Mark's Story by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (Putnam Praise, 2007)
This, the second story in The Jesus Chronicles, is a bold, not to say brazen, attempt to show the events of Jesus' life and of the early church through the eyes of the author of the Gospel of Mark. I hadn't planned to read anything more by LaHaye and Jenkins, not after my disappointment with their Left Behind series, which had an interesting premise but could have used writers who were as serious about the story they were crafting as they were about the message they wanted to get across. As I've said before, great writers manage to convey many messages through their works, but people who start writing with a message in mind tend to write mediocre novels. But Mark's Story was recommended by a friend whom I respect, and she backed up the recommendation by lending me the book.
Tackling any part of the the Bible though the medium of historical fiction is risky, and I wondered how LaHaye and Jenkins—who so clearly reverence the Book as the written, infallable, word of God—would dare to add to what the Scriptures have to say. Well, they were smarter than me, and solved that problem—not to mention the need to get their word count up to book size—by quoting passages of the New Testament verbatim, and at length. Mark's "story" is merely the lubricant that allows the quotations to slide together into a coherent narrative.
I must say that the authors have done a credible job of piecing together the Gospels, the book of Acts, and the letters of Paul and Peter, along with what we know of early church history, while adding only enough new material to make the story flow, to show how Mark might have learned the stories he tells in his Gospel, and to get across their own biases and interpretations. The last should surprise no one who has read the Left Behind books.
Unfortunately, that much of the material is straight Scripture I actually found to be a detraction. I'd rather read the Bible itself, because—at least to someone very familiar with the facts—what is added did not give enough story to the narrative. I wasn't eager to turn the page to find out what was going to happen, and the book has none of the character development that makes me happy to re-read books I know almost by heart.
For someone less familiar with the New Testament, however, this might be a good introduction. As I said, the authors succeeded in weaving a chronological tapestry from writings that are anything but chronological. And despite my complaints, I may go ahead and read the rest of the series, just to see what they can do with the other Gospel writers. If I think of Mark's Story as one of those modern "specialty Bibles" with denominational commentary, it "works" better for me.