Wineskins Archive

February 5, 2014

Biblical Fiction: “Naked I Fled” and “Shearjashub-Son of Isaiah” (Mar-Apr 2004)

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Two Biblical Novels: A Review

by John and Mary Barton
March – April, 2004

J. Harold Thomas, Naked I Fled: John Mark, Gospelwright (2002).
J. Harold Thomas, Shearjashub—Son of Isaiah (1990).

Naked I Fled: John Mark, Gospelwright is the account of John Mark, author of the second Gospel, and co-worker of Paul. It tells a story of hope and courage in the face of martyrdom. The deaths of Paul, Peter, Apollos, Barnabas, and finally John Mark himself are recounted; and yet numerous people of lesser fame—Jews, Roman soldiers, Greeks—become believers who find joy in their new faith. John Mark, who is younger than Paul and Peter, is seen as an important part of the transition from the first to the second generation of believers. He helps provide strength for the church as the apostles pass away.

Among the high points in the book: Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome and John Mark’s remembrance of him in earlier years. Paul is presented as intense and energetic, at times perhaps too demanding of fellow workers, but loved and admired by them all. Peter, John Mark, and Silas make their last visit to Paul in prison. And we become more aware of how real the faith and how full the surrender to the will of Christ people of imperfect character can have.

Naked I Fled: John Mark, Gospelwright, in keeping with what we know from historical records, chronicles John Mark’s writing of his gospel based on what he learned from Peter’s first-hand accounts of Jesus. Barnabas, Mark’s uncle, is presented as the author of Hebrews. Both he and John Mark make their way to Alexandria, Egypt where they serve the church and minister to Jews fleeing the destruction of Jerusalem. Here the problem of raising up a new generation of leaders is faced. While much of the novel at this point is conjecture, something like this did happen and we come away with greater awareness and gratitude for what our forefathers in the faith accomplished. It also passes a key test for a work of fiction: it is written authentically, as if it could be so.

Thomas’s first novel, Shearjashub—Son of Isaiah, contains more material that is unique and unusual than does the one about John Mark. Both, however, are novels that both entertain and move the reader to stronger faith.

Shearjashub—Son of Isaiah vividly portrays the details of life as they could have been for Isaiah and his family. In a preface to the novel, the author argues his rejection of the theory claiming that Isaiah was authored by two or three writers at widely separated periods of time. So in the novel, the entire book of Isaiah is placed in the context of the times of Isaiah son of Amoz.

Seen through the eyes of his son Shearjashub, the prophet and his teachings come to life leaving the reader with a desire to reread the Biblical version and learn even more about this fascinating, courageous man of God. This story gives credence to the humanness of Isaiah and depicts the struggles that he and his family faced when his messages of calamity were not well received. His was not a popular message. Shining through, however, is a recurring theme of hope that kept the faithful Jews searching for the Messiah.

Thomas helps the reader visualize events mentioned in the Old Testament and in secular history, such as Sennacherib’s encampment against Jerusalem and the great Passover celebration under King Hezekiah, as well as common events of ancient life: a circumcision, a wine-treading episode, a love affair, a wedding, and religious festivals.

Examples of God’s faithfulness in vindicating the messages of the prophets occur on one hand, and descriptions of the murder of several of His faithful on the other. Also described is a response that is true in every age—people prefer to listen to false prophets who tell them what they want to hear.

Shearjashub depicts close and encouraging friendships among Amos, Micah, and Isaiah. Although this camaraderie is not mentioned in Scripture, the three prophets were contemporaries and there are chapters in Isaiah and Amos that are almost identical; so the friendships seem likely.

REVIEWER’S NOTE: J. Harold Thomas wrote Naked I Fled: John Mark, Gospelwright and Shearjashub—Son of Isaiah. He has been recognized by some in the American Restoration Movement for his pioneering work in New England following the Second World War. In addition to preaching in New England, Georgia, California and Arkansas, he has served as a college president. He has also written articles in various Christian publications. He has earned degrees from Abilene Christian University and Boston University. Thomas lives in Arkansas, and he and wife, Roxie, have five children. None who have met the Thomases can forget their warmth and grace.

The novels may be purchased by writing the author: J. Harold Thomas, 2652 Bruce Street, Conway, AR 72034.New Wineskins

John and Mary Barton live in Abilene, Texas where John teaches at Abilene Christian University.

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