First of all, this book is an in-depth dissection of the last week of Jesus's life, even down to having a day-by-day timeline. This approach means that Page has teased out of the four Gospels a chronology that otherwise is lost when reading them separately -- things like the raising of Lazarus happening the day before Palm Sunday, and the suggestion that such an episode really tipped the scales when it came to the local leadership getting hot under the collar.
Second, it's a meticulously research history book in terms of what Jerusalem's political situation was like at that time, what a Passover week would have meant in terms of crowds and sacrifices and all that, and what other historical authors, not from the Bible, have said about the situation.
Here's just a little taster of how much his approach has added to the story of Jesus's last week. Most people know the story about Palm Sunday, how Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. From a biblical perspective, this has been touted as one of the ways that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, since Zechariah 9:9 mentions the Messiah's riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.
But what I didn't know is that it was very likely that riding into the opposite end of Jerusalem on that same day would have been Pilate, in all his pomp as he arrived to deliver the priestly clothes that were worn in the Temple for Passover.
So not only was Jesus fulfilling scripture, he was also mocking Pilate and his version of what power was.
Another fact that I hadn't really appreciated was that Jesus's death from crucifixion was too quick to have been caused by the usual means of death by this torture -- that is, asphyxiation. Such a death usually took many, many hours, if not days. Instead, Jesus died within three hours. Page argues that the beatings and whippings earlier in the day had actually caused such massive bleeding that Jesus died of blood loss and shock.
In fact, Page says, Jesus was basically a dead man before he was put on the cross, hemorrhaging inside and little more than a walking corpse.
I found this book engrossing. I loved how the chronology of the four gospels was amalgamated (and where they differed, making plausible suggestions as to why). I liked the inclusion of other sources outside the Bible, to make the contemporary scene really come alive. I appreciated the wider background of what Jerusalem would have been like during a Passover week under Roman occupation.
I can't really judge if a non-Christian would find it as fascinating as I did, but I wouldn't be surprised if its version is more palatable than the Bible itself when it comes to an explanation of what Christians find so interesting about the death and resurrection of the "cornerstone" of their faith.
on 7 April 2012
Page takes each day of Holy Week, where Jesus entered Jerusalem, engaged with the religious, the lower classes, the Romans and the rest, before being executed... and raised to life.
Using the Gospels, as well as other literary sources (such as Josephus), we get an insight into what was going on during the week, from the festival and its customs, from the religious and sacrifices, to the people, the place and their hopes and expectations.
I've read it during Holy Week and found it stirring and helpful.
on 5 April 2013
Just read and used this great book over Easter to help me follow the man from Galilee's footsteps through Jerusalem at this crucial time.
With insight and compassion towards those living out the events of Easter week, Nick Page creates a wholly convincing narrative that helps explain why some things were as they were and why some people acted the way they did.
In other words, he helps to clarify the Gospel readings with excellent historical references and with a firm grip on 1 st century Judea, its politics and cultural norms. As someone who has visited Jerusalem, Nick also helps explain the sites and enables us to understand the historically accurate locations of the present day from the medieval inventions which now litter Jersualem's streets.
A great book that deserves wide readership - and not just at Easter.