Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Man Born to Be King: Review

In The Man Born to Be King (1943), Dorothy L. Sayers brings her literary powers to bear on the life of Christ. She follows His story from birth to Resurrection and Ascension--combining the texts from all the Gospels into one seamless, coherent story. Her radio drama play cycle (12 in all) brings the story of Jesus of Nazareth to modern, mid-20th Century listeners in language and situations that, while remaining true to the scriptures, modern audiences recognize. she couched her dramas in such a way that the British public of the 1940s could picture themselves in the story and recognized the behavior of the participants as very like people they knew.

One of her goals in creating this play-cycle was to reveal events as if they were happening for the first time. Her introductory notes explain that everyone who has read the gospel accounts always view the events from a post-resurrection point of view. The tendency is to look at the doubters and wonder how on earth could they not have known who Jesus was...but they didn't have the advantage of years of hindsight and ability to study the New Testament. It's like we all turned immediately to the last chapter of a mystery where the detective goes through all the evidence that proves who did it and then we go back and wonder why all those people in the story didn't automatically know that Mr. Smith was the villain of the piece.

Most of the people who didn't recognize who Jesus was were just ordinary people going about their everyday business. If the boy next door whom you had grown up with and known all your life left home and you started hearing stories about how he was performing all kinds of miracles--would you immediately believe. Or would you say, who Johnny? Why, I remember when he was running around in diapers. How could he be turning water into wine? Sayers allows us to understand how those people felt and why it was so hard for them to believe.

She gives us an in-depth view of the disciples and other major figures--thoughtfully bringing forth their humanity in all its flaws and best moments. She provides a very convincing argument for how Judas, who had been chosen as one of the twelve, could betray the man he believed in.

I have yet to read any of Sayers' work that has not been thoughtful, interesting, and--where needed--well-researched. She infuses her serious writing with wit and humor while never losing sight of the serious issues involved. ★★★★

1 comment:

Barbara H. said...

I did not know that she wrote a book like this. Very interesting! And a good point, too, that we look back at the life of Christ from this vantage point instead of imagining what it was like for the people then as they tried to discern who Jesus was.