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The Five Books of Jesus

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  118 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
It starts in the desert. John the prophet lowers Jesus under the Jordan’s muddy waters and pulls him up, just as a bird swoops down to skim the river’s surface.

It spreads next to Galilee, where some welcome Jesus as a disciple of John and others grow wary of his rising influence—fishermen are leaving their nets, tax collectors their offices, and students their masters to
Paperback, Print, 317 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Createspace (first published September 19th 2012)
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The Pursuit Of God by A.W. TozerKnowing God by J.I. PackerJesus Calling by Sarah  YoungDon't Waste Your Life by John PiperThe Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Best Discipleship Books
24th out of 73 books — 88 voters
The Cross of Christ by John R.W. StottSeeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John PiperThe Passion of Jesus Christ by John PiperThe Jesus I Never Knew by Philip YanceyThe Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Books About Jesus
70th out of 194 books — 98 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 380)
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Katherine Cowley
This is one of those rare, amazing books that I would recommend to anyone, that makes me want to buy a stack of copies so I can give one to everyone I know as a Christmas present. I want to interrupt people I see reading other works and say, "That may be really good, but I guarantee this will be better."

I like this description of the book from a review by author Janci Patterson:

"I know what you’re thinking: Oh, no. Not a book about Jesus. But let me tell you, this is not a religious screed, or
Nov 11, 2012 Vilo rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I am the author's mother. However, that makes it even more amazing to me--how could this person I know come up with such a lyrical and thought-provoking book? (I've had some indications along the way--basically all my children amaze me most of the time.)

This book is a retelling of the gospels from the apostles' or ordinary citizens' point of view. You'll be agreeing with someone's viewpoint on life and then realizing--wait, that's the Pharisees talking. You feel the dust in you
Jakob Hansen
May 11, 2014 Jakob Hansen rated it really liked it
Written by a Jewish convert to Mormonism, this is a...novelization? of the life of Jesus, based on the gospels. It's innovative, a little bit mystical, and seems relatively faithful to the milieu it's trying to represent. (I'm no expert on first-century Jewish culture, though.) It contains a lot of interesting ideas and makes new connections. For instance: I never thought about the various anointings of Jesus in the gospels as representing the anointing of a king, but Goldberg makes this idea as ...more
Mar 12, 2016 Carol rated it it was amazing
So one day an Amazon package shows up on my door. Oh no. Did I forget to cancel the subscribe and save diapers again? Nope, the package is too small. I rip into it with the kids just as curious as I am. It's a book. About Jesus. And it has my cousin's name and photo on the back cover, you know, the spot where they talk about the author. Claire looks at me and says, "is it from your cousin James?" How did she know my cousin had written a book? And that his name is James? Still figuring that one o ...more
Apr 13, 2013 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people that like the New Testament
Shelves: christian-lds
Sometimes, when reading scriptures, I wonder what really happened. We have so little, and human relationships and situations are always more complex than they first seem. This book gives such a treatment to the New Testament. While I'm sure events didn't happen exactly as the author describes in this novelization, this seems like one plausible way things *could* have happened. Peter, Mary, Judas, and other characters feel much more real to me after reading this book. They also feel very *Jewish* ...more
Mar 17, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novelization of the life of Jesus. I felt like I got to know the apostles a bit better and understood more about the motivations of the actors in Jesus's life. It also really humanized Jesus; for some reason reading the Bible makes everyone seem like a special Bible-person to me.

James is a colleague of mine from when I was studying for a Master's in English, so when I heard he had written a book I wanted to read it. The writing was mostly excellent. There were a few chapte
Oct 23, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it
Wow....the writing in this book is just beautiful. It's a novelization of the life of Jesus. It gave me a better understanding of His life. It really made me think and put me in the shoes of Jesus and all those who loved, followed and knew Him. The story gave a real voice to all those who came in contact with Him and made you feel what they may have felt and what they may have thought and maybe why things happened the way they did. It really made me think and gave me a deeper appreciation for Hi ...more
May 21, 2015 Scott rated it really liked it
The book is written entirely in present tense. That kind of grew on me, but I never became completely comfortable with it. The book is a historical novel that explores part of the ministry of Jesus. Thoughts and experiences of some of the apostles and disciples are added by Goldberg. Some will be comfortable with this while others may feel that he is toying with holy writ.

I think that my favorite thing about the book was the interesting perspectives that Goldberg weaves in, many of which are bas
Jan 09, 2015 Brent rated it it was amazing
So much (well, pretty much all) of my New Testament studies were limited to what ultimately are cold, hard facts. This scripture means this. This event probably happened around this time. The New Testament was recorded mostly in this language, and so on.

Yes, I consider myself a disciple of Jesus Christ. Yes, I love him for his example and his sacrifice for me. Yes, I've marveled at the wisdom of his parables. Yes, I've felt God's power telling me that Jesus is my savior. But I still feel like th
Dec 22, 2012 Dave rated it really liked it
I was impressed by the nuance and creativity in this work. What more difficult task could there be for a writer than to take on a retelling of one of the best known and best loved stories of all time. Told with great humanity and boldness, The Five Books of Jesus will reward those who take a chance on a first time novelist.
Katie Sorensen
May 01, 2015 Katie Sorensen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: heavenly
"From the outer edge of the crowd, where three dust-covered brothers and their mother stand, it looks like this: all the desperation in this place has risen to the surface like old forgotten wounds which, for no reason, begin again to sting. Decades of remembered pain swirl around their son and brother, who wears a tattered shirt and no robe at all, who is still as thin as if he'd just returned from forty days in the desert, who deposits the darkness he draws out of people's lives in deep pools
Jul 18, 2015 Kevin rated it it was amazing
If you've traveled a while in a Christian faith, you've likely read the stories of Jesus many times and heard quite a few prayers. My favorite prayers are by people who have recently accepted or re-committed to Christ--and by those blessed few who maintain a continual, joyful renewal of their relationship with him. I love the sincerity and humility in their effort to share with God what's in their hearts.

This book reminds me of those refreshingly personal prayers: both of them involve the poetry
Douglas Summers-Stay
Aug 23, 2014 Douglas Summers-Stay rated it really liked it
A fairly straightforward retelling of the gospels. Some interesting areas were where he thought about Judas's reasons for doing what he did, and Mary and Martha's thoughts. Goldberg included a lot of his insights into scriptural events. My wife has been reading a lot about women and the priesthood lately, so I took particular notice of the fact that Jesus was anointed by a woman-- in Goldberg's version, clearly an ordinance of some kind. In general, he pays a lot of attention to women's viewpoin ...more
Jaycee Limutau
Apr 25, 2014 Jaycee Limutau rated it it was amazing
Yes, this is fiction and not everything in the Gospels is included in the story but I have such a deeper appreciation for the Apostles and our Savior. The author is a poetic writer. It's beautifully written. Definitely a thinking sort of book not my usual fluff =) James Goldberg does an amazing job at bringing the reader right into the pushing crowd trying to get to the man they call Jesus. He does a podcast interview about the book that is really interesting as well. I'd say this is a must read ...more
Brent Wilson
Nov 30, 2013 Brent Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, mormons
Sharman and I read this together for nightly devotional reading; it felt very much like reading the Gospels, but with enough surprise detail to make us think freshly about the stories.

The James Goldberg has Jewish roots and it shows. That's key for me - that it be faithful to Jesus' time and place. You get more of the Apostles, the women followers, and the community of support surrounding Jesus. You get more of his feelings and moods and way of leading. Some of the stories and parables are strik
Erika RS
Aug 17, 2013 Erika RS rated it really liked it
Ever since I spent a year reading and blogging the Bible, I have had a soft spot in my heart for works that try to convey what the world was like for the actors in and authors of the Bible.

The Five Books of Jesus explore through fiction what it might have been like to be around Jesus during his ministries. As an atheist, I am most interested in the sociological aspect of the book. Even though it is fiction, this book does two important things.

Modern Christians often seem to forget that believin
Sep 25, 2012 Merrijane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religious, mormon-lit
This is my favorite book of the year! I've read it twice already, and am on my third time through. You would think that such a well-known story as the ministry of Jesus Christ would make this book predictable and boring. But even while faithfully recounting familiar events, the author surprises with new insights which evoke new thoughts and emotions in the reader. His writing style is beautiful, poetic, and moving.

Sometimes fiction about Jesus leaves me feeling uncomfortable if I think the autho
Apr 15, 2013 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sunday-reading
Loved it. This book did for the Gospels what Hardy's The Book of Mormon A Reader's Edition and Understanding the Book of Mormon A Reader's Guide did for the BoM: made scripture exciting to me!

(view spoiler)
May 27, 2013 Dawn rated it really liked it
This is a lovely little book which tells Jesus' story from the viewpoint of a disciple at the time He lived. The writing is lyrical and the story compelling. The author writes as one who has spent time in the Holy Land and loves it. He gives beautiful, intimate descriptions of the countryside and also describes Jerusalem as an insider. So the setting feels as if the reader is actually there experiencing the places and perhaps even eyewitness to the events.

The people are also fleshed out. Each o
Mar 25, 2014 Louis rated it it was amazing
This is by far my favorite book that I have recently. A man with the pen of a poet, the ethnic heritage of the Middle East, and the religious understanding of a faithful Latter-day Saint, weaves an emotionally and spiritually insightful fabric from the 'Five Books of Jesus' comprising Matthew through Acts. It is passionate, compelling, vivd, poetic, and deeply spiritual. I would recommend it to anyone.
Mar 10, 2015 Ruth rated it it was amazing
I've been reading James Goldberg's blog for a few years now, so I already knew I liked his writing style. This book, though, is even better. A beautiful exploration of the New Testament, showing the human side of those associated with Jesus, as well as Jesus himself. It made me look at familiar stories in a new way, and brought me to tears. Loved it.
Cynthia Schermerhorn
Not accurate in details

The writing is good but it doesn't, have the correct happenings or the right people. Left out Him forgiving while He hung on the cross. That is important because it shows how much He loves us.
Apr 04, 2016 Josi rated it really liked it
I love books about Christ that enhance my understanding of him as a real person--not some fantastical creation that I can't relate to. I enjoyed this book very much for that reason. Definately worth the read.
Chanel Earl
Jan 10, 2013 Chanel Earl rated it really liked it
There were sections of this book that were perfect: sentences, paragraphs, chapters. But I couldn't keep from bringing my own views about the story into my reading of the book and letting them taint my feelings about it.

I was disappointed, for example, in the sections of Luke and John that were left out of the novel. It seemed like Matthew and Mark were the primary sources looked at while writing (although I could tell that a lot of other historical sources were used as well, which made the sto
Nik Kane
May 12, 2015 Nik Kane rated it it was ok
The incredible series of ravingly positive 4 and 5 star reviews for this book (a few by members of the author's own family) can be taken as evidence of how incredible Mormons are at creating and supporting community bonds, but probably should not be taken as an objective indication of the quality of this book.
To be fair, the book isn't bad, it's just nothing special. Certainly not worthy of the 4.39 star average that it currently holds. If one wants a fictionalization of the gospels that is trul
Dec 30, 2013 BHodges rated it it was amazing
This is the best literary treatment of the stories of Jesus I've ever read. Beautifully conceived and crafted. Goldberg's re-telling of the New Testament story of Jesus made me want to revisit the New Testament again. His is not the typical historical fiction approach. Goldberg retells extremely familiar stories in a different register so as to render them fresh and compelling again. He draws interesting connections from the texts I've never made before. Wonderful.
Goldberg writes a novelization of the life of Jesus. The events are drawn from the four gospels, but Jesus, John the Baptist, Mary (mother of Jesus) and others are fleshed out through additional dialogue--both spoken and internal. The book has a poetic, lyric quality. However, the most salient aspect is it's tone. It's quite peaceful, even when describing tense situations, such as when the Jewish elders confront Jesus. It's was a good way for me to meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus.

Jul 31, 2013 Brennan rated it it was amazing
I mostly set out to read this book because the author is a friend. I expected it to be an interesting and enjoyable read, but I didn't expect it to pull me in the way that it did. James is a master storyteller, and he brings the beloved stories of Jesus together into one cohesive and very beautiful picture. In all my readings of Jesus, I've never been able to visualize the stories so clearly. I especially enjoyed the nuances that he gave to Jesus' relationships with the women surrounding him. Al ...more
Sharman Wilson
I would give this a 4.5 if that option were available. Brent and I read this together, which is good, but now I want to go back and savor it. It's beautifully written and quite thought provoking. I love the day to day details Goldberg conjures up, and how he places well-known stories and sayings into interesting contexts. I love his characterizations, and the relationships, especially of Jesus and his close associates. I appreciate the portrayal of the women as key followers and supporters. Gold ...more
Rosalyn Eves
Apr 14, 2013 Rosalyn Eves rated it really liked it
I found Goldberg's book surprisingly enjoyable--and I say this because religious fiction is not often my favorite genre; also because when I picked up the book the first time the opening was so mystical that it was off-putting. But the book itself was lovely: the language was poetic and lyrical. But what I liked best about the book was that I felt it gave me a new perspective on familiar stories in the New Testament: I started seeing the stories in terms of individual characters making real deci ...more
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James Goldberg’s family is Jewish on one side, Sikh on the other, and Mormon in the middle. His plays, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Shofar, Drash, The Best of Mormonism: 2009, Sunstone, Dialogue, Prick of the Spindle, and Jattan Da Pracheen Ithas.

Goldberg works at the LDS Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. His wife, Nicole, teaches writi
More about James Goldberg...

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