Why Novelist Anne Rice Went From 'Vampire Chronicles' to Jesus Christ Story (Guest Column)

Philippe Antonello/Focus Features
'The Young Messiah'

A film based on her book 'Christ Our Lord: Out of Egypt' hits theaters on March 11.

Ever since I decided to write a novel about the early years of Jesus Christ a decade or so ago, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from fans wanting to know why. The truth is that I’ve always been fascinated by the early life of Jesus and as a writer, I felt it would be the greatest challenge I could face. My deep devotion to Jesus prompted me to try to contribute to the responsible fiction tradition with regard to Him. I admired Lloyd Douglas' The Robe, and Lew Wallace's Ben Hur, but sought to do something completely original in my novels.

The Bible was my main source without question, but I consulted the pious legends of the Apocrypha as well. The apocryphal gospels have for centuries inspired art related to Jesus. In the Middle Ages artists depicted the little child Jesus turning clay birds into real birds. The poet Hilarie Belloc born in 1870 wrote a poem about this little miracle. I was deeply inspired by the lessons of the gospels, and these legends to try to imagine what childhood might have been like for Our Blessed Lord.

I'm grateful for countless emails from readers telling me the novel deepened their sense of the reality of Jesus, or made Him real for them in a way that was entirely new. I sought to make the child Jesus in my book a living breathing character in a probable and palpable fictional recreation of the Holy Land in the First Century.

It’s no secret that it has taken quite a few years for this novel to make it to the big screen. Of course I hope the film will inspire people as the book has and I think the film is utterly faithful to my concerns. It invites the viewer to reflect on what it might have been like for Jesus to put aside His Omniscience as God and grow up amongst us. The film is an engulfing and entertaining and edifying depiction of the Son of God as a child. I am so thankful for this. So very thankful.

When releasing a novel to become a film, many authors are concerned their message will get lost in translation. This is not something I needed to be concerned about for the script written by Cyrus and Betsy Nowrasteh and the finished film are a marvel. My relationship with them was harmonious and creative and they were sensitive to all of my aims — that this film not violate the Bible, that it present Jesus as the Human Face of God and that it present the Jewish world of the First Century in a correct light. They even developed a fictional element of their own — a soldier stalking Jesus — that in no way undercut the spirit of the original material.

I completely understand why the producers wanted the change of title. The Young Messiah lets the audience know that they will not be seeing the entire life and death and resurrection of Jesus, but only a part of His life. This is important. And I asked to use the title on a special tie-in edition of the novel.

Jesus changed the world in many different ways. For believers, He is the Son of God. But anyone can recognize that historically Jesus' Life and Death and Resurrection changed Western Civilization forever. Jesus brought monotheism out of the Middle East and into the West. And within three hundred years paganism in the West was dead and Christianity had replaced it.

The primary lessons of Jesus’ life are a matter for each person to ponder on his or her own. For me, they are that we must love our neighbors and our enemies and that we must seek to bring the Kingdom of God to earth by loving others. Jesus offers these words when He gives us The Lord's Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven." For countless millions, Jesus provided a way for this to take place, both for the individual believer, and for the whole world.

Anne Rice is a New York Times best-selling author. A film based on her book Christ Our Lord: Out of Egypt titled The Young Messiah is set for release nationwide on March 11.

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