Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Gene Edwards’ The Prisoner In the Third Cell, is a gripping fictionalized account of the life and death of John the Baptist. Written primarily in a third person narrative voice, The Prisoner In the Third Cell takes the known Biblical account of John and weaves in a narrative in which John’s serious faith and commitment to God is demonstrated in his decision to return to the Essenes’ community in the harsh desert where he and his now deceased parents had fled to when Herod’s decree to murder all Jewish boys in light of the awareness of Jesus’ birth; in his harsh denunciation of the religious leaders along the banks of the Jordan; and in his stance that ultimately ends in his beheading.
Though devotional in nature, the book is not a sentimentalized and shallow presentation of who John the Baptist really was. In his writing Edwards provides a very human and realistic emotional coloring of John’s very simple but profound persona. There is credibility in the characterization of not just John but also those whose lives intersected his, notably those of the guards who imprison him in his final days, as well as the people who find strength in his words..)
Though we know the outcome of the John’s life as noted in the gospel accounts, it is the question that John asks some of his followers to put to Jesus that Edwards’ focuses on as he writes the final chapters. As he does so, Edwards envisions the tension within Christ as He anticipates John’s death and the unanswered questions his cousin was dealing with from the prison cell. It is a tension that Edwards expresses through Christ’s voice in the book, “Your God has not lived up to your expectations.”
Having never heard of either Edwards nor the book, I was pleasantly surprised by it. It is more of a novella than a full novel (I read the book from the Nook version and it was 64 pages in total length). I appreciated Edwards’ sensitive but honest treatment of John as a man whose faith was costly. I recommend it for your reading pleasure and ponderings.
I obtain a free e-copy of the book via a notice from Tyndale House on Twitter that it was available for free.