The Gospel According to British-Jewish Author Naomi Alderman

Talented Young Novelist Riffs On the New Testament

Preaching To The Choir: Naomi Alderman’s novel  focuses on the memories of four people who knew a dead preacher/rabbi/rebel named Yehoshua.
Naomi Alderman
Preaching To The Choir: Naomi Alderman’s novel focuses on the memories of four people who knew a dead preacher/rabbi/rebel named Yehoshua.

By Michael Goldfarb

Published April 04, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

The deftness with which she hints at an alternative history of the Gospels is one of her book’s strongest points. Glimpses of what will become the cornerstones of the work of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John flash by.

Gidon, a young acolyte of Yehoshua, comes to live with Miryam after Yehoshua’s crucifixion. Over and over, he presses her for stories about her son. “There are no stories,” the embittered Miryam says. “He was a baby and then he was a child and then he was a man and then he was killed. That is the story.” This is not enough for Gidon. He wants and needs more. Miryam relents and makes up something for the young man. Yes, the child was called “blessed” in her womb, by a stranger passing through the village. Miryam knows that a “stranger” could mean an angel to this boy. A lie can be the beginning of a story.

At a gathering of his zealot army, just before Passover, Bar Avo raises bread and wine before his troops and tells them to eat, for this is the Roman armies’ blood and meat, which the Jews will devour. Misremembering an event can also be the beginning of a story.

Unlike Mantel, Alderman works tight. “The Liars’ Gospel” is not a particularly long book. I have read it through twice. Of all the books I have ever read, this one has made the era just before the Temple’s second destruction seem most alive. The book’s contemporary resonances are implicit. The fierce struggle over the land of Palestine and the Jewish place in it seems never to have stopped. The book is also a wonderful meditation on how storytellers bend reality into myth and how those myths can grow into a religion.

Michael Goldfarb is the author of “Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews From the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance” (Simon & Schuster, 2009).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.