Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bob Hartman's New Testament Tales: The Unauthorized Version

Author Bob Hartman uses original New Testament stories as a springboard to retell the same tale from a totally new, outlandish perspective. In so doing, he takes a flying leap into a completely different arena altogether. Only a small thread of the Scriptural passage ties it to Hartman’s off-the-wall version of the story.

Bob Hartman’s New Testament Tales: The Unauthorized Version starts with an introduction, where Hartman explains that he “tried to tell the stories in a way that would be true to the original, but also in a way that would bring out the humor in them.” How successful you view this attempt will depend on your reaction to his slightly irreverent style.

Hartman gives us the Landlord’s version of Jesus’ birth, which includes a lively conversation between an innkeeper and his outraged wife. A child who keeps eating sheep poo and sticking things up her nose interrupts their animated discussion.

Next we have a backstage view of Jesus changing water into wine. Two cousins—one a major troublemaker and a liar—end up destroying all the wine, but Jesus saves the day.

We then visit a nasty fisherman who has a son bent on annoying him. The son hides a cat on the boat, the duo catches no fish, and things seem bleak. When the father discovers the cat, he shouts some choice words and then threatens to drown it, but then the disciples give him all their fish. The cat is forgotten, and the greedy fisherman goes off to survey his profits.

The remaining stories follow a similar pattern: The original tale is on the outskirts, only referenced to explain what’s going on with the characters telling their version of events. Jesus or a disciple might appear, but only briefly.

For a taste of the remaining chapters, we see the boy who shared his loaves of bread and fish. He is shown not to be generous, but trying to get rid of a lunch he didn’t want. Then there is a self-titled “The Boring Version “ of Jesus blessing the children, which includes lots of complaining, waiting in line, and a youngster who only seems to know the word “poo”…and who actually does poo at the end of the tale. We learn about a merchant’s young helper (a liar and thief) who witnesses the miracle with Jairus’ daughter. (That chapter ends with the merchant boy shrugging off the miracle and plotting another theft). And there are more likeminded tales.

What I Like: The Table of Contents provides the reader with a Scripture reference for the stories, so that after reading the “unauthorized” version, people can read the real story from the Bible. In keeping with the rather tongue-in-cheek manner of the book, the black-and-white illustrations are exaggerated and cartoonish. And, I have to admit, there are a few funny lines.

What I Dislike: I don’t know exactly how to react to a book like this. I enjoy humor, and it’s meant to be funny…but to me the stories verge on the edge of impertinence. Because of that, I don’t believe it’s a book for everyone; readers would be wise to preview the book before making a purchase.

Overall Rating: Please forgive me, but I can't settle on a rating for this. The stories are well written, but not necessarily the type I'd personally enjoy, plus they might seem offensive to some readers. On the other hand, a reader might just find the book hilarious. So...I'm just going to politely bow out of rating this book.

Age Appeal: Ages 8 and up

Publisher Info: Lion UK, 2012; ISBN: 978-0745962849; Paperback, 96 pgs., $8.99

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1 comment:

Kathy C. said...

It sounds like they have added to the story and while sometimes that's done in historical biblicals novels, I think the things are a stretch in these stories and I would not want to be accountable to God for leading a child to believe other than what's in the Bible. Does that make sense?