King Jesus
King Jesus is a semi-historical novel by Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

, first published in 1946. The novel treats Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 not as the son of God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

, but rather as a philosopher with a legitimate claim to the Judaean
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

 throne through Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

, as well as the Davidic monarchy; and treats numerous Biblical stories in an unorthodox manner.

The story

Graves wrote the story from the perspective of an official living in the time of Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

. The novel opens with the statement, "I, AGABUS the Decapolitan, began this work at Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 in the ninth year of the Emperor Domitian and completed it at Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 in the thirteenth year of the same." The novel consists primarily of dialogues between the prophets and other people of the story told by the Roman hagiographer. It begins with the reign of Herod before Jesus is born and explains in a style the dynastical, quasi-secular roots of Jesus both from his mother's and his father's side, establishing a dual while terrenal - temporal- right to the throne of Israel. The second part starts with Nativity and Jesus's youth. Finally, the third part chronicles Jesus's work in adulthood as a prophet, his death on the cross, and his resurrection.

In a "Historical Commentary" published at the end of the book Robert Graves remarks, concerning the books historical basis, "A detailed commentary written to justify the unorthodox views contained in this book would be two or three times as long as the book itself, and would take years to complete; I beg to be excused the task ...[but]...I undertake to my readers that every important element in my story is based on some tradition, however tenuous, and that I have taken more than ordinary pains to verify my historical background"


The standard scholarly edition is the volume in the Collected Works of Robert Graves (Carcanet Press
Carcanet Press
Carcanet Press is a publisher, primarily of poetry, based in the United Kingdom and founded in 1969 by Michael Schmidt.Carcanet Press is now in its fourth decade. In 2000 it was named the Sunday Times millennium Small Publisher of the Year...

), edited by Robert A. Davis.


Old Heresy, New Version, Time Magazine, Monday, Sep. 30, 1946

Later References

Herodian Messiah is a work of non-fiction that presents evidence and arguments in support of the central theory of King Jesus (i.e., that Jesus was the son of Antipater ben Herod
Antipater (son of Herod I)
Antipater II was Herod the Great's first-born son, his only child by his first wife Doris. He was named after his paternal grandfather Antipater the Idumaean. He and his mother were exiled after Herod divorced her between 43 BC and 40 BC to marry Mariamne I. However, he was recalled following...

and Mariamne bat Antigonus). Graves claimed to possess evidence for this theory but refused to publish it.
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