Shortly after Dr. Tim LaHaye and I finished the last title in the Left Behind series, we sat to chat about our future. We had developed a father-son type of a relationship over 15 years (he’ll be 83 this year) and we weren’t ready for it to end.
We recognized that it would be unlikely for either of us to see another Left Behind phenomenon (65 million books sold), but our goals have never been income or book sales, but rather to communicate a message.
As we were discussing possibilities, I said, “Tim, it strikes me that of all the things you’ve written and preached about over the years, it really comes down to one thing: your subject is Jesus. How about we move away from writing about the future and write about the past?”
That was really the germ of the idea for a series of novels based on the Gospels. Before long Tim was off and running with ideas and commentaries, and we were fortunate to find that the Penguin group was as excited about the possibilities as we were.
John’s Story came first, then Mark’s Story. The paperback of the latter releases this month, along with the clothbound version of the next, Luke’s Story. And we’re finishing Matthew’s Story now.
What fun it has been for me as a novelist! I grew up on the stories of Jesus, but haven been given the privilege of fleshing out the details is a challenge I have relished. I always wondered, for instance, who was the boy who gave his five loaves and two fishes to Jesus, only to see him feed thousands with it. What was he doing there? How did he react? The Jesus Chronicles allows us to speculate, and it has been fun.
A reader wrote and asked about a scene where we have Jesus slap at a bug on his neck while sitting with His disciples around a fire one night. Then he nudges it back to life with His thumb and it flies away. Naturally the reader wanted to know where this was found in Scripture.
Of course, it’s not there. But that’s the appeal of fiction. We are determined to stay as close to the biblical record as possible, but because these are novels, if we don’t violate the spirit of the Bible, we believe we’re free to speculate. Our mail tells us our readers agree.
Why did John decide to write his gospel? Who was Mark as a young man? How did Luke, a physician who never met Jesus personally, become a believer and write his account? And how did Matthew, a despised tax collector, become one of the twelve?
This has been our adventure as we’ve written The Jesus Chronicles.
Jerry B. Jenkins is co-author of the best-selling Left Behind series of novels. He is chairman of the board of trustees for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.