Cover Story

On the road with Jesus

The second novel about Christ by acclaimed author Anne Rice, who once wrote about vampires, is due out on March 4. Here's an excerpt from Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, followed by Rice's reasons for depicting as she did Jesus' encounter with Satan.

Issue: "The Road to Cana," Feb. 23, 2008

The Gospels are tight writing. They tell us what we need to know about Jesus, but not all we want to know. Desires can be dangerous, and many writers over the centuries have conjured up a Jesus that fit their imaginations but not the Gospel evidence. The test of faithfulness: Does the author make more vivid the biblical account or substitute for it a nonbiblical fantasy?

Eleven years ago, had someone suggested that Anne Rice, the unbelieving author of Interview with the Vampire and other bestsellers of a decidedly non-Christian cast, would be writing novels about Jesus, the betting line would have been that she'd make Satan the hero. But in 1998 she "began to be more and more concerned with my relationship with God" (see "Into the Light," Dec. 3, 2005).

She began attending church. She began reading theologians, including those who thought "Christianity was, at heart, a kind of fraud." She told WORLD that she "expected to discover that their arguments would be frighteningly strong." She came out concluding that the skeptics were perpetrators and victims of poor scholarship and reasoning.

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She kept studying: archeology books, studies of the Gospels, Josephus, Philo, recent exegeses. In fall 2002, her husband of 41 years showed symptoms of brain cancer and died just four months later. She fought the pain by burrowing deeper. Her previous work had dealt with the supernatural, and now she concentrated on Jesus, whom she calls "the ultimate supernatural hero."

She told WORLD that "all of the novels I wrote before were a dress rehearsal for this. It helps you trust in God that there's a purpose for things even when you don't know what it is. Especially if you don't know what it is." She was filled with excitement: "I feel like I have this wonderful challenge ahead of me . . . that will fill up my whole life until I die. There's so much to study, so much to ponder, so much to write, so much to know."

The challenge was even greater because she had decided to write her series about Christ in the first person: How does a writer enter the mind of God? At least the first book of her new series, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, dealt largely with Jesus' childhood in Egypt, about which almost nothing is known. The tennis serves were coming at Rice fast, but she was playing without a net.

Her new book, though, and especially its second half, covers baptisms, temptations, and miracles described tersely in the Gospels. The net is up. Judge for yourself how she volleys in this excerpt from Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, her new book that will be officially published on March 4. Afterward, read Rice's notes for WORLD about what she was trying to achieve in this depiction of Satan tempting Jesus. -Marvin Olasky

Excerpt from chapter 22 of Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana . . .

Forty days and forty nights.

That's how long Moses remained on Sinai. That's how long Elijah fasted before the Lord spoke to him.

"Lord, I have done it," I whispered. "I know, too, what they expect of me. Only too well, do I know."

My sandals were falling to pieces. I'd retied the thongs more times than I could count. The sight of my sunburnt hands unsettled me, but I only laughed under my breath. I was headed home.

Down the mountains, towards the bright shimmering desert that lay between me and the river I couldn't see.

"Alone, alone, alone," I sang. I had never felt such hunger. I had never felt such thirst. They rose as if in answer to my own pronouncement. "Oh, yes, so many times did I devoutly wish for it," I sang to myself. "To be alone." And now I was alone, with no bread, no water, no place to rest my head.

"Alone?"

It was a voice. It was a familiar voice, a man's voice familiar in timbre and pitch.

I turned around.

The sun was behind me, and so the light was painless and clear.

He was about my height, and beautifully garbed, more beautifully and richly even than Reuben of Cana or Jason-more like the figure of the King. He wore a linen tunic, embroidered with a border of green leaves and red flowers, each little floret glistening with gold thread. The border of his white mantle was even thicker, richer, woven as the mantles of the Priests are woven, and hung even with tiny gold bells. His sandals were covered with gleaming buckles. And around his waist he wore a thick leather girdle studded with bronze points, as a soldier might wear. Indeed a sword in a jeweled scabbard hung at his side.

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