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By Lou Marzeles

Local author speculates on Jesus' early life


Lou Marzeles

NEW INSIGHTS ON AN OLD STORY: Goldendale's Beverly Ann Reed holds her new book The Early Life of Jesus Our Messiah. Based on her study of Judaic customs at the time of Christ, Reed's book is a novel about details of Jesus' early life that are not recounted in the New Testament.

Beverly Ann Reed of Goldendale describes her new book, The Early Life of Jesus Our Messiah, as "creative non-fiction" in her introduction, and the literary field would put it under historical fiction. The classification is significant when you're dealing with a novel about the early life of Jesus.

Reed teaches about Jewish customs and traditions. That comes out of her faithful observance of Messianic Christianity, a religious branch that emphasizes Jesus as the fulfillment of the messianic expectation of Judaism as well as following Judaism itself because that's what Jesus himself did. It's sort of transplanting Jesus as messiah on top of Judaism. That background as a Messianic Christian informs Reed's book, which itself draws from Manners and Customs of the Bible by James Freeman.

"This isn't done from a documentary point of view," Reeds says of her book. "It's done from a purely social point of view, where all of my characters are involved in a story line. I take Jesus from his birth with Mary and Joseph. I explain why the shepherds found Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem with haste, which a lot of Christians don't understand. They just think, 'Well, all right, the shepherds found him.' Well, how did they find him in a town like Bethlehem? It was because of the music."

Reed says the Jewish people have a custom that whenever a child is born, the neighboring people will come out and bring wine to toast the new father and flutes and cymbals and tambourines, and the women will dance and wave flags and there'd be a lot of music. "So there's a lot of noise going on outside of the home," Reed points out.

But how would that be when the Bible seems to suggest Jesus' birth was a lonely event with Mary and Joseph banished to a stable, unnoticed by all but shepherds who were notified by angels? Reed says that confusion comes from contemporary notions of stables. According to Jewish tradition, she says, back then "the homes had a courtyard, and the houses were built up maybe one to two feet up from the courtyard, and that's where the family lived, in one or two rooms they all lived together. The courtyard was to bring the animals in at nighttime to keep them away from other animals or thieves who might steal them, so every night the animals were brought into the courtyard and 'stable.'"

From this perspective, the birth of Jesus was a noisy, broadly observed occasion. It's this kind of sweeping recontextualization of familiar stories that, for some, ignite fresh devotion and, for others, feels put-offish. Reed means no disparagement and certainly doesn't want to foment trouble in the proverbial paradise. She just feels seeing how things were likely to have occurred in an historically accurate framework is worth knowing. Reed points out that a lot of Christians, strangely, are surprised when they're reminded that Jesus was Jewish.

"'Are you serious? I beg your pardon?' That's how many react," Reed says, though the New Testament begins with a recounting of Jesus' descendency from a long line of Jewish names. Then there's that whole thing about the Old Testament-distinctly Judaic-containing prophecy about the coming of the messiah, seen by Christians as completed in Jesus.

Reed points to the story of the magi as another case for recontextualization. The Bible doesn't say how many wise men showed up to bring Jesus gifts, though Reed does assign a number in her "creative non-fiction." Reed believes the magi arrived well after Jesus' birth, again contrary to popular notion.

"He was two and a half to three years old when the magi found him," Reed states. "I remember that from when my folks just have Bible studies at dinner table into the night, up until one and two and three o'clock in the morning, and I can remember they discussed that when the magi came to give him his gifts, he was at least two plus years old, and he wasn't in the manger."

You can purchase a paperback copy of The Early Life of Jesus Our Messiah for $14.49 on Amazon by searching on Reed's name or the title of the book.


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