Fiction. Historical Fiction. HTML: At the height of his popularity, Lloyd C. Douglas was receiving an average of one hundred letters a week from fans. One of those fans, a department store clerk in Ohio named Hazel McCann, wrote to Douglas asking what he thought had happened to Christ's garments after the crucifixion. Douglas immediately began working on The Robe, sending each chapter to Hazel as he finished it. It is to her that Douglas dedicated this book. A Roman soldier, Marcellus, wins Christ's robe as a gambling prize. He then sets forth on a quest to find the truth about the Nazarene's robeâ??a quest that reaches to the very roots and heart of Christianity. Set against the vividly drawn background of ancient Rome, this is a timeless story of adventure, faith, and romance, a tale of spiritual longing and ultimate redemption.
It might be difficult to conceive that Marcellus Gallio, son of a prestigious Senator and a Tribune; Diana, the granddaughter of the Emperor Tiberias; and Demetrius, the Greek slave from Corinth, to believe Jesus' miracles and his resurrection. Lloyd Douglas has written truly a religious classic, one whose appeal is not limited to a particular time or a particular place, through the delineation of the characters' own struggle to cross that arbitrary line beyond which the credibility should go. .
Marcellus was a Roman soldier who by a fortuity executed Jesus' crucifixion and subsequently won Jesus' robe as a gambling prize. The robe symbolized his crime, the crime of recklessly crucifying an innocent man who exhausted him life in advocating love, kindness, and goodwill. The memory of the crucifixion, had been an interminable torture that plunged Marcellus into a deep melancholy. Demetrius could never tell when his master was hit by a capricious seizure that sent sweat streaming his face.
The robe miraculously healed the inconsolable Marcellus as he touched it. From there Marcellus set off on a quest to seek the truth about the robe and the Nazarene who claimed to own his kingdom somewhere not in the world. Testimony about Jesus' miraculous power, which to a large extent agrees with my nostalgic memories from the bible, had been cumulative and that it had been coming at Marcellus from all directions. Jesus' teachings and the marks he left on those whose lives changed had penetrated Marcellus' skeptical mind and descended in him a sense of duty and mission. He had killed this man who had spent his life doing kind things for needy people, and the only way he could square up for it was to spend his life like Jesus did.
It dawned on Marcellus that a thorough understanding of Jesus and his teachings required faith and surrender rather than a recondite knowledge. This point bespeaks the minds of modern-day Christians who involuntarily proceed to push the intrusive concept away no matter how convincing the evidences of supernatural power in the miracles are. His slave Demetrius, who had been inebriated by Jesus long before his master, had such an indomitable faith in the truth of Jesus' resurrection though his master had vaunted his frustration and indignation over him.
Quest for the robe also accents the beauty of a master-slave relationship. Demetrius' life had become so inextricably related to the life of Marcellus that his freedom, if it was offered him, indeed by the Senator as he was to take Marcellus to Athens, might cost him more in companionship than it was worth in liberty of action. When offered his freedom, Demetrius magnanimously denied it at the peril of his master's recovery. The witty slave also directed to have Marcellus disguised as a fabric connoisseur in order to penetrate inconspicuously into Galilee to capture wind of the savior. It was not surprising to see that the whole quest for the robe made the master-slave relationship difficult to sustain.
Ancient Rome against which the book sets accents the significance and validity of men's faith. The quest for the mysterious truth allowed Marcellus to take on a different perspective with the world, especially Rome with which he felt so out of place. He began to despise its injustice, to pity its tragic unhappiness, and to shun the avarice of the influential ones. Marcellus felt his own obligation to associate with a movement that the Government had outlawed, had labeled seditionists, and unflinchingly preached the word to everyone. He embarked on the defense of a good cause Jesus started and had yet to finish.
Marcellus and Demetrius were wonderful heros, I adored Diana, hated the evil Roman Emporers and thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself into the life and times of that era. I noticed some other reviewers claimed there were historical inaccuracies in the book which distracted them from enjoying it as much as I did. Not knowing enough about the various rulers of those times I can't comment on that, except that since the book was written in 1945 perhaps the known history was different than what is available now.
The book is quickest in pace at the beginning and the end, with a large slower period in the middle while Marcellus travels through Israel learning about the life of Jesus. However, I enjoyed the slower pace and reminder of the many wonderful things that happened at this time.
All in all a great read and highly recommended, with the caveat that if you are an agnostic or of non-christian faiths you might not appreciate it as well. Also a good choice for a younger teen reader, as you won't find the abundant gratuitous sex that you find in more current novels.
One thing I did find slightly implausible was the ready and automatic cynicism of not only Marcellus but nearly every Roman character about their empire and, especially, towards their own Roman gods. The author also seems very down on Augustus, while being relatively positive towards Tiberius, who is here depicted as little more than a tyrannical "you hate him but you love him really" crusty old grandfather figure. I thought until near the end that Prince Gaius was the future emperor Caligula, until he died and the real Caligula was mentioned; this Gaius is not a real historical figure living and dying at this time. Sejanus here (just) outlives Tiberius and is an old man, rather than being a much younger man whose plotting was exposed several years before Tiberius's death.
These minor historical quibbles aside (and these are not the purpose of the story), this is a wonderful tale of redemption and hope and makes one realise the tremendous forces ranged against this tiny band of early Christians.
I am a little curious about what happened to Demetrius at the end of the story. His struggles had my attention throughout the novel.
Why I picked up this book: This book was on my shelf for a long time. I put it on my self after my brother-in-law read it and really enjoyed it. It sat on my shelf because it never really grabbed me after cracking it open. I picked this book up again because somebody on
Why I finished this book: I really liked other books such as The Shadow of the Galilean but I really wasnâ€™t too into this book until I discovered more as I read. It was interesting how the historical life of an innocent man was documented in this book. Thatâ€™s what made it worth reading to me.
General Thoughts: It was rather slow for me at first. If you can get past beginning and see this book for what it was, itâ€™s about a skeptic that grows into belief in Jesus. It was fun for me to read.
Rating: Iâ€™d give it a 4 out of 5 star rating. I glad I read it.