I felt like it was time to revisit a classic, by having another read of The Robe by Lloyd C Douglas. It stands the test of time, having been written about 80 years ago. Clearly well researched and well imagined, with a great deal of detail about the Roman Empire, insight into the politics and beliefs of the time, as well as the attitudes to issues like slavery and occupation… issues that we sometimes like to think are so lost in the depths of history, that we are even amazed they ever happened on this same earth.
Alongside the history, there is a dramatic story of the lead character’s involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus. The robe, torn from Jesus’ body, comes into his possession in a seemingly insignificant game of chance. But this one incident, and the item itself, has a significant impact on his life journey and search for faith, as well as the lives of those around him.
It is a life adventure, with intertwined stories of deep friendships, loyalty, romance, release from slavery and salvation. The characters are believable and understandable, with the same doubts, obsessions and ambitions as we may have today.
As a Christian, I know that the context of the New Testament stories are so important to understand. To learn how the culture of the times influences the writing and brings meaning to the scripture. This book offers plenty of historical context and highlights many of the challenges that the early church had.
It also reminded me that, for me at least, the genre of “Biblical fiction” really does help to enhance the context and understanding of scripture itself. It is not an alternative to scripture, but it supports, and for someone like me who loves stories, it is a great genre to dive into.