Book review: The Longest Week by Nick Page
Nick Page’s great skill as a writer is taking a vast library of scholarly material and synthesising it into a readable, coherent and fast-paced narrative, normally leavened with a topping of bad jokes and worse puns. In The Longest Week, his account of the last week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, Page does the former extremely well but mostly leaves out the jokes and puns – it’s not that easy to joke about a man being put to death in possibly the most excruciating fashion devised by the human imagination.
The book is particularly good on bringing out the wider Roman and Jewish context, integrating much of the recent archaeological information about what life was like in first-century Palestine. Page paints vivid pictures of the main political players, Pilate, Temple grandees Annas and Caiaphas, and Herod Antipater, showing how each was shaped by the forces around them but how, interestingly, they could all have played their hands differently had they been less insouciant about sacrificing an insignificant life to their own political interests.
While the book is excellent on the political and historical context, Page’s take on the intersection of the historical and theological contexts in the person of Jesus is quite strongly coloured by a Protestant reading of the history and theology: nothing wrong in itself but alternative readings are given short shrift.
Overall, an enjoyable and generally enlightening primer on the week upon which human history hinges.