Miriamne the Magdala
The First Chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series
Miriamne the Magdala written by historian JB Richards is a beautiful novel brimming with the history of the holy lands. It explores the relationship between Yeshua bar Joseph, known more familiarly to us as Jesus, and Miriamne Bat Micah, daughter of the Hekatontarchus of the Hyperatai, the Commander of the Holy Temple Guard, and more familiarly known to us as Mary Magdalene. The novel, the first in Richards’ planned series is told from Miriamne’s point of view, and takes place during the period just after Yeshua has had his bar mitzvah. Now considered an “adult” according to Hebrew standards and customs, Yeshua is still a young man at 13 years old, and often acts as such: petulant, demanding, and prone to bouts of anger not generally attributable to the Son of God. Richards does a good job of showing us how sometimes, even the Son of God needs a bit of time to grow up.
Yeshua’s present concern is the health of his abba, his earthly father, Joseph, who is suffering from a debilitating cough that has left him weak and fatigued. Joseph was a stone mason, working in Nazareth where the family lived. Nazareth boasts a stone quarry but also a constant dust hovering about the city, a direct result of the quarrying operation. Once a strapping man, now Joseph can barely rise from bed. Yeshua’s hopelessness is a result of HaShem’s (God’s) refusal to grant Yeshua’s most heartfelt desire — to heal Joseph. Even as a baby, Yeshua had the power to heal, and HaShem’s denial of his request is making Yeshua furious. And when Yeshua gets angry, bad things happen. Even Mary, his Ima, or mother, cannot calm Yeshua down when his anger is this great, and it’s causing trouble in the family and the village.
Enter Miriamne the Magdal, or Tower, and, as Yeshua’s beloved, the one person able to reach him. That she and Yeshua can read each others thoughts is one of the perks of young love between these two visionaries. From the first moment they meet, these cousins are enthralled with each other. Miri is an unusual child who has suffered all her life from “episodes,” visions of the future that leave her weak, frightened, and unable to express to others what she has seen. Those who do not understand believe her to be possessed by demons, something people have also been saying about Yeshua his entire life. As a result, both grew up somewhat isolated and at this point in their lives they really understand each other. Miriamne’s mother, Salome, and Yeshua’s mother Mary, are cousins, and their fathers were best friends until fate forced them apart, while Yeshua’s brothers — James, Simeon, Judas and Joses — sons of Joseph from his first wife, are his greatest protectors and most ardent supporters.
Miriamne the Magdala is limited to the first year of Miri and Yeshua’s time together, and Richards does a nice job of portraying the history: the food and drink; the housing; the modes of transportation, the religiosity, and the overall pace of life which was very much in keeping with life 2,000 years ago. In addition to exploring more than just Yeshua and Miri’s love and lineage, Richardson delves deeply into the roles that women played — secondary status (no shock there) — in a world dominated completely by men. Miri, however, is no secondary character, but a firebrand who doesn’t take no for an answer and who manages on most occasions to get exactly what she wants, including Yeshua.
Miriamne the Magdala could easily be a YA novel. There is no sex, no real violence, and lots of dialogue between the young lovers. Miriamne the Magdala was ranked in the 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards Top 10 Best Historical Fiction, Top 20 Best New Adult, and Top 50 Best Young Adult novels in addition to being a nominee for Best Romance.
My one criticism of the book is the repetitiveness of a few of the themes such as the taboo of premarital sex or even kissing which was repeated in many instances. Yes, it was a puritanical time, and certain things were expected from both men and women, but the scenario was played out too often, giving an otherwise delightful book a repetitive feeling that, at over 800+ pages, it could have done without. Perhaps it was a tactic employed for the YA reader, but today’s YA reader is savvy and doesn’t need the extra handholding. You don’t need to repeat yourself to get your point across. You simply need to create gripping and memorable scenes which the novel already does quite well.
If you are open to a reimagining of the early life of Yeshua and his beloved, Miri, then pick up Miriamne and let the Magdal enchant you.
Want more? Go here for an interview with author JB Richards.