanded be set free in place of Yehoshuah prior to Yehoshuah's crucifixion In this book one can't speak of The Crucifixion with a capital C since there are crucifixions left and rightThis book was artfully constructed and very competently written Religiously conservative Christian believers may find some elements of it offensive the author Naomi Alderman writing fairly conspicuously from a Jewish perspective begins from the viewpoint that Jesus is a man of the period a traveling preacher of which there were many teaching doctrines little removed from those of other rabbis Historically of course with millennia of faith subtracted from the euation her version of the story makes perfect sense My reaction to this book is a little complicated on the one hand I admired the artistry of how she structured it and her bravery in telling her straightforward view about who might have lied and how and why in the process of constructing the Jesus of Christianity Of course I'm an unbeliever myself so I found the realism of her approach very refreshingThere were a few things I didn't like though If she had confined herself to the notion of the humanity of the people who lied and the way in which even the lies circle around people who were still very interesting figures all would have been well But instead halfway or three uarters of the way through the story I started to feel she was getting into the age old uestion of who was to blame for Jesus being crucified The anti Semites' answer of course has always been The Jews Alderman's answer is the traditional Jewish rebuttal no it was the Romans There are few or no good Romans in her book Granted she is writing from the standpoint of Jewish characters but still by dehumanizing the Romans and leaving out their viewpoint she really introduces a fatal philosophical and aesthetic flaw they become an army of mostly two dimensional monsters And the book's aesthetic purpose becomes subordinate to a kind of anti defamation subtext that cheapens the enterprise That was a disappointing choice to meThe book also follows the tradition of many past historical novels about Jesus in being stone cold sober with a somber atmosphere cf Jose Saramago Phillip Pullman if it at least has the virtue of avoiding any syrupy inspirational tone None of the characters were very likeable or sympathetic again cf Saramago Pullman And it was all a little depressing So if you are looking for something a little upbeat stick with Christopher Moore's Lamb The Gospel According to Biff Christ's Childhood PalAs for her treatment of the historical aspects of the period it will probably sound strange for me to say this but I felt like Alderman's Judaea was well a little too Jewish All the characters have Hebrew names Well great right didn't they speak Hebrew? Actually probably not but rather Aramaic or Greek Hebrew was little enough used that Targumim or Aramaic translations of the scriptures had to be used in most synagogues Alderman lets us know right up there in the book's dedication that she's studied Hebrew and Latin lest we doubt her chops and she does indeed do wonderfully well at giving us the flavor of Hebrew in the character names and the occasional cultural tidbit but there is hardly any flavor of Aramaic in the book and less of GreekIn fact my impression from reading into the history of the period is that the culture was not so monolithically Hebrew let alone so monolithically Rabbinic Jewish Judaism as such did not exist during the time of Jesus any than Christianity did the system of rabbinic rulings was in its infancy and there is no conclusive evidence that rabbinic norms were practised widely before the temple's destruction Hellenization was a powerful force there were a lot of pagan cities and pagan inhabitants throughout the region Greek and Syrian and Aramaic and Nabataean Arabic cultural elements all had their own peculiarities The Idumaeans in the south were not all that Jewish having only relatively recently been forcibly converted to the Israelite religion under the Hasmoneans and Galilee too had been converted and had not long before been pagan It was viewed as kind of a backwoods area is my impression and the rabbis sometimes called it Gallilee of the Gentiles That's why I say Naomi Alderman's Judaea is a little too Jewish because I think the real Judaea was a much religiously and culturally fragmented place than she depicts Now that said every writer about this period has to interpret the historical evidence as best he or she can usually none of us are full time scholars in the field and I think by emphasizing the Hebrew and normative rabbinic culture in her depiction she has illuminated very important aspects of the historical Jesus So even if it might not be a full or perfect picture it's still an important one and this is a valuable work


  2. says:

    I am tempted to give this five stars to help balance many of the one star reviews by people who somehow accidentally found themselves reading a book by a non Christian for the first time and were traumatized and enraged by the unfamiliar experience Honestly read the one star reviews just for laughs Naomi Alderman retells the story of Israel under Roman occupation and beset by false messiahs both religious and military Being Jewish Alderman does not believe that Jesus was a god and this novel is short on magic and miracles although the Jews are desperately waiting for such and the early Christians believe they have found them If those are what you're looking to read about there are many suitable books for you As always Alderman is brilliant with language and characterization She uses characters from the Christian Gospels but treats them as complicated human beings living in the last days of the Second Temple as Israel rebels again and again against the mightiest power on earth and is finally utterly destroyed and the Jews exiled for almost two thousand years No character is left as a two dimensional hero or villain and once again Alderman is Jewish and does not believe that Jesus was the Messiah so if that sounds infuriating to you don't read this book try The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis instead or maybe Heaven Is Real by that six year old If you are Jewish or not allergic to a Jewish perspective on Jewish history it is a gripping and tragic read a powerful novel of historical fiction about a nation that looked for a savior in the face of annihilation and found none And everyone should read Alderman's Disobedience A Novel


  3. says:

    The Liars' Gospel by Naomi Alderman is a creative retelling of life in Israel under Roman occupation and early on centers on Jesus Alderman's crafting of words is superb so it's uite disappointing that she put her talent to work slandering a public figure in such an offensive mannerIn the novel we are exposed to the viewpoints of Mary Barabbas and Judas as imagined by Alderman I can get behind historical fiction wherein we take a real place or course of events to set the scene and slide in imaginary characters to build a plot Likewise I enjoy a twist on a known public figure that shows another side of them that is faithful to their overall historical presence but adds a new dimension of storytelling But I really have a problem with a convenient retelling that absolutely butchers the essence of a character we've come to know through history Jesus punching his father in the face and the other nonsense that goes on in The Liars' Gospel is disgusting and the character sketch of Jesus as depicted by Alderman is very offensive to not only Christians but to the record of history What's next a historical novel about Ghandi detailing his secret role as a fascist working undercover for the state to stir up insurrection and justification for his friends in power to destroy the people? Perhaps a creative retelling of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King recast as a drunkard and adulterer whose main focus was becoming famous and having a movie made about himself? Or we could approach it from the other direction and spin a moving story of Hitler and how he was deeply misunderstood?I've read other reviews in a similar vein thus my voice ads to the chorus and so I know what's next cue the godless hoards to leave argumentative comments on this review and attack my coverage of the novel


  4. says:

    Naomi Alderman's new novel The Liars' Gospel is defintely not a book for everyone The book is set in the first century and centered around the life of a Jewish prophet Yehoshuah Jesus to us Although it is ostensibly a retelling of the story of Jesus I found Alderman's detailing of the political climate in Jerusalem during the rise and fall of Jesus much interesting The story is told from four viewpoints That of MarymYehoshuah's mother His friend and follower Ieudah of ueriot the Roman High Priest of Jerusalem Caiaphas and the rebel Bar Avo As you read it is easy to see that Marym is Mary Ieudah is Judas Iscariot and Bar Avo is Barrabas I thought that Alderman's decision to tell this tale from 4 vary different viewpoints was a brilliant idea Each character had a different relationship with Jesus and none of them alone could have told the tale completely by themselves The switching of voice throughout the book allows the author to cover not only the different times periods of Jesus' life but also the different facets of his life Of the four tellings or gospels per the title I feel the best one was the telling by Judas It is here that we first get to see what political forces are at work in Israel between the occupying Romans and the Jews This political background was the most interesting part of the book to my thinking Since I am not very well versed in the history of Israel the Jewish faith or the Roman empire during the time of Tiberius I found this part of the book illuminating The idea that the political forces at work during this time period could play such a major role in allowing Jesus to gather a following and therefore to become both who he was and who he wasn't was what I liked best about the book One reason that I see this book as than just the retelling of Jesus story is that the second two gospels those of Caiaphas and Barrabas do not seem to have much to do with Jesus at all Although Caiaphas was the High Priest of Jerusalem during this time he never really came in contact with Jesus in a large way His focus was in the arena of the political strife between the occupiers and the native populations and his efforts to reconcile the two In the case of Barrabas he went on to continue to lead the rebellion of the Jews against the Romans long after Jesus was dead In fact his story began with the death of Jesus and continued on with the focus on the political For me this was the second best section of the book All in all I found Alderman to present a thought provoking work that captivated me Both her excellent prose and her development of the characters in the books were definite pluses Not only was she adept at fleshing out the four characters telling the stories but her attention to the supporting cast of characters was also well done In addition her ability to tell the story of Jesus from and alternate perspective and make it both believable and importantly not disrespectful or preachy was appreciated As much as I enjoyed the book at no time did the writing make me uestion my faith or give me the idea that Ms Alderman was trying to change my beliefs Only that she was looking at the same story with different eyes As I said this book is not for everyone but if you are looking for something that is a little different looks at something from a totally different direction and has the ability to bring to light uestions and new information than this is the book for you I am giving it 4 stars and in fact enjoyed it much than I thought I might This book was provided to me by Little Brown and Company through Netgalley in exchange for my review I would like to thank them for the chance to read a book that I would probably not ever looked at on my own I thoroughly enjoyed it


  5. says:

    what a book and to read it by coincidence in the weekend of Easter too bloody for me at times but not less reliable alternative for the story of Jesus then the version we know All the characters are so human no one is just godly or just a traitor my favorite character was Kajafas' wife


  6. says:

    interesting novel surrounding the life of Jesus and split into 4 different versions took me awhile to get into this novel maybe it was the subject title


  7. says:

    It was an interesting idea writing a book about Jesus from a Jewish perspective but I was very disappointed The first century characters so obviously belonged in the 21st None of the characters were believable and the character development was stale and predictable Miriam Mary was the most interesting story but the other three characters Judah aka Judas Bar Avo aka Barabbas and Caiaphas as well as their stories all fell flat The cursing and the sexuality in the story so distracted from the world Alderman created that I wasn't able to enjoy it Most significantly the central character Yehoshua Jesus was so one dimensional and unimpressive it is difficult to believe that anyone could have mistaken him for the Messiah It would have been much interesting if Alderman had left the uestion of Yehoshua's credentials open as many Jewish Jesus scholars have done ie Daniel Boyarin and Amy Jill Levine a uestion of faith Alderman's Yehoshua was self absorbed arrogant delusional and erratic He couldn't have been less compelling I wasn't expecting him to be anointed Messiah or worshipped as Lord but I wasn't prepared to think that he deserved to be crucified as Alderman portrays him All in all not worth anyone's time


  8. says:

    This book is brilliant I am a deep lover of the time period so I stand biased but Naomi Alderman's reimagination of the period weaving of actual historical reports I am hard pressed to call anything fact when the experts so vehemently disagree and novelist projections is riveting to me I will think of her rendition for a long timeI know I read her Orange Award winning book Disobedience when it came out but did not record it on Goodreads I loved how she interspersed some LGBT roots in this book as well


  9. says:

    I truly loved this book The writing is magnificent her characters are incredibly fleshed out with their own voices Miryam mother of Yehoshua Mourning keening melodramatically loving her firstborn son Even as I shook my head I completely sympathized with her mother's love You know the type she loves her son despite his faults When he turns away from her she misses him She mourns his loss when he leaves home; long before he is hung on the cross I felt her sorrow and her love It crushed my heart as he must have crushed hersIehuda the betrayer A man who truly believes in God and wishes to follow a teacher who he is drawn to A man he feels compelled to sit and speak and debate with in the true spirit of brotherhood philosophy betterment He observes firsthand the subtle shift of thinking in Yehoshua's group over time What happened to their ideologies of bringing the word of their god to others? When did it become about Yehoshua instead? Caiaphas the High Priest of the Great Temple in Jerusalem This man is one in line of men chosen as both a religious leader and diplomat for his people during a reign of occupation How does one even juggle religious zealotry with political conseuences? Very very delicately and precariously The history and the fate of the Jews lies in the folds of these robes One wanted teacher of many is easy enough to hand over to appease Pilate who is massacring civilians in the streets for their unruly protests Bar Avo the dissident Rebel Extremist Terrorist Hero Freedom fighter Pick your side and pick your title This man fought in the underground for the freedom of the people of Jerusalem from Roman control Eventually imprisoned with Yehoshua the pacifist who preached love your enemy yet this violent one was chosen by the people in Pilate's game of one lives one dies They wouldn't let one of their local heroes die before another unknown teacher from far awayLook read the book description Then you know what this book is about It's about a controversial figure in religion told as historical fiction This is not the King James Bible which is a collection of selected writings like any compilation put together by an editor fact fiction poetry etc Now if that last sentence bothered you then this book is probably not for you If you're reading this book's blurb and reviews out of interest and that didn't bother you then this book may be a book for you I highlighted this bit of conversation between Bar Avos and a fresh still hopeful Isaac that I thought is poetically poignant to this book and the entire topic really He was a Jew Yehoshuah If he were even as loved as that a Jew might not the Empire soften towards us?Bar Avos looks at him What a kindhearted boy he is How did he get to be so simple in a world this hard?Bar Avos speaks very uietly and low and very slowly Rome hates us he says We are their conuered people and we are dust under their feetBut if Listen If they want something from us they will take it They will not stop hating us They will finda way to say that the thing they want was never ours to begin withI for one loved it


  10. says:

    An interesting take on a part of human history where myth and history collide There are people like Julius Caesar whom we know existed and about whom we know a fair amount And then there are people like Helen of Troy lost to pre history who as likely as not never existed Jesus of Nazareth is perched awkwardly between these two places and to my mind this made Naomi Alderman's story about life in Roman occupied Jerusalem a uite haunting novel about how stories and myths come to be and about what can never be known for certain And so we have a retelling of the parable of the talents which is uite different in its focus from the biblical account And it is not Yehoshuah but the political insurrectionist Bar Avo who persuades the fishermen of Galilee to throw their lot in with him It's beautifully written and to this admittedly uneducated reader the evocation of life in 0BCE Jerusalem feels spot on I don't know if her description of the lines of crucifixes on the road into Jerusalem as screaming trees is originally her own but either way it's a perfect metaphor for the horrors of crucifixion which Alderman reminds us was hardly an exceptional mode of judicial killing at the time somehow I can't help but picture Mark Lanegan being attracted to the image which makes me wonder if it is older I liked the way that the book took a well established story although one where I'm embarrassingly reliant on a primary school Church of England version which left out a lot of the awkward details and looked at it from a different angle – presenting Judas as a disillusioned follower who fears that his leader is becoming a cultish demagogue and Caiaphas not as a cynical man seeking to get rid of a trouble maker making life difficult for the temple but as a pragmatic leader in a febrile difficult environment doing what he thinks will best protect his people from the might of the Roman EmpireIt's not without its flaws – the Epilogue would have been better presented as an author's afterword as it's essentially a “just in case you didn't get it my point is that the myth of Jesus was bad news for the Jews” and she'd made that point well enough in the main body of the novel I was also never uite sure she'd really explained uite why Pontius Pilate had decided to let the people of Jerusalem decide which of BarrabusBar Avo and YehoshuahJesus should live and which should die – surely a Roman Prefect would want to be shot of the political insurrectionist and be largely indifferent to the fate of a religious mystic? But perhaps I'd missed the point maybe Pontius Pilate simply wasn't meant to be very clever45 but I'm rounding up