This, my first novel, was published in 2010, and is actually the first in a series of four novels. I am at present working on part two and am about a fourth of the way toward completing it.
The series tells the story of John, the youngest of the twelve disciples, giving a fictional account of the events of his life as they occurred before, during, and after his years with Jesus. John is a romantic soul, in love with Mary Magdalene, who is in love with Jesus. It is thus, in some respects, a story of unrequited love, in both their cases–until just days before the crucifixion, when the dam breaks for both of them.
The nearest to this great book is Joseph and his Brothers of Thomas Mann. Enjoyable, adventurous, light, even boisterous, thrilling, never sermonizing, this story of St. John the Divine rolls from his childhood on the idyllic Sea of Galilee shores through many encounters with fishermen, robbers, Gnostics, priests, to his mission as the Favourite Disciple in the exciting and fateful time when the pious Jew had met with the intellectual Hellene and the state-minded Roman to create our civilisation. This full-size, many coloured saga of the first century Palestine world brings the Bible characters to life: meek and sweet John, lecherous and thieving Judas, spiritual beauty of Magdalene, and above all, the majestic figure of Christ depicted with love and admiration.
Richard Edmondson’s profound learning and his wealth of details form a reliable factual basis for the book, at the same time it entertains the reader. You’ll never be bored!
–Israel Shamir, author of Galilee Flowers
and Cabbala of Power
A spell-binding story that captivates the reader’s imagination, Edmondson’s novel paints a rich tapestry of life in ancient Palestine in Jesus Christ’s troubled time.
Starting with the press releases that announced the discovery in Syria of the now famous papyri containing the apparent first-person account of the Apostle John, the narration builds up an early suspense as more scholarly research and carbon dating certify the find as an artifact as old as 1900 years. Correspondence between scholars as the papyri are gradually deciphered and interpreted adds to the momentum as they speculate about the new revelations and their possible significance—like Mary Magdalene status among the Disciples and the nature of her relationship with Jesus, as well as the identity of the memorialist: was it written by the Apostle John himself, a scribe taking dictation from him, or someone else?
In Edmondson’s skillful character portrayal, Dr. David LaSalle, the scholarly priest who translates the papiry, is not a mere literary device used to convey the message, but a flesh and blood man, whose mind and heart are revealed in between the flow of memories he translates.
It is a work of true love, imagination, spirituality and erudition. You share John’s fears and joys and follow his spiritual growth, you breathe the fragrant air of ancient Palestine (verdant and still unspoiled) and you taste the food of the land. You also admire the stamina, endurance and spiritual faith of the poor and oppressed, while recoiling from the brutal cruelty and avariciousness of both the Roman occupiers and the corrupt Sanhedrin.
Jesus’s presence in the novel strikes a balance: real yet otherworldly, profoundly human yet divine—not primarily through miraculous powers as much as through a surfeit of unconditional love and forgiveness for mankind. John’s reminiscences are sharp and comprehensive, describing Jesus’ miracles and parables, and noting which he had witnessed himself and which had been related to him second hand.
The novel is rooted in a profound spirituality and the author’s speculations about the commonality between Christian dogma and Buddhist tenets, about the universality of the noblest human aspirations, as well as the possible denial and subsequent erasure of Mary Magdalene’s stature among Jesus’s followers by later church orthodoxy. These and other controversies are relegated to LaSalle’s musings as he ponders the import and potential impact of the revelations in the ancient document.
It is an entrancing and uplifting page turner but not an escapist pleasure, for the author anchors you in the reality of our times by reminding you in the Foreword of the great tragedy of today’s Palestine under occupation and the shame of the silence of so many biblical scholars who stay silent about it while actively blogging about other political issues, and who pour over the scriptures only to emerge with exegeses in defense of… Judas, who they allege was unfairly slighted.
This is not a religious tract. It is a multi-layered novel: at once an historical novel bringing to life fascinating historical figures; a Bildungsroman charting John’s spiritual evolution; and finally also a romance novel with multiple romantic subplots of love stories 2,000 years old as well as one in our time: LaSalle’s love story.
Ultimately the main character in this novel is Love: love between a man and a woman, love of the “Other” – whoever he may be, a next door or a distant “neighbor,” love of nature and Earth, and thus love of God.
William Blake wrote that ‘imagination is evidence of the divine.’ In Memoirs of Saint John, Richard Edmondson wrote, ‘when the purpose of life has been forgotten, when wisdom recedes and men become scarcely truthful in speech, God manifests himself on earth.’ Memoirs of St. John is a manifestation of the divine imagination expressed through well-developed characters from antiquity and today. Edmondson writes from a heart enlightened by the wisdom of women and the oneness of humanity.
—Eileen Fleming, of We Are Wide Awake and author of
Keep Hope Alive
Ancient papyrus scrolls found in the Syrian desert give the first person account of Saint John’s life as dictated to his friend, Quintus Cintugnatus….I was totally caught up in the story and had forgotten that it’s a novel. The Memoirs of Saint John will have that effect on you.
—Paul Griffin (DJ Captain Fred) Berkeley