It’s not often that a serious academic theologian sits down to write a work of fiction, but that is what Gerd Theissen, a German New Testament scholar, has done in this intriguing book. Theissen set out to write the story of Jesus as seen from a distance, by a fictional character named Andreas who is a businessman from Galilee. Although Andreas never meets Jesus (which explains the “shadow” in the title), he encounters the people who have, and sees the impact of Jesus in them.
The book is a must-read for its recreation of the world of Jesus, complete with politicians, religious groups and the ever-present occupation troops of Rome. Theissen knows what he is talking about, as he is both a sociologist and a theologian and has written extensively about the earliest Christians and the social conditions of Jesus’ time. He even includes detailed notes at the back of his book to anchor his storytelling in the authentic details of the period.
But the book is a good read, too, beginning with our man Andreas sweating in a Roman cell, waiting to be interrogated after his arrest during a demonstration. He is quickly blackmailed into becoming a double agent for the Romans. From this compromised position, Andreas lets us in on the story of Jesus, following two steps behind, but giving us a unique insight into the first followers of the Galilean, and how they came to follow him.
What readers have said about the book…
“This is a story for our times, or how the gospels might have turned out if they had been written by John le Carré or Frederick Forsyth: racy, readable, and full of nerve-tingling incident.” Anon, Amazon
“I was hooked from the first page. If you are interested in historical Jesus research I recommend this book as an interesting, unusual, and brilliant way to begin the journey.” Camsterdad, Amazon
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Jesus has probably inspired more books and biographies than anyone else in human history. But which of them are worth reading if you’re exploring the life of Jesus for the first time – or even for the second or third times?
Written by Simon Jenkins
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