I just finished reading Asher of Bethlehem by Howard Rodney Jones. It was very enjoyable reading, and assuming the author did his homework, I learned a lot about life in Bethlehem at the time Jesus was born. I also learned something of the customs surrounding the nobility status of the wisemen.
The story was very engaging and believable, especially the unlikely friendship between the innkeeper’s son and Asher, the young orphaned beggar.
Having just finished writing and nearly publishing my own children’s storybook, The First Christmas, I have a heightened awareness of the Biblical account of Christ’s birth as recorded in Matthew and Luke, and I find a few discrepancies as I interpret these events. I recognize that a fiction writer must be able to take some liberties with interpretation, so I dare not take these too seriously.
The main discrepancy is with the timing of the wisemen’s visit to see baby Jesus. In Asher of Bethlehem this event takes place one or two days after Jesus was born and they find him at the stable. In Matthew 2:9-11, the wisemen visit the holy family in the “house” where they were staying. If the star appeared at the time of Jesus birth, the wisemen would have traveled many months to arrive in Judea on camels.
Apart from that, I find the book to be a fun read and recommend it for older children. At the same time, I feel youth should be taught to recognize the difference between reading Biblical fiction and reading the Bible. Therefore, I encourage parents and youth workers to discuss Biblical fiction with them to increase their knowledge of the actual Biblical account.
Asher of Bethlehem is available on Amazon.com
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