Friday, June 21, 2019

"The Gospel According to Lazarus"

Richard Zimler's novels include The Search for Sana, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, and The Seventh Gate. He has won many prizes for his writing and has lectured on Sephardic Jewish culture all over the world. He now lives in Porto, Portugal, where he teaches journalism and writes.

Zimler applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Gospel According to Lazarus, and reported the following:
In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus resurrected a beloved friend named Lazarus. And yet, nowhere in the Gospels is there any mention of how Jesus created this miracle or if he had any special reason for doing so. In my novel, The Gospel According to Lazarus, I explore these questions while narrating the tale of Lazarus from his own point of view.

The story begins with Lazarus awakening in his tomb, unsure of where he is and disoriented. Worst of all, his faith has been shattered because he remembers nothing of an afterlife. Fragile and vulnerable, he turns to Jesus for help, and the two men embark on a new phase of their long friendship.

After Jesus’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Lazarus concludes that his whole life may have been a test for this chance to save his beloved friend from crucifixion. Only many years later, however – after our narrator has been forced to flee Jerusalem – does he begin to understand the true role that he played in Jesus’ life. And he begins to believe that he might still be able to help his old friend by voicing his unique perspective on the religious and mystical movement that became known as Christianity.

One of my objectives in this novel was to restore to Jesus and Lazarus their Judaism. And so Jesus is known by his Hebrew name, Yeshua ben Yosef, and Lazarus is referred to as Eliezer ben Natan.

On page 69, Eliezer is about to finish telling his grandson a mystical version of the story from John 8 of a woman accused of adultery and facing punishment. In Eliezer’s version, the woman has been and beaten and brutalized. Yeshua saves her life by using an insightful strategy against her accuser. Here is what Eliezer says.
All who have ever heard this story believe they know the lesson that Yeshua wished to teach us. It is contained in these words: ‘Let he who is without blemish or who has never lost his way cast the first stone.’

But, while that is an important lesson, it is only the one we see at first glance, written across the polished surface of his actions.

If you gaze below this level of meaning, dear boy, you may glimpse the second – and some would say, more life-changing – lesson that Yeshua intended for us that day, and it is this: The only hands and eyes that the Lord has to right injustice in our world are our own.
Page 69 captures a bit of the mystical tone of the book but not the rapid pace and down-to-earth atmosphere. The review in England’s The Observer newspaper is relevant in this regard: “A very human tale of rivalry, betrayal, power-grabbing and sacrifice... Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this brave and engaging novel is that Zimler manages to make the best-known narrative in western culture a page-turner. I simply had to keep going to the end to know what would happen.”
Visit Richard Zimler's website.

The Page 99: Guardian of the Dawn.

--Marshal Zeringue