My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After reading A.D. 33, the previous book (A.D. 30) remains my favorite Dekker book. A.D. 33 has its strengths, but it’s not as good as the first volume.
While I don’t agree with all of Dekker’s interpretations of Jesus’ teaching, one thing he gets right in this book is the emphasis on Jesus’ radical statements about how one must give up everything to follow him (Lk.14:33).
I also enjoyed some of Dekker’s portrayals of the crucifixion. The statement about how it seemed all the world was crying in Jesus’ tears in the garden. That was a moving scene. Beautifully written.
What Dekker does with the lamb and lion is masterful. A wonderful portrayal of some of Christ’s attributes. For this reason, I found the ending much more satisfying than many of the reviewers.
Some have criticized this book for having too much “telling” and not enough “showing.” But I would argue that while there is a great deal of exposition (especially in the final third of the book), Dekker also dramatizes the points from the exposition in the story. One of the main themes of the book is to promote pacifism. And while there are many points in the book when the reader really wants to see the heroes give the bad guys a good thrashing, Dekker is faithful to his philosophy and takes a pacifist route instead. I thought he did this very effectively. I found myself longing for a violent response in some places, and Dekker’s refusal to give me that satisfaction really did make me grapple with the issue of pacifism in a deeper way than I would have otherwise.
Regarding all the exposition–if you don’t like novels that are “preachy,” you definitely won’t enjoy 33 A.D. Personally, I think Christian fiction should be far more preachy than it usually is. Jesus told parables, but that was not the majority of his teaching. Most of his time was spent preaching (Mt.4:23). And he sent his disciples to preach as well (Mk.3:14). Preaching is held set forth in the New Testament as being supremely important (2 Tim.4:2). Too many Christian novelists, taking pride in the fact that they have mastered “show don’t tell,” end up showing little more than the most simplistic and basic of biblical principles. They usually don’t go much deeper than, “Good is good. Trust God.” There is a lot more to the Christian message than that. And some things need to be explained. We shouldn’t be afraid of a little exposition.
My biggest concern has to do with judgment. Perhaps the most prominent theme of the book is the idea that the essence of sin is judgment/grievance. Eating of the tree of good and evil is even defined in terms of judgment and grievance. The idea that we must never make judgments is unbiblical. Scripture repeatedly calls us to use discernment and to judge between good and evil. To say that is wrong is a self-contradictory philosophy, because calling judgment wrong is itself a judgment.
I initially rated the book with 2 stars because of this, but then changed to 3 stars because the book faithfully portrays the gospel message, and that makes it worth reading.
The rest of my complaints are more minor.
While Dekker did a good job dramatizing his argument for pacifism, I wasn’t convinced. I believe there is a place for violence in defending the weak–especially one’s own child.
I agree with other reviewers who complained about what happens with Judah. Unsatisfying.
Regarding the large amount of exposition, while I believe preaching has a place in fiction, I wouldn’t say Dekker is the prince of preachers by any stretch. The sections of teaching tend to be overly repetitive and esoteric. The purpose of exposition should be to make something clear. But much of the exposition in the story left me scratching my head.