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The Five Books of Jesus

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  191 ratings  ·  64 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 Independent Publishing Platform (first published September 19th 2012)
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4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  191 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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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
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, lds-doctrine
I recently moved back in with my in-laws to finish up the last year of my graduate degree, and a move typically also results in a new ward. After a few shared gospel doctrine classes and post-block discussions, I struck up a friendship with an insightful and well-read brother. We have many of the same literary interests, especially regarding faith: Mormon history and doctrine, Christian literature, and philosophy. My friend, Dan, lent me a copy of The Five Books of Jesus that he had recently fin ...more
Gwendolyn Gage
Jan 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Ugh, I am sooo disappointed!!! Few writers are willing to take a stab at writing a novel of Jesus' life, and man, I look for those books! But as with A.D. 30, I found this one disappointing from the start. The writing is craft-smart and so beautiful--as I started to read, I got excited, thinking, oh yes!!! I'm really going to enjoy this one!

And then, when Jesus comes to John for baptism, John asks Him, "Are you the one?" and Jesus (in this novel) says, "I think so". And I'm like what?????!!!!!
Jakob Hansen
May 11, 2014 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
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an unexpectedly lyrical, novelistic account of the ministry of Jesus, told from the perspective of his disciples. The subject seems almost too large and amply covered for a project such as this to be successful (with plenty of opportunity for the work to fall flat on its face). Yet Goldberg is a deft writer who meets the challenge. The story unfolds as naturally as a novel, without didacticism--and I was struck anew by what compelling stories these events and parables are, perfectly sui ...more
Sep 26, 2012 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
Nov 11, 2012 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
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious-lds
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
Sep 03, 2015 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
Nov 24, 2012 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.
Dan Call
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely riveting. I intentionally slowed down my reading of the book so as to draw it out and savor each episode as much as possible. I’m a huge fan of how Goldberg envisions the inner workings of each disciple’s soul- Andrew, Peter, Judas in particular.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow. I doubt I will ever read the New Testament the same way again. Such a unique approach! This book basically boils down to Goldberg decided to write how the 4 gospels in the New Testament got the stories they have, but put it into a narrative fashion. So you have the miracles of Christ, but it isn't word for word like in the New Testament, it's with the understanding it is being seen through eyes of men who didn't truly know what they were witnessing until after Christ's death. So the wording ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. Beautifully written. So carefully crafted! And oh my, what a bold undertaking to make such an attempt! Writing about Jesus without being overly attached to meeting the heavy expectations that each reader must inevitably bring to this story must have been so difficult! And to succeed at writing such a lyrical novel about what it might have been like for Jesus and his closest followers. Wow. Just wow. Can't recommend this one highly enough.
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I got this email for free when it was on sale on Amazon. It was an interesting premise to write historical fiction about the life of Christ and to try and out yourself in the shoes of the apostles and disciples. However I kept getting the characters confused and found it hard to follow at times.
Nicole Shepard
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this more than I did. I feel like the prose just got in the way. It seemed too literary for its own good. Instead of driving deep, it seemed to skim the surface. Of course there were some beautiful insights, but I just couldn't quite love it.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars
Josh Rolph
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
James Goldberg brings the New Testament to life in a much more approachable version than the traditional translated texts.
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful and sensitive novel depicting the life of Jesus - this little book gave me much to think about.
Bryce DeFigueiredo
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Truly beautiful and poetic. The Five Books of Jesus brings life and vitality to the Gospels and makes the emotion in their stories palpable. This is a book I will re-read many times.
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dec 11, 2014 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
Erika RS
Aug 17, 2013 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
Brent Wilson
Nov 28, 2013 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
Nov 16, 2012 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
Bonnie Atkinson
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm not normally a fan of historical fiction of scripture but perhaps I've matured. I really loved this. I found myself pondering as I read why the author chose a present tense. Not a big leap, as the story is intended to be present for us, unfolding, but it was disconcerting enough at times that I found the narrator pushing himself into my awareness. I wondered who he was, if he was intended to be me, if I were being drawn back as a more intimate spectator. It worked that way for me as I was co ...more
Jan 09, 2015 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
Nov 04, 2012 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 21, 2015 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
Katie Sorensen
Apr 01, 2015 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
Sep 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mormon-lit, religious
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
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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