Read Before Bethlehem by James Flerlage Online


The Pinnacle of History, Through the Eyes of a BoyThis spellbinding work of historical fiction offers the eyewitness account of 15-year-old James, son of Joseph bar Jacob, and the dangerous and heartrending choices they must make in the days leading up to Joseph’s relationship with Mary, and the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.With crisp prose, tangible description and thought-The Pinnacle of History, Through the Eyes of a BoyThis spellbinding work of historical fiction offers the eyewitness account of 15-year-old James, son of Joseph bar Jacob, and the dangerous and heartrending choices they must make in the days leading up to Joseph’s relationship with Mary, and the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.With crisp prose, tangible description and thought-provoking insights, Before Bethlehem takes readers on a vivid journey to the dusty Galilean village of Nazareth, where Joseph is summoned by Rabbi Boethus, a Sadducean high priest, to marry an orphaned virgin in Jerusalem. By accepting the Rabbi’s request, Joseph unknowingly thrusts himself and his family into a bitter and emotionally draining life-or-death conflict. Joseph fights to maintain his spiritual integrity while trying desperately to keep his family together and his farm alive. He and James witness abhorring violence at the hands of the Romans, and outlandish abuses of power by their own religious leaders. As his family’s faith and hopes are threatened by scandal and scorn, James struggles between the boy he is and the man he must become.Before Bethlehem is an eye-opening account of the Nativity story told in a suspenseful, historical context that dares to ask the question: If Joseph should have turned Mary over to be stoned, why didn’t he? His profound answer is one that forever changes the life of his son, James. And it may just change yours, as well."Readers who've enjoyed religious fiction from Taylor Caldwell and Francine Rivers will particularly enjoy." - Kirkus Reviews...

Title : Before Bethlehem
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780989828109
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 292 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Before Bethlehem Reviews

  • Emily
    2019-04-09 17:38

    I REALLY wanted to love this book. I was so excited to receive it. While I feel the author did a fantastic job of conveying the horrors of the rule of the Roman empire, that was about all I felt he got right. I am a huge fan of historical fiction. I understand that the author usually takes liberties in telling the story. But to rewrite one of the greatest stories ever told...completely different than the Bible? I had a HUGE problem with that. I feel he could have woven his story around what we've already been given, not completely change what we do know! There were so many things that were not right...Joseph never receiving his dream/vision from the angel, the time Mary spent with Elizabeth was off, who Mary WAS was completely different in his retelling, the relationship between Joseph and Mary was completely misrepresented from Biblical accounts, the visit from the wise men, the shepherds in the field, even the stable itself, where He was born, was completely rewritten! All of the discrepancies made it hard for me to enjoy it. It bothered me. I recommend reading the BIBLICAL account.

  • Clif Hostetler
    2019-04-05 13:44

    This is a historical novel about the conception and birth of Jesus. It fills in the details necessary to expand the story from a couple pages in the New Testament to nearly 300 pages of angst and adventure in this book. The book's narrative describes a series of events that could have easily resulted in the Gospel accounts written down about eighty years later based on repeated retellings of the story. That's the basic task of a historical novel, tell a story that could have been true and resulted in history as later recorded. The story is narrated in the first person voice of James the older brother of Jesus who was later known as James the Just during the apostolic age. The Prologue indicates that the story is being written by James as an old man about seventy years later during the siege of Jerusalem. The implicit suggestion is that this written material by James was lost to history in the subsequent violence (until this book was published).The book does a good job of telling an orthodox version of the story. About the only detail from the Luke account that I noticed was left out of this novel is the decree by Caesar Augustus that the world be taxed. There's no historical evidence of such a decree. Thus in my opinion that's a good detail to leave out.But don't get me wrong, the story as told in this novel is not anymore realistic than the Biblical accounts. For example, the virgin birth and the visit by astrologers from the East are still included. If I were writing a novel on this subject I would start with what really happened (i.e. birth in Nazareth) and then follow the retelling of that story over the next eighty years showing how it ended up in the versions written down by the authors of Luke and Matthew.I found the Kindle version of this book to be free. I don't know if it will remain so. That's the main reason I read it and the fact that I'm a sucker for fictional reimaginings of familiar Biblical stories.

  • Patti
    2019-03-21 12:55

    Before Bethlehem is an exciting book that transports the reader into the land and times into which Jesus was born. Flerlage's sound knowledge of sacred scripture coupled with historical and geographic background of the times flesh out possible aspects of the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Told from the perspective of young James we experience the trials and dangers of their travels. Speculation is a part of historical fiction because actual conversations and not all events are not available to the writer. This in no way diminishes the authenticity of the faith account of a family that came to be called "holy" through their trials and the birth of Jesus. Before Bethlehem is no sweet baby Jesus tale. It displays the power of the Roman authority as well as the anguish of Joseph, Mary and their family. Open minds will feel compassion for the challenges that family faced. Before Bethlehem is a faith-builder. I love this book!

  • David Prieto
    2019-04-03 16:54

    I had high hopes for this book but was really disappointed. Why? Because what we all know of the story is pretty much left out, and when the Bible particulars such as Mary being visited by an Angel, it's one sentence in passing. And Mary is visited by Angel(s). Even Elizabeth and Zachariah's story is given little biblical details.The rest of the story and characters are good, but come on a story about Elizabeth and Mary, and only passing lip service is given? Sorry very bad

  • Lori Alyssa
    2019-04-07 15:50

    Such a disappointment! GREATLY lacking in Biblical accuracy!!!

  • Andrew
    2019-03-25 10:59

    The widespread familiarity of the Nativity story and the characters in it masks how little we really know about these people who lived so long ago. We only know Mary and Joseph through their relationship to God and Jesus. We know that Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem, but the reality of that journey escapes us, as does the terror and hardship of the flight into Egypt. Have you ever wondered what kind of man Joseph was? How did Mary cope with her (literally) impossible position? There are so many human aspects of this story that remain unanswered in the Gospel accounts.This book is a courageous leap into one of the most familiar stories in history, an attempt to put that story into a meaningful human context. This is a potential landmine, but the author provides a truly intimate look at this family, portraying them as a loving, sympathetic, authentically human family. It is easy to understand Jesus becoming the man he was after growing up in this setting. Even more impressive, is the creative way that the author addresses some fundamental questions, without straying from traditional orthodoxy.The story is narrated by James (“the Just”, who becomes a leader of the early Church in Jerusalem), the youngest son of the widowed Joseph. When the story begins, they have yet to meet (or even know of) Mary. Joseph is portrayed here as a deeply thoughtful and compassionate man, committed to obeying God, but willing to question those who take it upon themselves to interpret God’s will. We also are confronted with the difficult political realities of Jewish-Roman relations, with Herod ruling Judea as a vassal of the Roman empire.Against this backdrop, Joseph finds himself betrothed to Mary, a young women who has been dedicated to God. And when she finds herself with child, Joseph and his family must confront not only the judgmental response of their neighbors, but also the danger this child brings upon the family as a threat to the power of Herod.This book is well-written and provides a powerfully human look at the story of Joseph and Mary and the birth of their child in a stable outside of Bethlehem. It is a story that changed the world, made even more remarkable here by the very real people who inhabit it.

  • Jean
    2019-04-19 12:50

    The author claims to have spent 5 years doing research for this book but I am wondering why he didn't use the best history book in the world - the Bible. I understand that this is a work of fiction but to put it in a historical fiction category is a crime.There were so many discrepancies from the Bible that I was not able to give the book a higher rating. The author actually rewrote the history to make it fiction! It is like writing a book about the civil war, calling it historical fiction, and having the south win!I was very disappointed. I could not recommend this book to anyone.1/24/14 Note: I won this book as a Goodreads Giveaway

  • Justus Luthy
    2019-04-08 10:47

    Excellent storytellingA delightful read. This was a great view into a world that existed before our Savior was born. Despite being a work of fiction, the author does a splendid job of telling the story through the eyes of young James, and gives an image of his family leading up to the birth of Jesus.

  • Shannon Green DesRoche
    2019-03-24 10:44

    A very touching and thoughtful imagining of Joseph's introduction to Mary, and the events that lead up to the birth of Jesus. HINT: if you get hung up on the fact that it isn't a regurgitation of the bible's telling of the immaculate conception and birth of our Savior, read the author's acknowledgements at the end. This effort was personal for him, and I think the result is wonderful.

  • Liz Frederick
    2019-03-30 12:54

    This book was a wonderful journey back in time to tell a story we only thought we knew. James tells the story that is relevant to everyone today. It is a great way to prepare your heart for Christmas and the coming new year.

  • Leslie Callahan
    2019-03-24 13:59

    I loved how this book gave life to our Biblical figures! We all know the nativity scene, but this gives us an insight on Joseph's life the year before Jesus' birth and how he was betrothed to Mary.The story was told through Joseph's 15 year old son, James. There was a lot of conversations between Joseph & James that did a great job explaining their Jewish traditions and the Roman cruelty and how basic life probably was for them. I was pleased to read that the author researched the topic for 5 years before writing this book and that he had help from a good friend/pastor.

  • Scott
    2019-04-13 09:31

    While this book is well written, and some research went into writing the book. I did enjoy the story from a fictional point of view, it did leave out a few things that seemed missing from the story I have heard. If you take away what you know from the bible, church, Sunday school, etc.. It is a very good book. I would recommend it to others looking for something interesting and intriguing to read.

  • Fran
    2019-04-20 12:58

    This is a cleverly written book in that it will probably offend sincere believers, while causing astute historians to either giggle or yawn. I managed to finish the book simply out of curiosity to discover where the author intended to take this story. I was pretty much disappointed all around.The author managed to write a book about known biblical characters that made me like them even less than how they usually are portrayed by bad preachers. Mary comes off like a spoiled whiny twit, Joseph is clearly a modern (albeit sexless) metro-sexual in touch with his inner feminist, while his 15-16 year old son James is portrayed with the aw-shucks naivete of Kenneth on 30 Rock, which passes off as wisdom in this tale. In general, the character development was choppy, and seemed so out of place with the historical time eraI was hoping for at least some good historical descriptions and tidbits of fascinating historical detail, but found that aspect of the book lacking as well. The book just wasn’t very interesting. I supposed the fact that we all know how the story goes takes away any real suspense. I did enjoy his use of the Migdal Eder for the birthplace, a trendy idea that’s been making the church circuits lately. Had the author gone with the whole mystical, biblical, supernatural format The Migdal Eder idea would have made a nicely wrapped up OT/NT parallel climax to the story, but it just didn’t come off that way here. It was just suddenly dropped in as an idea at the end of the story, then off they go, and the story ends somewhat abruptly.I almost gave it two stars, but I can’t really figure out who (besides the few folks who gave this glowing reviews) will really like this book. If you are a true believer, you will probably be offended. If you are a real Marian devotee you will assuredly be put off this book’s portrayal of her. if you are a Protestant who believes Joseph and Mary had a normal marriage after Jesus birth, you won’t like it either. If you are no sort of believer at all, don’t be suckered in by the reviews from offended believers thinking this book will just be a nice or realistic story in a well-researched historical setting. It isn’t. On the other hand, it is a very quick read, and if you can get it for free, it might fill an odd gap in your holiday reading.

  • Jennifer Boyce
    2019-03-28 15:36

    This was the perfect book to read before Christmas!Having never read the bible, or even remotely studied it, I thought this book did a fantastic job of conveying the story it was meant to. This book is historical fiction and I thought that the author did a good job of describing what life was like under Roman rule while still presenting a unique story that gave the reader a different perspective on an old, and very well known, story.Being a very unreligious person, I really liked the fact that the author spent time talking about the Roman rule and the difficulties faced by the people. It was easier for me to treat the book as just a book rather than something extremely religious and a bear to read. This book is definitely one that anyone can read, regardless of religious beliefs and background.The only problem that I encountered with this book was that I thought the writing was a little too simple. This read to me more like something that would be read by a younger audience rather than adults or young adults. Yet, even though the writing was a little simple, the story was still interesting enough to more than make up for that.Overall, I thought that this book did a really good job of telling a well known story in a unique and engaging manner. This was definitely a good book for me to read before Christmas and I'm glad that I received it through Goodreads First Reads!

  • Lizzytish
    2019-03-24 12:35

    I received this as an arc from Goodreads!I was excited to read this, I love the Christmas story and hold it dear to my heart. The author did a great job of researching how it was for the Jews under the Romans' rule. I was disappointed in how the truths were left out. The wisemen gifts were not right. Mary did not go to Elizabeth until after she was visited by the angel. Where was Joseph's dream of the angel? Just too many discrepancies to list. I enjoy the Bible being interpreted by authors into story form but usually they leave the truth intact. The purpose of Jesus seemed so downplayed. And I was weary of the father's eyes twinkling on almost every page. The reading level also seemed more on an older child's level.If you want a great fictional account of the birth of Christ I would recommend the A.D. Chronicles by Bodie Thoene, esp #5 You will not be disappointed. The writing is rich and the truths are there.

  • Nancye
    2019-04-19 11:55

    I love reading historical fiction. Every once in awhile I find one that is biblical historic fiction and sounds intriguing. This one takes place leading up to the birth of Jesus and ends as they flee to Egypt. After all these years of attending Church, I know the stories that the Bible gives us about the birth of Jesus. I found this book very interesting in how it took on the things we have been told. It didn't leave out those details, but it was fun to see how the author put them in a light that we might not have considered. I enjoyed the whole story and thinking how it matched or looked at things in a new way.

  • Lucy Crowe
    2019-03-26 12:32

    "Before Bethlehem" is not only rich in biblical history, it is a really enjoyable read. The author explains the oft disputed question of Jesus's siblings by placing them as Joseph's offspring through a previous marriage, and thus, the story is told from the pov of Joseph's son James, who was 15 at the time of Jesus's birth. The narrative takes up just before Joseph's betrothal to Mary, and follows the trials of the family up until the flight into Egypt. The author's knowledge of his subject is evident, as are his story telling skill. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys biblical history or even just a good read.

  • Renee Abernathy
    2019-03-28 14:33

    interestingReading this story was interesting. It brought out new ideas and imaginings about the birth of my Savior. It was interesting to read and moved the reader with the reality of life in that day. Nice read!

  • Carolyn
    2019-03-23 16:56

    Interesting. I really enjoy the views on well known (true)stories. I find it interesting to see the liberties taken especially on well known details. It was a great story and I hope someday I will know the true details of the story, I am excited to see the story of the world, this story included.

  • Rosa.cruz7
    2019-04-07 14:35

    Definitely deserves a reading - and it offers a much deserved glimpse into Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus, and also the politics and social life of the age. A journey of faith.

  • Terry Theye
    2019-03-27 15:49

    Quite an amazing Book. Enjoyable and found the facts and storyline well written. Definitely a "must read".

  • Markie
    2019-03-30 12:46

    An awesome historical novel detailing the details surrounding the birth of Jesus told from the viewpoint of Joseph's son, James!!! A very believable work of fiction!!!

  • Larry W Otte
    2019-04-14 11:58

    ReviewI really enjoyed reading this book. It was well written and it obviously had a lot of thought and research involved before being written. 5 stars.

  • Pam
    2019-04-04 17:36

    Before Bethlehem is by James Flerlage. It is set in Palestine (now Israel) in about 1BC. It is the story of the family of Joseph and Mary before the birth of Jesus. It is a very intriguing book. James has done his research on the mores of the time and the people who would have been in the area. However, there is conflict between the Biblical story and his. This is historical fiction so that is to be expected. There is conflict all the way through between the Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans, Christians and Jews. King Herod has heard of a prophecy of a child being King coming from the line descended from David. He is constantly hunting out the members of that family and harassing them and keeping an eye on them. It is interesting the way he melds the stories, legends, and history together to make a perfectly believable novel. James the Just writes this story in the year 69 AD and it tells of the difficult time his family had in the year preceding the birth of Jesus. Joseph bar Jacob a widower raising his final two young boys after the death of his wife Salome. His other children are grown and married. Jude is on the brink of being betrothed to a young woman in Nazareth. James (to be known as James the Just) is only 15 but on the cusp of being a man in his own right. He does have a desire to learn to read and write which his father tries to arrange. Joseph, his brother Clopas, Jude, James, and their cousin Simeon all work as masons and are on a job for Marcus, a merchant who can’t decide if he is Jewish or Roman. One day as they are at work, a young Roman, Prince Herod Antipas, comes to see them. He has heard Marcus bragging about the job they are doing for him. Herod Antipas identifies Joseph as descended from the House of David. Then he tells Joseph, Clopas, Jude, James, and Simeon they will have four weeks to finish up this job and be in Tiberias to work on the projects there. Pay is lower for those slaves working in Tiberias and it would not give them any time to work their land. The death rate is high for workers in Tiberias. It would also leave their wives and children in danger. They have no choice though. Nicodemus, a scribe, comes with a message for Joseph to attend Rabbi Joazar ben Boethus, a man loathed by Jews for being a collaborator with the Romans. Though he would like to refuse, Joseph agrees to go but takes James with him. Here he is given an offer that will keep his family in Nazareth without offending Herod Antipas and Romans. He just has to agree to meet and marry a young lady who is in Jerusalem. Boethus tells Joseph that Mary is the daughter of the late Rabbi Joachim and his wife Anna. They had her late in their lives and after their deaths; she was raised in the Temple. Mary is descended from the line of Aaron, her miraculous birth to such an elderly couple showed God’s favor, they believe God’s divine favor lies with her and she must marry a descendant of the House of David. Boethus emphasizes several times that she is a virgin. Joseph refuses as he loved his wife Salome and vowed not to marry again but to raise their children as best he could. He had no desire to have any more children. Finally he agrees to go to Jerusalem to meet her and if he decided to marry her it would be to protect his family and Mary. Thus he and James travel to Jerusalem. Here Joseph agrees to marry Mary but tells them nothing about not having children. While they are gone, Prince Herod Antipas comes to Nazareth and takes Uncle Clopas and Simeon to Tiberias to work. Jude wasn’t with them at the time so he heads to Jerusalem to find his father. When they return to Nazareth, Rabbi Ezra tells them that not only Clopas and Simeon were taken but all the able-bodied men of the village. After several raids by the Romans, women and children were ordered to stay indoors during the day. Will Joseph be able to get the men dismissed from Tiberias as he was promised by Rabbi Boethus and those at the Temple in Jerusalem? Will Mary fit into their family and make her own place there? How will the birth of Jesus come about? Will James’ book be accurate on that account? It is a fascinating book that was very difficult to put down. The writing style is easy to read and to follow which always makes reading more enjoyable. Did this history happen this way or is it simply a fabrication of Flerlage? Could it have happened this way?

  • Niffer
    2019-04-05 13:35

    I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. I thought Joseph was a wonderful character: strong, caring, resolute. I very much enjoyed his conversations with his youngest son, James, as they discussed God and faith and what their role in the world was.I didn't entirely understand the politics that led Joseph to become betrothed to Mary, but I was willing to just kind of go with it because I was enjoying Joseph so much as a character.Unfortunately when Mary was introduced I felt as though the whole book just went downhill. I found her shallow and self-centered and narrow-minded. I know she was young and had been sheltered but I honestly don't expect myself to say out loud, "Geez, chick, give it a rest already" when reading about the mother of Jesus. (The cat on my lap wasn't expecting that either and jumped a bit.)Other reviews have touched on the historical inaccuracies. I honestly probably would have been less bothered by them if the book hadn't already descended into a farce. As it was they just ended up feeling very contrived.I was convinced at the beginning of this book that it was going to be a 4 star book and was very sad to discover by the end I could only justify 2-2.5 stars.

  • J.A.C.H.
    2019-03-24 12:56

    This is a well thought out book and the author has obviously done research on the times around the birth of Jesus. He paints a difficult life for Jews, and harsh realities of both Jewish and Roman laws. Through this Joseph is raising a family, using the injustice of both the Jews and Romans to demonstrate righteousness and tolerance. There are many good teaching points throughout the book.There are two areas which do not flow well. One is the fact that Joseph makes a deal to mary Mary in order to keep his family from becoming slave labor. I couldn't tell who was making the deal, Antipas? Joseph gets a seal from Antipas, but then has to hide it from the Romans, while he's in Jerusalem, while also hiding it from Herod. I couldn't understand why Antipas would make a deal; he likely didn't believe in Jewish prophecy.The other aspect which is probably meant to be a mystery, is that the author sets it up that Jude could be Jesus' father. Jude and Mary visit Elizabeth and Zachariah for the birth of John, and then Mary returns pregnant. There's a tenderness between Jude and Mary that tweaks at a different relationship. Because of all of the miracles surrounding Elizabeth's birth of John, Jesus is accepted to be part of another miracle by Joseph and his sons.

  • Sue
    2019-03-28 12:43

    I thought this was a wonderful take on the biblical story.... it's fiction, but the historical and cultural research done to write this book was so enlightening. It added such richness to see what it might have been like to live in this time period. In turn it added depth and meaning to the real story of Mary and Joseph's lives. I think Mr. Flerlage did a masterful job of weaving an alternate story to relay so much of what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph to deal with a pregnancy that could have left her stoned for an what appeared to be a sexual indiscretion. The story line kept me anticipating what would happen next as the events wove together. Kudos to the author for a story well told!

  • Barbara
    2019-04-18 15:36

    I personally loved this book.I was not born into a religion that studied the bible, therefore, I have a difficult time understanding many of the bibles stories.For this reason alone, I look for fiction that can shed some light on any possible scenarios of anything pertaining to biblical times.For me, the story needs to paint a picture of the lifestyle and customs so that I might better understand WHY people did what they did.I am not assuming that this, or any story I read, is a gospel, but rather a possibility of what MIGHT have happened.This book allowed me to better understand the struggles Joseph and Mary may have had to endure in order to accept the path they were asked to follow according to Gods will.I will recommend this book to anyone who asks about it.

  • Diana Shaffner
    2019-03-29 13:52

    Before Bethlehem is a first person account in the words of a boy who partakes and witnesses his family's fight to survive life in a harsh environment under Roman rule. Even a reader who does not buy into the story of the virgin Mary giving birth to the savior Jesus can appreciate the detailed description of everyday life during this time. Especially the incredibly difficult and life threatening conditions of traveling are highlighted in this book. This piece of historical/religious fiction can serve as a reminder of the comfort in which we now live. Comfort and relative safety to be appreciated indeed.

  • NancyInWI
    2019-04-04 10:50

    This fictional story veered quite a ways from how I'd always thought of and learned about the events leading up to and the birth of Jesus. The author said he spent 5 years researching and reading books in order to write "Before Bethlehem" but apparently he skipped the most obvious source, the Bible. So much out of sequence or just totally ignored and left out. How can you skip Joseph being visited in a dream by a messenger telling him what was going to happen? So many other things that were so different from what is in the Bible. The story was pretty slow too and I had to force myself to read it except for the last 50 pages. Not sure why I stuck it out until the end.