I cannot even begin to imagine how many hours of research you put into this work on so many levels. I love history and culture and really enjoy your side notes and explanations in the text that provide such interest and backstory as your story unfolds. I also see so much of the fruit of your research in the characters and events as they unfold that are not explicitly stated (i.e. having James the Elder as Joseph's son prior to his relationship with Mary, the clay birds flying away, just to name a couple.) I have learned so much from reading your novel.
I will have to say that the most unexpected twist of all in the entire novel came for me near the very end. You kept me wondering throughout the entire story how the actual betrayal would play out -- and I didn't see it coming in the way it did. Another unexpected twist was earlier on when Mary is being attended to by angels at the birth of Jesus. What an epidural that was! And, Joseph's death was so sad! I knew it was coming, of course, but didn't know how it would happen. I actually love your development of Joseph, especially when he is in the synagogue listening to the reading, realizing that he is living out prophecy. So good!
I think your statement of belief/intent is really helpful and offers just the right disclaimer for this type of novel.
Dr. Kaye Dalton
“Jesus-Judas: Best Friends Forever”
A Novel by Ralph Jarrells
One of the final verses of Frederick W. Faber’s hymn “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” offers an unusual wisdom:
But we make His love too narrow by false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own.
Author Ralph Jarrells has dared to ask out loud what so many of us have silently questioned, “Is there a wideness to be found in God’s love and mercy if we dare to remove false limits of our own?”
False limits might be imposed from several directions, sources, and influences, even from thorough, “approved,” “rightly divided,” sincere study. Is it possible for further study – say, from outside the canon, and from other historical sources - to widen the possibility for a fuller understanding of God’s love and mercy? Might the loosening of our own “strictness” bring a broader and deeper knowledge?
The details of Jesus’ childhood occupied my thoughts as a young man. When I once asked the pastor why there were no more stories of Jesus as a little boy, I was admonished to be seen, and not heard. Limits were imposed early.
Ralph Jarrells has dared to ask many of these questions, and has researched not only the extant scriptures, but also writings outside both the canon and traditional orthodoxy for answers to these questions. He has offered up an opinion (in the form of a novel) entitled “Jesus-Judas: Best Friends Forever”. The title instantly evokes intrigue.
The parallels of these two lives traced from pre-birth, to birth, then through formative childhood years could not be any more diverse. These two lives, lived in parallel, are vastly different in many ways, yet uncomfortably similar in others.
As the stories unfold, we are tempted to impose our own limits through reversion to our own familiarity with the stories. It is then that the author swings away those limitations and we are re-introduced to characters we only thought we knew. We are given fascinating details, often compelling us to re-read several pages, confirming, “Yes. That’s what it said!” Then we pause in our fascination.
Approaching the conclusion, we are compelled to finish the story for ourselves. Do not do it.
The final vastness of God’s love and mercy is about to unfold in a manner never imagined. Love and mercy are revealed without false limits, without unowned strictness, in a vast and immeasurable fullness. -
Rev. Dr. Lanny Lanford
The Ultimate Sacrifice
The facts of the biblical narrative of the living Jesus are creatively interfused in this work of historical fiction that begins in the ancient Egyptian sandstones and culminates in the central town of Biblical fame, Jerusalem. While staying true to the biblical narrative, Ralph Jarrells creatively allows the storyline to take its own path, showing the power of friendship and loyalty with an unexpected outcome.
While this is not a theological treatise, per se, it is indeed a thrilling account of historical fiction that presents a creative way of looking at the deep indebtedness that Jesus and Judas share between each other. The author weighs in on a script that is not usually associated with the sociologic definitions of relationship as the power of friendship commemorates and eternalizes betrayal as an ultimate act of loyalty.
In an artistic and ingenious way, the author takes the underpinnings of Jesus’ story that we all know so well – the Jesus who is committed to relationships – and creates an alternative dialogue between characters, Jesus and Judas, interfusing their story in a deeper plot that starts in their early years together in Egypt. This friendship is mutual and empathetic in the early years and remains so throughout their lives as the relationship carries its significance into eternal infamy. It is a story of seeming loyalty, abiding commitment, and finally a betrayal that can never be overcome by the betrayer. Loyalty of such unfathomable reaches, on Judas’ part, is the surprise in the story we would not expect. This is where the author really makes the point that “loyalty,” in its classical term, would be the refusal of Judas to betray his friend. The struggle to embrace the providence in the relationship is the highest proof of an enduring loyalty that will not rest until fulfilled exclusively per the request of Jesus himself. With knowledge of the story of Jesus and his true level of sacrifice in giving his life for his friends, it is not at all a surprise to us. What is the surprise, is Judas’ struggle to abide by his friend Jesus’ request of betrayal. Here, the hero in the story shifts from Jesus to Judas, who stands by his friend while seemingly turning against him. Betrayal is the highest act of sacrifice one can offer to his friend. The twist in the story comes after the lifetime of mutual loyalty is met with an indebtedness when Jesus mandates the loyalty of debt be repaid by Judas. It is not a betrayal at all in Jesus’ mind, but in Judas’ mind is exactly that. Nevertheless, Judas fulfills the oath to betray Jesus to the authorities, and hence fulfills the outstanding debt that Jesus requires of him for his redemptive repayment. Here, Jesus seemingly requires the sacrifice from Judas that Judas is unwilling to pay, yet reluctantly adheres to, all because of their deep and abiding friendship. It is a seeming end where both are loyal to each other unto death, the ultimate sacrifice on both sides of the endearing relationship between the two.
Rev. Dr. David Dalton