Date Published: September 1, 1998
Number of Pages: 380
Print Price: $12.14
eBook Price: $
The Spear, by Louis de Wohl, is a rich tapestry of historical, fictional, and scriptural threads intertwining to create a gripping story of deceit, love, redemption, and forgiveness. Unlike a merely religious recounting of Christ’s death and the story of St. Longinus, The Spear richly grasps all angles of the world into which Jesus the Nazarene entered. This novel entertains, but also deepens one’s view of the early pagans and Christians in Rome and Jerusalem. The first few perspectives given to the reader are through the viewpoint of pagans, Jews, and revolutionaries. Examining the political, religious, and social circumstances of Rome and Jerusalem during the life of Christ deepens one’s understanding of the need for Christ’s redemption, as well as the pressure felt to reject Christ during that time.
From the first pages, the lighthearted flirtation between Lady Claudia Procula and Cassius Longinus pulls the reader into the bustling society of first century Rome. As the reader becomes involved with the lives of the multiple characters, he begins to understand the range of perspectives towards the traveling rabbai, Yeshua. Rich parties, poor slaves, references to pagan gods, and arranged marriages flow across the pages. The first main storyline follows the life of Cassius as his family suffers destruction at the hands of powerful Roman manipulators, and as Cassius becomes a legionary in the Roman army.
Interwoven within the different storylines is a theme pertaining to the nature of love. For example, Cassius begins the story with lighthearted flirtations towards Claudia at a rich party. His flirtations and boasting magnify quickly, and he finds himself swept away with love. Cassius believes that his affections are manifestations of deep love and that Claudia is his true love—even after very few brief encounters. When told that many people do not know what love is, Cassius responds, “I didn’t know until I met Claudia.” He sees this woman—whom he barely knows—as being the pinnacle of his love.
This view is soon contrasted by Seneca, Cassius’ friend. Seneca philosophically explains his ideas of love to Cassius that revolve around “the sevenfold nature of love.” In this approach to love, Seneca sees different levels of love, beginning at a simplistic level of an inclination of something toward another person or object. Seneca continues his explanation, and when he reaches love between people, Cassius interjects with: “Surely there can be nothing higher than that!” Seneca continues, showing Cassius that a higher love exists: the love that raises man towards the Infinite.
Cassius shrugs off this deep explanation, and continues on with his life. At the conclusion of “Book One”—the first of four sections—the story moves onto the lives of Boz bar Sebulun, his young wife Naomi, and the Jewish tensions surrounding their lives. Once these—and the many other characters—are developed, de Wohl skillfully ties them in together, intertwining lives and stories up to the climactic crucifixion of Yeshua. I found the literary technique marvelous, for I would become very attached to a character—for example, Naomi—and, as the story moved along, would suddenly see how each person fit into the story of Christ’s passion. Some of the characters are straight off the pages of Scripture, and others are fictionally developed to assist in the historical setting. All individuals add to the lush setting and conflict of the story.
The religious tensions of the time are captured very well in many of the priests and rabbis, especially as they heard the Nazarene prophet’s words. Kohen Gadol, one such Jew, reflects on this conflict as he presides over a meeting of the Sanhedrin:
Time and time again this so-called prophet had shamed them before the people, had exposed them as greedy and money grabbing. What
if they did wax rich on the sacrificial gifts the people gave to the Temple?...Just because this Galilean had no money of his own, was it right
for him to condemn his betters? Listening to him, one might have thought that—God forbid—he regarded himself as the supreme authority
in sacred matters.
This small excerpt aptly describes the mindset held by many people in the time of Christ: people who did not listen to Jesus’ actual words with their hearts, but saw only the external effects.
Not only is there a beautiful theme of love threaded throughout the story, but other notable subjects are present as well: courage, forgiveness, redemption, and post-conversion topics are present within various circumstances the characters face. The redemption that some characters find in Christ and the change of lifestyle that they undergo, reminded me of the conversion of life that all Christians are called to go through. Overall, I found The Spear to be an engaging, worthwhile book that will enrich one’s mind and heart, especially in regards to their reception of love and Truth.
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 7.9 inches
Subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter Catholic, Ink. - click here - receive book reviews and the column "The Catholic Imagination and You"
Be part of the Catholic Literary Revival.