Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage

My Christmas was perfect: a low-key morning with a two-year-old who enjoyed just a little bit at a time; a leisurely and delicious brunch; plus a few hours of intense “kids-running-around-at-Grandma’s” visiting with family. A nice balance, and a fun time.

In terms of reading, I finished off my biography of Jesus on December 26. I was right: December was the ideal month for reading James E. Talmage’s 700+ page tome. Part gospel harmony, part historical explanation, and part doctrinal interpretation, Jesus the Christ follows the pre-mortal, mortal, and post-mortal mission of the Savior by interpreting the scriptures.

Talmage wrote his book in the first two decades of the twentieth century, in an era before computers could have helped him put things in order. The seamless nature of his book is therefore all the more impressive to me. Besides that, I really did enjoy the outmoded writing style. While Talmage’s scholarly tone makes it difficult to read quickly at first, I found it beautiful (and not as difficult) once I got used to it. It is clear Talmage is a Bible scholar, and he clarifies the context of the parables, the Jewish dissension, and other aspects of New Testament life with which I was unfamiliar: Talmage puts the New Testament events in context.

Talmage is also a scholar of Mormon doctrine, as his research and commentary gave me insights into the continuing nature of the mission of Jesus Christ. While he only briefly referred to the pre-mortal and post-mortal ministry of the Savior, he did regularly complement his New Testament commentary with references to Latter-day scripture.

As a whole, the book certainly focuses on the Latter-day Saint doctrines of the Savior, and therefore, I am not certain non-Mormon readers would find it so engaging or satisfying. Even Mormon readers need to keep in mind that this volume in one man’s interpretation of the key events and scriptures: I didn’t necessarily agree with all his doctrinal interpretations, and it’s interesting to consider the past 100 years of further gospel insight as I read. Talmage’s volume, although rather comprehensive, is still flawed and incomplete. Yet, reading it had encouraged me to better delve into the scriptures on my own and seek guidance and direction by reading the words of the living prophets.

This blog is not primarily a religious blog: it’s a reading blog. I’ll therefore keep this post brief by saying that I’m grateful I finely did submerge myself in this volume. While I was intimidated by its length and it does have some flaws, I found Jesus the Christ ultimately rewarding, especially at this Christmas season.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

We have this gorgeous illustrated edition on our coffee table, and I love browsing through my favorite pictures of Christ.

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. It sounds like you had a really rewarding read, Rebecca. Giving yourself time to become really immersed in a long, rich book of ideas/interpretations that speak to your own life can be such a great experience. Cheers!

  2. I read large pieces of this several years ago, and I appreciated it, because it felt like it really grappled with big ideas. Religious books (modern ones anyway) sometimes seem to fall into one of two traps: being dogmatic and nondiscussive (I kind of felt this way about The Miracle of Forgiveness, though I know other people loved it to death), or being soft and fuzzy. There is probably a role for both of those tpyes of books, but it was really hard to find books taht let you sit and THINK with them for a long time, you know? Glad you enjoyed it – agree with him or not Talmage was certainly an extremely intelligent man, who seemed to relaly believe what he said :).

  3. I’ve been meaning to read this book for years. I know (at least to Mormons) it’s still considered the gold standard, but I liked your point about it being just one interpretation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. It’s so impressive that you were able to read this entire book during such a busy season! Definitely an accomplishment. This year I would like to read some books focusing on religion myself; I feel like some of knowledge about the Bible is slipping away and I need to delve into some deeper works about it.

  5. Emily, it was a great experience to immerse myself! Thanks for your kind thoughts.

    Jason, Yes, he certainly was intelligent! That’s one reason I really enjoyed it, I knew he knew what he was talking about in context and I really enjoyed reading his beliefs too.

    Stefanie, yes, I suspect it was hard! I think it took him 15 years to write. He based it on the New Testament, along with some other Bible histories, so of course it can’t be comprehensive – a lot we don’t know. But very fascinating all the same!

    Jessica, Oh, I’d definitely say that it’s a gold standard, and I’ll still buy the pretty coffee table book for friend’s wedding presents. Although it is one interpretation, I loved reading his testimony. I’d highly recommend reading portions of it — maybe sitting down and reading the entire thing is not the best idea, as it is very intimidating!

    Marie, it felt satisfying because I felt I was reading it to remind me of the meaning of the season! It definitely encouraged me to read the Bible more! Enjoy whatever you choose to read.

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