The Robe’s still good fit for Biblically literate

Easter Cross

The Robe is Lloyd C. Douglas’s most famous novel and perhaps his best.

For insulting the emperor’s stepson, the young tribune Marcellus Gallio is sent to Minoa (Gaza). In Jerusalem on security detail, Marcellus’ unit crucifies Jesus. Marcellus wins the robe Jesus wore.

Bother Marcellus and his slave, Demetrius, are convinced Jesus was innocent. Both men become converts.

Demetrius rescues the woman Marcellus loves from the clutches of the new Emperor, Caligula, and all three head back to Rome. Diana is skeptical of Christianity, but stands by her man.

The story is far more complex and exciting than my summary suggests. Douglas weaves ancient history and Bible stories into his narrative skillfully. The ogres of Roman history appear, as do the martyrs of the early church:  Peter, John, and Stephen.

Few writers can pull off a historical novel without bogging down in history. Douglas does it superbly.

However, I’m afraid even regular church-goers nowadays lack the Biblical knowledge to understand big chunks of The Robe. Without that knowledge, it’s impossible to appreciate Douglas as a storyteller.

As a rule, I don’t like religious novels and off-the-shelf characters bore me, but I enjoyed The Robe anyway. Maybe you will, too.

The Robe
Lloyd C. Douglas
Houghton Mifflin, 1942
508 pages
#7 in 1942, #1 in 1943

Photo credit: “Easter Cross” uploaded by Watford

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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