A sequel - book review of "A Time to See"

Book review

A Time to See


The Gospels are a source of great interest to all Bible students.  Since our earliest days as a community Christadelphian authors have written about the Gospel records.  Bro Robert Roberts penned Nazareth Revisited, an overview of the life of Christ, in the nineteenth century; this was followed in the twentieth century by an exposition of John by Bro John Carter and two expositions of Mark, one by Bro LG Sargent and one by Bro AD Norris.  Bro Carter also wrote separately on the parables of Christ, as did Bro Roberts.  Individuals from the Gospels have been the subject of separate books: Peter is the subject of a book by Bro AD Norris while a recent book by Bro Mark Allfree looks at John the Baptist.  All of these expositional works are highly valued by Bible students.  Bro Melva Purkis’ book, A Life of Jesus, while devotional in style, was also based on sound Biblical scholarship and has likewise been greatly appreciated by the brotherhood.  Of course these books have been complemented by countless magazine articles as well which have sought to make aspects of the Gospels more accessible to Bible readers.

In 2006 The Christadelphian published a book based on the Gospel records which was somewhat different from those which had been published previously.  Written by Sis Sue Knight in the style of a novel, A Time to Hear[1] was set in the Holy Land in the days of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.  Its central character was a Galilean boy named Dan, the son of a widowed shepherd.  Those who read this work will recall that it helps to flesh out the Gospel record by imparting some of the colour and texture of daily life for ordinary Israelites living at that extraordinary time.

Anyone who visits Christian bookshops will know that Christian fiction is a very popular literary genre, but sadly relatively few works of fiction have been written by Christadelphians, which is unfortunate for those in the brotherhood who like this style of writing.  It was pleasing, therefore, to see the publication of A Time to Hear in 2006. It is even more pleasing to note that a sequel to this book has recently been published.  As implied by its title, A Time to See, takes up the story from the earlier work and brings it to a dramatic climax – if not exactly an end.

A Time to See returns us to first century Galilee and renews our acquaintance with characters we grew to love in the first book.  The shepherd boy Dan, now on the verge of manhood, continues to grow physically and spiritually.  Dan’s stepmother Anna and Aunt Etta are still faithfully nurturing him, supported by men from the village; each of these women experiences some pleasing developments in the course of the story.  A feature of the book is the way it describes the highly regarded and ennobling ministry of women in daily life in general and in particular in support of the Lord Jesus Christ as they complement the work of the men.


All the main characters we met in the first book reappear in A Time to See.  The enigmatic Loukanos plays a curious part in the story, as does the aristocratic Mari in Jerusalem.  Even Bukki and Ammiel reappear in highly unexpected ways.   These ordinary Jewish people who had previously been excited by the ministry of John the Baptist are now fascinated by the ministry of Jesus.  They feel and are swept up in the drama of what unfolds around them as Jesus sets his feet steadfastly on the path to Jerusalem.

Sis Knight captures the sense of wonder and bewilderment that faithful Jews must have experienced as they sought to comprehend what was happening in these tumultuous times.  As in the earlier work, her appreciation of Jewish customs and culture at this time is reflected in the richly detailed tableau of daily life she presents.  Those who read the book for pleasure and relaxation as a work of fiction will enjoy the effort Sis Knight has taken to imbue the book with verisimilitude.  Bible students will also find much in this book to interest them as Sis Knight brings to life so much that we might otherwise gloss over in our reading of the Gospel records.

Throughout A Time to See Sis Knight weaves in cameos from and allusions to the Gospels.  Readers more comfortable with expositional or academic works might be tempted to dismiss some of these as contrived, but all fiction is by its nature is contrived.  In this case it is very artfully contrived and the incidents she describes provoke readers to ponder the meaning of many passages of Scripture.  Her description of so many of the characters we know from the Gospel records enriches our understanding of them.  Many readers will be especially intrigued by her observations about Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene.

At 568 pages, A Time to See is about the same length as A Time to Hear.  Both are highly readable and would be enjoyed by a wide range of readers.  Both of the books would make ideal gifts for readers of all ages and would be ideal prizes for older Sunday School scholars.  The closing lines of A Time to See strongly hint that the two existing volumes will become a trilogy; it is to be hoped that we will not have to wait three years for the next instalment to appear.


Geoff Henstock




 This review was first published in The Christadelphian for February 2010.

[1] Reviewed in The Testimony, August 2006.