I chose to read this novel as I also worked my way slowly through the Gospel of Mark. My method of late has been to try to pray through a paragraph of the Gospel or so, placing myself on those streets with Jesus and inviting that true dialogue that can only come through honest, heartfelt prayer through the Word of God. I’ve learned a lot through that process, and it makes everything else—especially the fictionalized version of the history—pale in comparison. That’s not a disparaging remark against LaHaye or Jenkins who were great with the Left Behind series, it’s just that no author can be or should be compared to God.
This novel follows the historical figure, Mark, from a very early age, opening with his supposed service of guiding the disciples to the Upper Room shortly before The Last Supper. I have known a lot about the background of Mark and his relationship with both Peter and Paul for many years, so some of the suggested tie-in scenes in this book came as no surprise, for example the theory that John Mark was the young man running naked from the Garden of Gethsemane shortly after Christ’s arrest. Other scenes, however plausible and intriguing, did seem a bit forced, for example that he so often just happened to find secret places throughout the city where he could overhear such important bits of conversation such as Jesus’ high priestly prayer or Peter’s own denials. Granted, these ploys make for the simplest means of getting the story and dialogue across, but too often they seem contrived.
The book does not explicitly follow the life of Christ as it’s recorded in the Gospel according to Mark, but instead follows the life of Mark the writer, fitting into the first-third of the book the history of the early church all the way through Acts 14. Only once this is accomplished do the authors swing the conversation between Mark and Peter back to what eventually becomes the text of Mark 1. While it is certainly far better to simply read these biblical passages themselves, at least the intentional representation of Mark’s personal context prior to his writing is intriguing and educational, supposing it’s not all conjecture.
By the time the authors made their way to the actual re-telling of the Gospel of Mark, I felt comfortable enough to leave the book behind. As I enjoy praying through the true Word of God, I’m not at all interested in also reading through a slightly-changed version of the Bible, which this book essentially is. The fact that Peter’s telling of the story is a virtual word-for-word rip from the final text also makes me doubt the authors’ creativity, for it most certainly didn’t happen the way that they propose. Mark and Peter knew each other for years, and Mark’s Gospel is by no means a direct transcription of Peter’s diction, but rather a personal record from Marks own thoughts (as he was carried about by the Spirit) of all that Peter had shared throughout the years.
I’m still greatly interested in reading at least the beginning portions of the other books in this series, Luke’s Story, John’s Story, and Matthew’s Story, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if that’s as far as I get. The historical fiction is great, the lessons are helpful, but the poor-man’s Bible leaves a lot to be desired.