All of the accounts are what we've read about in the New Testament all our lives, but the fictional stories of how those teachings changed the lives of humble people in forsaken villages in a forsaken countryside made me understand how Christianity spread the world over, (regardless of the Romans trying to squelch it out) and how the influence of a few compassionate acts can slowly, quietly change mankind for generations exponentially. (Except for the dusty sandals part.) Plus, I listened to this book on my iPod and it was nice to hear an Australian accent enacting the Greek and Roman people.
Marcellus is joined on this venture by his loyal slave, a Greek named Demetrius, who is deeply touched by the Nazarene and desperate to learn all he can about him. (view spoiler)(Unlike the film version, Caligula doesnt show up until almost the end.
Raymond St. John, the author of the textbook I was using, American Literature For Christian Schools (my two-star review of that text is here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... (It's also somewhat surprising that Raymond St. John, a separatist Fundamentalist who elsewhere in his text expresses anti-Catholic views, doesn't attack this aspect of the book at all; he reserves his ire for Douglas' perceived association with the "Social Gospel" movement.) My own attitude toward "relics" is more skeptical; but I was able to take that element here as a sort of metaphor, and move on. While Douglas' re-created Christian preaching, and the religious language of his characters, doesn't employ the in-group jargon of modern-day evangelicalism, it does reflect the language and orientation that we read in the book of Acts and the various New Testament epistles; and though, as with other novels that use the New Testament as a background, most characters and events here are fictional, the historical framework in the Biblical material is respected.
The main characters, Marcellus, Diana, and Demetrius, are not as valiantly noble as Douglas's words create them out to be. This novel has many minor characters like Peter, Stephen, Justice, Herod, Salome, and even Pontius Pilate from the Bible. Reading this story takes the reader on a journey through Jerusalem and Greece during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, as one learns about the Jewish cultural system of that period. Demetrius, one of the stars of the story was down played in the movie, which disappointed me. The reader is taken on an exciting journey with characters that will become your best friends.
In fact, I'm a fairly established atheist, but solid evidence would change my mind and I would acknowledge the truth of Christianity, but I wouldn't practice it because that's a whole other essay. In fact, I can imagine devout Christians crying over this book the same way that Mormon woman burst into tears recounting Joseph Smith's broken leg and declaration of faith when I toured Smith's birthplace. Almost half of the book is a masturbatory Jesus lovefest. Nearly the entire book after the crucifixion is a series of dialogue scenes between characters firmly establishing the Divinity of Jesus in clunky Q&A sessions. Even after Marcellus has declared he is a Christian and is convinced, when there is a scene between him and Peter (The Fisherman), Marcellus takes on the role of Skeptic in order to elevate Peter's own divine role and give weight to the fact that Jesus Is Lord. By the end of the book, I was rooting for Caligula (view spoiler)while Marcellus and Diana rode off in the tumbrel to the guillotine walked off to their executionmartyrdom that they were gagging for.
The characters of Demetrius and Marcellus were extremely well-developed (I admit, I fell a little in love with Demetrius), and the story itself was powerful and seemed to be going somewhere. However, once the characters have finished developing, the story continues for a couple hundred more pages.
Never have I read a book more deep, more powerful, more beautiful or more moving than the Robe (Besides the bible of course;)). The ending, without giving any spoilers away, really surprised me but also moved me greatly to praise God for His great love and mercy so that when we die we need not fear death because we know where we are going to live; in heaven for eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I would recommend it to any young person brought up in a religious Christian household, which will probably extend his or her interest in religious history later perhaps leading to books such as "The Silver Chalice", "Quo Vadis", "Barabbas" by Lagerkvist, and my favorite of this sub-genre, "The Last Temptation of Christ" by Nikos Kazantzakis.
Douglas was one of the most popular American authors of his time, although he didn't write his first novel until he was 50.