Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Fisherman’s Testament, by César Vidal (Zondervan)

There are many excellent reasons César Vidal is an international bestselling author, and The Fisherman’s Testament is one of them.

In The Fisherman’s Testament, Señor Vidal blends superb storytelling with Scriptural truth into a powerful novelization of Mark’s Gospel. Originally penned in Spanish, nothing is lost in translation in this novel that garnered the Martinez-Roca Spirituality Prize in 2004. Consider the first sentences of the novel for a flavor of the author and his main character:

“I, Marcus Junius Vitalis, known amongst my men as the “Asiatic,” veteran soldier in the service of Rome, faithful companion of Cæsar Claudius and Cæsar Nero, know that I have arrived at the last stretch of this winding and bitter path we call life. Others will live on, be it for a shorter or longer time, but my life is ending. Before I know it, it will be utterly extinguished, and I will find myself cast onto the shores of a different world.”

It is from this perspective Vitalis relates his story of an encounter that upended his world view as a die-hard defender of Rome and staunch adherent to the ideals of the Empire, and framed his view of the “different world” now poised to receive him.
The setting is 62 AD Rome, in Nero’s palace. The Emperor commissions Vitalis to investigate a neo-Jewish cult who profess to follow the Christos. One of the last survivors of the original inner circle of the Christos, a fisherman named Petros, is imprisoned in Rome. Nero decides to lead the prosecution personally to ascertain why this cult that calls itself “The Way” did not die out after the crucifixion of its leader 30 years earlier, as so many other rebellions had in the past. Indeed, it continues to grow, with its influence now reaching into even the capital city. Vitalis joins Nero in the interrogation and hears the tale from the mouth of Petros through Mark, his companion and translator. Nero and Vitalis walk away with completely divergent impressions of the story they’ve heard.

Only 167 pages, this is a ‘quick read’; however, its impact will linger long after you reach the back cover. While nothing can replace Scripture, The Fisherman’s Testament is a worthy alternative text to recommend to someone who may never otherwise crack open the Bible. The power in hearing the Gospel is presented through the divinely inspired words of Petros and Mark, anticipated objections and misunderstandings of the message are delivered through the humanly understandable reactions of Nero and Vitalis, and the joy of reading excellent prose is delivered through the enviable literary skill of Señor Vidal. Tough combination to beat!

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