The Longest Week – Nick Page
Hodder & Stoughton, 2009
Nick Page’s book The Longest Week has been beautifully published by Hodder and Stoughton in hardback and more recently, paperback. I personally bought the hardback version after seeing Roger Forster, who heads up our church Ichthus Christian Fellowship, reading it. Roger is a great reader and has a knack of getting his hands on quality books, so when I saw it in Books etc. once, I thought it a good use for my book tokens. I wasn’t disappointed.
It was good to see it in a secular bookshop, though it was in the ‘religion/spirituality’ section. I have since seen it in Waterstone’s also, and I absolutely think it worthy of their shelves. On his website http://www.nickpage.co.uk the author calls himself an ‘unlicensed historian’ but when it comes to scholarship geared toward average Joe, this is of high quality. It is excellently referenced with notes, Bibliography and index. He refers us to Josephus, Philo, the Talmud and other ancient relevant historical sources, all toward the intent of understanding in detail the last week of Jesus’ life.
That is the subject of Page’s…pages. (I couldn’t resist.) Laying it out in extraordinary detail, Page gives us a sharp look at the state of Jerusalem at the time: socially, politically, economically, religiously – even hygienically! Taking his starting point from the four Gospel accounts he unravels for us the drama of Jesus’ last week before His crucifixion, leaving out no detail, including even graphic information on the Roman style of execution itself.
It is refreshing and enlightening to be reminded of exactly how the various religious distinctions operated in those days – between the Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and other Jewish leaders. It is good also to see a fairly objective account of political activities in the Roman empire and in this particular province at the time. All of these cause you to realise just what kind of tension and controversy the events around this incredible man, Jesus, created.
Our historical understanding is further aided by some great timelines, maps and pictures placed beautifully within the text.
Ultimately it teaches me more about Jesus, about His radical nature and controversial execution. And it even inspires me to be more like Him. As Page excitedly writes in the final paragraphs of the book,
‘This, then, is the message of the Longest Week. It’s not really about facts and dates and theories. It’s about one man and our response to his life…. He’s alive and he’s kicking: the great rebel, the leader of the upside-down kingdom – Jesus Christ, Joshua ben Joseph – the Son of God.’
Nick Page is a fine writer who I’m glad to have discovered, and can be forgiven for some of his more outrageous titles (though one can be slightly sympathetic, for example with And Now Let’s Enter Into a Time of Nonsense – a sharp criticism of the common worship experience in many churches these days). His website is worth checking out (see above).