Image: Tunic Cross from St. Hillary, Cornwall
Lettering: The Making of the Lamb
Lettering: A Novel by Robert Harley Bear
Lettering: A Novel by Robert Harley Bear

Reviews

A message from Author Robert Harley Bear: I was gratified to receive these reviews and see my work so well received. According to conventional wisdom I should extract no more than the best two or three lines from each review into a blurb. But what struck me about these reviews, more than what they say, is what they show. These reviewers have widely different outlooks, but they each show how the book raises profound questions. At least on this page, I wanted to post the reviews in their entirety to show how thought provoking my book can be. For those looking for summary quotations, I have copied the highlights into the quotation blocks appearing through the text, but I encourage everyone to read at least some of the reviews in full.

Forward Reviews

An independent literary publication

Bear imagines a teenage Jesus in this exquisitely penned, believable coming-of-age tale.

In The Making of the Lamb, masterful storytelling by Robert Harley Bear vividly brings to life an ancient legend that Jesus Christ traveled to southwest Britain as a teenager.

It has long been said throughout the region that Jesus and his great-uncle, tin trader Joseph of Arimathea, arrived soon after the biblical account of the twelve-year-old Christ in the Jerusalem temple. That scene, where Jesus’s parents find him in the temple after three days of searching, is the last biblical mention of Jesus until his public ministry begins around age thirty.

Where was he for eighteen years? Some say in India. Others insist he was in Britain.

Bear did his homework. The author vividly integrates historical details about the countryside of today’s Cornwall, Somerset, and Wales, specifically places such as Looe, Pilton, Glastonbury, Rumps, and Priddy. He describes the surrounding islands, rocky cliffs, seas, and small waterways; explores the legend rooted in Celtic crosses that appear to bear the image of a young, tunic-clad Christ; and steeps the story in the political and religious era just preceding the Roman conquest of Britain and Rome’s outlawing of the Druid religion.

To that historical backdrop, Bear brings the fictionalized teenage Christ.

Freed via fiction, not bound to pure fact as other treatises seeking to authenticate the legend, Bear allows himself to broadly imagine a young Christ. He paints a picture of a typical thirteen-year-old, his parents left back in Nazareth, who has embarked on a life-altering adventure with his great-uncle and Joseph’s son, Daniel. And abundant adventure there is, accessibly scripted in a modern voice rather than in ancient verbiage, which would have bogged the story down.

Jesus and his companions face danger in stormy sea crossings, pirates, shipwrecks, and sword-slinging tribal warfare. There are new friends to be made—and new enemies–and Jesus and Daniel do practical work as well, learning how to mine tin and silver.

Bear’s Jesus is impetuous, playful, brave, and deeply philosophical. Physical and spiritual growth occur as Jesus matures into a young man, compares his beliefs to that of the Druids, and ultimately must choose his destiny—peacefully live out his life in secluded Britain, or return to the Roman Empire to die on the cross to save humanity.

Jesus’s recurring private conversations with God increase in intensity as the father gradually reveals to the son his potential destiny, leading to a final, powerful showdown. Jesus reacts as expected—with anger and anguish at the choices laid out before him. He is also shattered by the realization that he will not play the role he once hoped for, to conquer the Roman Empire and sit as an earthly king.

Rounding out the book are skillfully interspersed chapters that tell the fictional story of how the legend of Jesus’s time in Britain was secretly recorded, hidden, and finally deciphered in the present day.

This is an exquisitely penned, believable coming-of-age tale. By the end, even biblical purists may have to pinch themselves to remember it’s fiction.

Karyn Saemann
February 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews

An independent literary publication

An adolescent Jesus develops his divine nature in Bear’s debut religious fiction.

The Bible offers only a glimpse of Jesus’ adolescence, but this novel presents one possible course of events for readers to mull over. Bear builds his tale around a Celtic legend about Jesus visiting the people of first-century Britain. In his version, Jesus goes to Britain with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, and his cousin, Daniel, when his uncle travels there to start trading tin. Jesus is aware of his status as Messiah but doesn’t yet understand what that position truly means. He spends years in Britain, living among Celtic people and their druids and slowly developing his divine nature through his experiences there. Though initially lacking in compassion, he’s eager to prove himself a capable warrior, and he eventually confronts the truth that his kingdom will not be on Earth but in heaven. Learning to accept this truth and its tragic implications is difficult even for the son of God. The book also follows a mysterious “tunic cross” that features an image of adolescent Jesus. Eventually, a modern boy encounters the cross, and its connection to the past is gradually revealed throughout the book. Jesus’ story is, of course, theologically controversial. Bear addresses a major point of contention in Christian thought by speculating on how much of his divine nature Jesus understood as he grew up. Some of the images might be difficult for faithful readers to accept, especially those involving a sword-wielding or compassionless Jesus. Bear’s version of adolescent Jesus makes mistakes and has misunderstandings, but he ultimately acts within the Heavenly Father’s will. Overall, Bear successfully creates a character who technically remains sinless while still struggling with the process of growing up. With vivid side characters, an intriguing backdrop and steady pacing, the book is also a strong piece of writing. Occasional allusions to Jesus’ ministry evoke a sense of completeness, too, as when Jesus develops the idea for his parable of the prodigal son after listening to a Celtic tale and dealing with an errant tribal prince.

A stimulating story that challenges readers to consider and appreciate the coming-of-age a young Jesus may have gone through.

M. E. RossonM. E. Rosson, Ph.D.

Author and Newspaper Columnist

Powerful, compelling and full of the teachings of both the Gospel and our Lord and Savior. Full of the history and culture of the period. Reading this book is like taking a journey both to the days of Jesus and to Ancient England in a time of Druids and Celts. The Making of the Lamb by Robert Harley Bear is a wonderful read, delightfully entertaining and yet historical enough to make you forget that it is not real. Or was it real? That is the question this book makes the reader ask and that is well worth the price of admission. The Quest for the Holy Grail is the search for the Divine that all of us must take at some time, and if you decide to read this book, set aside some time because you will not want to put it down. The most dynamic and complete novel about Christ since Ben Hur.

About this reviewer: Along with the late Frank C. Tribbe, Dr. Rosson is one of the trailblazers who first brought the legend of Jesus's travels to Britain alive through fiction. Uncle of God, the Voyages of Joseph of Arimathea tells the legend from the perspective of Jesus's great uncle and focuses upon his growing realization that Jesus is divine. His other works include Sandals in the Dust, Abraham and the Middle East Today, and the All the Books of the Bible commentary series.

John Michael Greer, Grand ArchDruid AODAJohn Michael Greer

Grand Arch-Druid, Ancient Order of Druids in America

A lively and readable novel that carries its religious dimension with a surprising degree of grace—in several senses of that latter word.

Lee Harmon, The Dubious DiscipleLee Harmon, The Dubious Disciple

Author and commentator

What really happened during Jesus’ “lost years” between his appearance at the Temple at age 12 and his ministry at about age 30? Did he grow up in Egypt? India? Or working with his father as a carpenter in Tiberias?

Bear’s story builds upon a medieval legend of Jesus visiting Britain, perhaps under the care of Joseph of Arimathea, who was in some versions of the legend Jesus’ great uncle and a tin merchant. Maybe you’ve read Gordon Strachan’s Jesus the Master Builder: Druid Mysteries and the Dawn of Christianity. Strachan takes these legends seriously, painting Jesus as a Druid.

Bear’s rendition doesn’t go that far. It is presented as fiction based on legend, but Bear’s research is exhaustive. Bear spins a tale of Jesus’ coming-of-age years based on the legend that encourages the reader to come to his or her own conclusions on how the cornerstone ideas of the Christian faith originated in the One we’ve accepted as Lord. The book is lightly tinged with pluralism, yet in all ways respectful of Christian beliefs; I’ve no reason to believe Bear isn’t a practicing Christian. His book brings myth and legend alive with meaning, speculating about how Jesus slowly began to piece together his mission in life. It’s also a well-researched glimpse into Roman oppression throughout the land, setting the scene for Jesus’ pacifistic opposition to the Empire.

In the story, Jesus develops a special relationship with the Father from a young age, but the Father’s ways are mysterious. Jesus contemplates his role as savior of the world and how the Father’s vision of the Messiah differs from the warrior figure Jesus envisioned; he learns what it means to be born again of the Spirit; he learns how to forgive and how to respect our differences. In short, readers of Bear’s novel witness the Making of the Lamb…the one who gave up his sword to die on the cross.

It’s a fascinating journey worth taking with the young Jesus. A book you won’t soon forget.

About this reviewer: Lee Harmon, better known as The Dubious Disciple, is the author of Revelation: The Way It Happened and John’s Gospel: The Way It Happened. He describes himself as an author, historical Jesus scholar, book reviewer, and liberal Christian. His website is www.dubiousdisciple.com.

Henk-Jan van der KlisHenk-Jan van der Klis

Active reviewer on GoodReads, NetGalley, Amazon and more

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Robert Harley Bear wrote intriguing historical fiction novel The Making of the Lamb around the ancient legend, that Jesus Christ traveled to and stayed in England during as teenager. The “missing years” between being in Jerusalem’s Temple at age 12 and Jesus’ ministry’s start at age 30 are now used to learn obedience to God the Father, and to experience everything a normal teenager would. Jesus Christ dreams of restoring the kingdom of David and lead his people into freedom. When his uncle Joseph of Arimathea (the one that would eventually bury his nephew in his own grave) is a famous salesman. He brings Jesus and his own son, Daniel with him to Gaul and England, where local people live in relative peace. Among the druids Jesus learns to figure out his own position, the character of his heavenly Father and the mission he’s commissioned and committed to.

What truths can be found in pagan religions? What is freedom of choice? What does it mean to be fully divine and fully human? How to explain that you have a heavenly Father, and that He is still One True God? Would you give up your life to save humanity, hundred people, ten, a beloved family member that was seduced by the devil or a former slave that only caused you great trouble?

The book relives the native late iron-age Celts, their crafts, religion and justice. Sometimes it reads like an Asterix & Obelix comic book, often as a well-balanced attempt to grasp the core of Jesus Christ’s mission. Several parables, tenets about the kingdom of God and the concept of die to your flesh and being reborn, you know from the gospels, are fostered here. Wrestling with God, just like Jacob and Job did, on the summit of what’s now known as the Glastonbury Tor, seeking mercy in Stonehenge and the obligation to return to Israel. All packed with a couple of historical flashbacks in medieval and contemporary England to decipher the mysteries of this largely unknown English contribution to Jesus Christ’s ministry.

Denis McGrath

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The “Making of the Lamb is a robust and imaginative fictional expansion of the 2nd century Legend of Joseph of Arimathea and its many interpolations in which Joseph brought Jesus to Britain in his early (missing) years before he returned to Jerusalem for his crucifixion. The author has carefully woven Christian scripture and theology along with Jewish practices and Druidic interaction to make for splendid reading.

Maggie McKeating
Maggie McKeating

http://maggiemckeatingsreviews.wordpress.com/

As we approach the holiday season of Christmas one new book in particular caught my eye. It was Robert Harley Bear’s The Making of the Lamb which is a fictional tale based in plausible history and supposition about the story of Jesus Christ between the age of twelve and the years when he began his ministry. These years are a mystery and are missing not only from the Bible but other texts on the life and story of Jesus Christ. Many scholars have tried to track down his movements and what the Son of God might have been doing during these years but Robert Harley Bear has been able to artfully craft a fictional story about these very formative years during Christ’s life and what He may have been doing. Normally I am not one to pick up fictional works about or encompassing my religion but something about this book intrigued me, especially being so close to the date when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In The Making of the Lamb Bear supposes that Jesus is taken at His mother’s request by his uncle Joseph to Britain on his trading expeditions to get Jesus away from the Pharisees who view his interpretation of the gospels as heretical. It is during his years that Bear supposes Jesus first begins to hear His Heavenly Father speak to Him and reveal His divine nature as well as his destiny. To me this story is ironic as the timing for the Celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ is December 25th – a former pagan feast day. The Church moved the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ to this winter feast to make it easier for the pagans to convert to Christianity – Jesus would have actually been born in the Spring time. In The Making of the Lamb Jesus is instructed to learn from the pagans, even the druids about their gods and beliefs as He might be able to learn from them. In this story Jesus learns much during these years and even begins to acquire some of his most famous parables which He will bring back to Judea with Him and use to teach the Jews more about their faith and their God.

The Making of the Lamb was an interesting read. Bear is a talented story teller and was able to weave an artful tale full of adventure and lessons to be learned. It was different to read something known to be fictional about our Lord when it at the same time it is oddly comforting to hear a more personal side and voice of the one who sacrificed Himself for our sake. As Christians approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh this was a thought provoking and challenging read. It has posed more questions than it has provided answers but in my humble opinion that is what makes it a good read. We cannot pretend to have all of the answers about our faith. After all, the point of our time on Earth is to grow and learn while we prepare ourselves to face our Creator. This book would make a good gift for those who are open to exploring different possibilities about the life of Jesus Christ. It is a good challenge for those who are not. As a Catholic student I have always believed in challenging what I have been taught – and in doing so when the answer comes back around to that which was first told to me, I am able to believe it more strongly, more fervently. So while I am not sure that this story is actually possible I believe that my faith is stronger for having read it.


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