Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that
follow are designed to enhance your group's discussion of Anne Rice's
extraordinary novel about the early years of Jesus. Rice, well known for
her ability to weave compelling plots and characters against a richly
detailed and meticulously researched historical background, journeys to
the first century and brings to life the religious beliefs and
traditions, the political turmoil, and the family secrets that marked
the beginning of Jesus' mission on earth.
Told in the voice of the seven-year-old Jesus, Christ the Lord: Out
of Egyptis the story of his return to the Holy Land after
years of exile in Egypt and his gradualat times fearfulacceptance of
the wonders and the mysteries that set him apart from all others. Rice
draws on close examinations of the Gospels, the Apocrypha, and the work
of respected Biblical scholars and historians to re-create Jesus' world,
and in a daring, profoundly moving portrait, imagines how Jesus felt as
he came to understand and embrace his destiny.
Christ the Lord: Out of Egyptis told in Jesus'
voice. What advantages does the first-person narration offer the
author? How does it contribute to the novel's emotional resonance? How
does it influence the way the novel unfolds?
What other literary devices does Rice use to bring the story to
life for the contemporary reader? Discuss, for example, her use of
imagined conversations and her descriptions of the family's
The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke recount the story
of Jesus' birth, the flight to Egypt, and the family's return to
Israel. Does Rice take liberties with these biblical versions in her
retelling? To what extent does her account echo the Gospels in both
content and tone?
Christ the Lord: Out of Egyptfocuses on a period
in Jesus' life not described in the New Testament. How realistic is
Rice's portrait of Jesus as a young boy? How do the miracles he
performskilling and reviving Eleazer [pp. 47]; alleviating Cleopas'
pain [p. 48] and rescuing him from death [p. 99]; and restoring sight
to the blind man [pp. 27980] reflect feelings and wishes typical of
Throughout the book, Jesus questions Mary and Joseph, Cleopas,
and rabbis and scholars in hopes of discovering the secret of his
birth. What do the answers he receives from the various adults reflect
about their relationship with Jesus, their understanding of the truth,
and their own self-interests and philosophies?
What role does Cleopas play in his nephew's life? Why does he
defy Mary and Joseph and reveal what he knows about Jesus' conception
and birth [p. 4547]? What other function does he serve in the plot?
What insights do his opinions [p. 68, p.74, and p. 211, for example]
give into the political situation in Israel? Is his point of view
understandable in light of the history of the Jews as it is presented
in the novel?
What makes Rice's portraits of Mary and Joseph effective? What
did you admire most each of them? Are there flaws in the decisions
Discuss the internal conflicts Jesus experiences as he pieces
together the stories he hears and tries to reconcile them with his own
his unsettling thoughts and fears. Do they make you feel differently
about Jesus' humanity? His divinity?
Jesus' immersion in Jewish culture and traditions is an
important aspect of the novel. What is the significance of Rice's
focus on Jesus as a Jew? What insights does it give into Jesus'
teachings and his ultimate mission on earth? Is the message relevant
to the religious tensions in the world today?
Did reading Christ the Lord: Out of Egyptdeepen
your understanding of the origins of Christianity? Do you think
readers' reactions to Christ the Lord: Out of Egyptare
inevitably influenced by their personal religious beliefs and
In the author's note, Rice discusses her extensive research
and offers a critique of recent New Testament scholarship. Do you
agree with her criticism of the current "fashionable notions about
Jesus" [p. 309]? Have you read articles or books that support her
argument that many writers "scholars who have apparently devoted their
life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ" [p.314]? Do
you think that Rice's background and her strong Catholic faith affect
the conclusions she draws?
Rice, who is best known for her books about vampires,
expresses the hope that "Jesus will be as real to you as any other
character I've ever launched into the world we share" [p. 321]. If you
have read her other books, do you think that she succeeded in this
goal? Whether or not you are familiar with her previous works, discuss
your reactions to the following quotation: "After all, is Christ Our
Lord not the ultimate supernatural hero, the ultimate outsider, the
ultimate immortal of them all?" [p. 321].
The Nazarene; Jim Crace, Quarantine; Anita Diamant, The
Red Tent; Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "The Grand Inquisitor" (in The
Brothers Karamazov); Lloyd C. Douglas, The Robe; Robert
Graves, King Jesus; Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of
Christ; Norman Mailer, The Gospel According to the Son; David
Maine, Fallen; Nino Ricci, Testament; José Saramago,
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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