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Marcellus gave himself to serious reflection. First of all, the Robe had symbolized that whole shameful affair at Jerusalem. The man who wore it had been innocent of any crime. He had been unfairly tried, unjustly sentenced, and dishonorably put to death. He had borne his pain with admirable fortitude Was ‘fortitude’ the word? No – murmured Marcellus – the Galilean had something else besides that. The best that ‘fortitude’ could accomplish was courageous endurance. This Jesus had not merely endured. It was rather as if he had confronted his tragedy! – had gone to meet it! (The Robe, pg.143)
This particular book was suggested to me by my friend Michaela. This spring I took Ben Hur with me on a week long choir tour (you can see my review of that book here), and Michaela, who had read Ben Hur before, told me that if I enjoyed that book I would probably also enjoy The Robe (by Lloyd C. Douglas). I found an old copy of The Robe at a thrift store and finally got around to reading it several months after finishing Ben Hur. Michaela was right – I did enjoy it – very much indeed. In all honesty, I think I enjoyed The Robe better than I did Ben Hur. There were two main reasons for this: a) The Robe is just plain easier reading and not quite as deep as Ben Hur, and b) this book contains what I feel is a much more accurate portrayal of Jesus (Wallace feminized Him in Ben Hur). Don’t worry – The Robe still has a lot of deep information in it, but Douglas presents it in an easier-to-digest format than Wallace does in Ben Hur. You can definitely find lots of vivid imagery, well-thought-out lines, gorgeously big words, and quotable quotes in The Robe.
I was impressed with a lot of the cultural detail that Douglas put into The Robe. While he does have some of his details wrong (like the whole thing with Peter and “upon this rock I will build my church” – which most likely was not actually referring to Peter but rather to the place where they were standing…long story…check out Ray Vanderlaan’s DVD clip called “The Gates of Hell” if you’re interested in more details), I think most of Douglas’s cultural references are accurate. He does take some liberties with fleshing out the miracles of Jesus, and while I’m not sure I agree with all of his conclusions, they were definitely thought-provoking. I’m still trying to decide if I agree with his explanation of the feeding of the five thousand.
The Robe centers around Marcellus Gallio, son of a Roman senator, Tribune. Marcellus, through some interesting twists, ends up playing a key role in the most pivotal event in history – an event that changes his life forever. A garment plays into the story as well – a garment that seems to hold peculiar powers of its own and brings both trouble and healing to Marcellus over the course of his journey to discovering what he believes about Jesus, the Christ. The Robe gives us some insight into what the early days of the Christian church were like, especially under the transition of rule from Emperor Tiberius to Caligula, that crazy Roman “deity” who pronounced his horse divine and shed blood like water.
I came away from this book thinking about two main ideas: a) the person of Jesus Christ and His tremendous love and wisdom in dealing with the common folk with whom He came into contact during His earthly ministry, and b) the passion of the early church and their willingness to truly be living sacrifices because of their love for Christ and their desire to walk in His footsteps. Both Jesus and His early followers had so much passion for their purpose in life – to glorify God. I, in comparison, am apathetic.
I highly recommend The Robe as a spiritually encouraging, intellectually stimulating, and just plain fun read. You can find it from Amazon here, or you can probably find it from your local library as well.
Have you ever read this book? What did you think of it?