King Jesus

Last updated
First edition (publ. Cassell) KingJesus.jpg
First edition (publ. Cassell)

King Jesus is a semi-historical novel by Robert Graves, first published in 1946. The novel treats the historical Jesus not as the Son of God, but rather as a philosopher with a legitimate claim to the Judaean throne through Herod the Great, [1] as well as the Davidic monarchy; and treats numerous Biblical stories in an unorthodox manner.

Contents

Synopsis

Graves wrote the story from the perspective of an official living in the time of Domitian. The novel opens with the statement, "I, AGABUS the Decapolitan, began this work at Alexandria in the ninth year of the Emperor Domitian and completed it at Rome in the thirteenth year of the same." [2] The novel consists primarily of dialogues between the prophets and other people of the story told by the Roman hagiographer. It begins with the reign of Herod before Jesus is born and explains the dynastical, quasi-secular roots of Jesus both from his mother's and his father's side, establishing a temporal and historical right to the throne of Israel. The second part starts with the Nativity and Jesus's youth. Finally, the third part chronicles Jesus's work in adulthood as a prophet, his death on the cross, and his resurrection.

In a "Historical Commentary" published at the end of the book Robert Graves remarks, concerning the book's historical basis, "A detailed commentary written to justify the unorthodox views contained in this book would be two or three times as long as the book itself, and would take years to complete; I beg to be excused the task ...[but]...I undertake to my readers that every important element in my story is based on some tradition, however tenuous, and that I have taken more than ordinary pains to verify my historical background". [3]

Editions

The standard scholarly edition is the volume in the Collected Works of Robert Graves (Carcanet Press), edited by Robert A. Davis.

Reception

A 1946 review by Kirkus Reviews summarized the book with; "This is not reading for the easily shocked; it definitely presents Jesus as a sage and a poet, if not divine. It moves, as does all Mr. Graves' writing, at a brilliant fast pace, and with a tremendous style." [4] In another contemporary book review by Commentary , Mordecai Chertoff wrote "the Jewish reviewer must protest and warn the reader of Graves’ total irresponsibility in his handling of Jewish religious tradition. It is obvious, however, that Graves’ intention in writing this "novel" was not to compose a historical pot-boiler. Influenced perhaps by depth psychology, he feels, apparently, that the issue between the "rule" of the father and that of the mother animated Jewish religion and political history in a preponderant way, and that the supremacy of the father was there established once and for all. There are certain risks, however, when such a serious thesis is dealt with by a novelist, even if he does not mean to be taken very earnestly. There is the danger that untutored people.. will take this invented lore for the real thing and read his fantasy for the sake of edification and erudition." [5] Writing in 1981 for The New York Times , John Leonard describes the book's relation to Gnosticism and wrote, "Mr. Graves, in other words, is still pushing his White Goddess, the mother of all religions, and when we learn that one of Herod's grandsons was helpful to Claudius at a sticky moment, we understand why Mr. Graves involved himself in his farrago in the first place." [6]

Later references

Herodian Messiah [7] is a work of non-fiction that presents evidence and arguments in support of the central theory of King Jesus (i.e., that Jesus was the son of Antipater ben Herod and Mariamne bat Antigonus). [8]

Related Research Articles

Herod the Great Roman-appointed king of Judea

Herod I, also known as Herod the Great, was a Roman client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian kingdom. The history of his legacy has polarized opinion, as he is known for his colossal building projects throughout Judea, including his renovation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the expansion of the Temple Mount towards its north, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the fortress at Masada, and Herodium. Vital details of his life are recorded in the works of the 1st century CE Roman–Jewish historian Josephus. Herod also appears in the Christian Gospel of Matthew as the ruler of Judea who orders the Massacre of the Innocents at the time of the birth of Jesus, although a majority of Herod biographers do not believe this event to have occurred. Despite his successes, including singlehandedly forging a new aristocracy from practically nothing, he has still garnered criticism from various historians. His reign polarizes opinion amongst scholars and historians, some viewing his legacy as evidence of success, and some as a reminder of his tyrannical rule.

Herod Agrippa King of Judaea (11 BC-AD 44) (r. 41-AD 44)

Herod Agrippa, also known as Herod or Agrippa I, was a King of Judea from AD 41 to 44. He was the last ruler with the royal title reigning over Judea and the father of Herod Agrippa II, the last king from the Herodian dynasty. The grandson of Herod the Great and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice, he is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles 12:1: "Herod (Agrippa)".

Antipater I the Idumaean was the founder of the Herodian Dynasty and father of Herod the Great. According to Josephus, he was the son of Antipas and had formerly held that name.

Star of Bethlehem Star that according to the Gospel of Matthew revealed the birth of Jesus to the Wise Men

The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star, appears in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew where "wise men from the East" (Magi) are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There, they meet King Herod of Judea, and ask him:

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.

Mark 12

Mark 12 is the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It continues Jesus' teaching in Jerusalem during his third visit to the Temple, it contains the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, Jesus' argument with the Pharisees and Herodians over paying taxes to Caesar, and the debate with the Sadducees about the nature of people who will be resurrected at the end of time. It also contains Jesus' greatest commandment, his discussion of the messiah's relationship to King David, condemnation of the teachers of the law, and his praise of a poor widow's offering.

The Herodians (Herodiani) were a sect of Hellenistic Jews mentioned in the New Testament on two occasions — first in Galilee, and later in Jerusalem — being hostile to Jesus. In each of these cases their name is coupled with that of the Pharisees.

Matthew 2:3

Matthew 2:3 is the third verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. In the previous verse the magi had informed King Herod that they had seen portents showing the birth of the King of the Jews. In this verse he reacts to this news.

Matthew 2:4

Matthew 2:4 is the fourth verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The magi have informed King Herod that they had seen portents showing the birth of the King of the Jews. In this verse he calls together leading figures of Jerusalem to find out where Jesus was to be born.

Matthew 2

Matthew 2 is the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It describes the events after the birth of Jesus, the visit of the magi and the attempt by King Herod to kill the infant messiah, Joseph and his family's flight into Egypt, and their later return to live in Israel, settling in Nazareth.

Matthew 2:16

Matthew 2:16 is the sixteenth verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament.

Matthew 2:20–21

Matthew 2:20 and 2:21 are the twentieth and twenty first verses of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The young Jesus and the Holy Family are in Egypt. An angel has just informed Joseph that King Herod, his persecutor, is dead. In this verse the angel gives him further instructions. The wording of this verse is extremely close to that of Exodus 4:19.

Sanhedrin trial of Jesus The trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin

In the New Testament, the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus refers to the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin following his arrest in Jerusalem and prior to his dispensation by Pontius Pilate. It is an event reported by all four canonical gospels of the New Testament, although John's Gospel does not explicitly mention a Sanhedrin trial in this context.

The New Testament frequently cites Jewish scripture to support the claim of the Early Christians that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah, but only a handful of these citations are actual predictions in their original contexts. The majority of these quotations and references are taken from the Book of Isaiah, but they range over the entire corpus of Jewish writings. Orthodox Jews do not regard any of these as having been fulfilled by Jesus, and in some cases do not regard them as messianic prophecies at all. Old Testament prophecies about Jesus are either not thought to be prophecies by critical scholars or do not explicitly refer to the Messiah. According to Jesus Seminar fellow Robert Miller, historical criticism is unable to argue for the fulfillment of prophecy or that Jesus was indeed the Messiah because he fulfilled messianic prophecies—as historical criticism has no way to "construct such an argument" within that academic method.

Herodian dynasty

The Herodian dynasty was a royal dynasty of Idumaean (Edomite) descent, ruling the Herodian Kingdom and later the Herodian Tetrarchy, as vassals of the Roman Empire. The Herodian dynasty began with Herod the Great, who assumed the throne of Judea, with Roman support, bringing down the century long Hasmonean Kingdom. His kingdom lasted until his death in 4 BCE, when it was divided between his sons as a Tetrarchy, which lasted for about 10 years. Most of those tetrarchies, including Judea proper, were incorporated into Judaea Province from 6 CE, though limited Herodian de facto kingship continued until Agrippa I's death in 44 CE and nominal title of kingship continued until 92 CE, when the last Herodian monarch, Agrippa II, died and Rome assumed full power over his de jure domain.

Phasael, was a prince from the Herodian Dynasty of Judea.

Antipater II was Herod the Great's first-born son, his only child by his first wife Doris. He was named after his paternal grandfather Antipater the Idumaean. He and his mother were exiled after Herod divorced her between 43 BC and 40 BC to marry Mariamne I. However, he was recalled following Mariamne's fall in 29 BC and in 13 BC Herod made him his first heir in his will. He retained this position even when Alexander and Aristobulus rose in the royal succession in 12 BC, and even became exclusive successor to the throne after their execution in 7 BC.

The term Bible fiction refers to works of fiction which use characters, settings and events taken from the Bible. The degree of fictionalization in these works varies and, although they are often written by Christians or Jews, this is not always the case.

Herodian Kingdom of Judea Client state of the Roman Republic from 37 BCE

The Herodian kingdom of Judea was a client state of the Roman Republic from 37 BCE, when Herod the Great was appointed "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate. When Herod died in 4 BCE, the kingdom was divided among his sons into the Herodian Tetrarchy.

Siege of Jerusalem (37 BC) Final step in Herod the Greats campaign to secure the throne of Judea

Herod the Great's Siege of Jerusalem was the final step in his campaign to secure the throne of Judea. Aided by Roman forces provided by Marcus Antonius, Herod was able to capture the city and depose Antigonus II Mattathias, ending Hasmonean rule. The siege appears in the writings of Josephus and Dio Cassius.

The date of birth of Jesus is not stated in the gospels or in any historical reference, but most theologians assume a year of birth between 6 and 4 BC. The historical evidence is too incomplete to allow a definitive dating, but the year is estimated through three different approaches: (A) by analyzing references to known historical events mentioned in the nativity accounts in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, (B) by working backward from the estimation of the start of the ministry of Jesus, and (C) astrological or astronomical alignments. The day or season has been estimated by various methods, including the description of shepherds watching over their sheep.

References

  1. St John's College Robert Graves Trust Archived 2006-10-19 at the Wayback Machine
  2. First Sentence
  3. King Jesus, 2nd edition (1947), London: Cassell, pp. 352-353
  4. "King Jesus". Kirkus Reviews. June 15, 1946.
  5. Mordecai S. Chertoff (April 1, 1947). "King Jesus, by Robert Graves". Commentary .
  6. Leonard, John (December 25, 1981). "Books of The Times". The New York Times .
  7. Herodian Messiah: Case for Jesus As Grandson of Herod by Joseph Raymond (Tower Grove Publishing, 2010)
  8. However, for Graves, Maria wasn't the daughter of King Antigonus (the last Hasmonean king executed by Marc Antony in 37 BCE), but Joaquim, a descendant of David.