A Roman soldier, Marcellus, wins Christ's robe as a gambling prize. He then sets forth on a quest to find the truth about the Nazarene's robe-a quest that reaches to the very roots and heart of Christianity and is set against the vividly limned background of ancient Rome. Here is a timeless story of adventure, faith, and romance, a tale of spiritual longing and ultimate redemption.
Read. This. Book.
Whatever happened to the Roman soldier who won Christ's Robe? Lloyd C. Douglas imagines what impact such an event could have had on that soldier's life, how he couldn't just pass off the event as an ordinary execution, how he was determined to learn more about Jesus, how he struggled to accept the things he heard, but eventually couldn't turn back. How he gambled for Christ's Robe and won new life.
Marcellus Gallio is the son of a senator and a tribune sent to Minoa to command the fort. He and his men go to Jerusalem during the Passover and are ordered to crucify Jesus. The job is distasteful to Marcellus because he knows Jesus is innocent, but he has no choice. He wins Jesus' Robe, but touching it causes him to go crazy. And when his mind is restored, he is filled with an insatiable hunger to know more of Jesus.
The story is basically Marcellus encountering events from the end of the Gospels and Acts, which was really cool. It puts it all in a different perspective, which makes familiar events new and powerful again. You get to hear about Jesus' miracles through the ears of a Roman who disbelieves in the supernatural, but yet can't discount it. And you see what it really costs to be a Christian.
Everyone I know who had read this book said it was really good, so I had high expectations going in. I was not disappointed. I like it even better than Ben-Hur, which I love (The book, neither movie did it justice. And honestly, having a middle aged white guy play a late teens/early twenties Jewish kid just doesn't work. Sorry, Charlton Heston). While The Robe isn't a perfect book and doesn't get everything right, I have to say it is more Biblically/historically accurate than Ben-Hur. It doesn't just go with the clichés of European tradition. The Robe felt very authentic—it didn't feel like a caricature of Roman times the way the movie version did (which also didn't even come close to doing the story justice). It treats the whole story of Jesus with respect, and chronicles a very realistic journey from Roman skeptic to Christian. My only complaint about the faith aspect is that it wasn't as explicit as I would have liked about forgiveness of sins. Marcellus's focus when telling people about Jesus seemed to have more to do with kindness toward others, which is great and all, but it really should be more about repentance and forgiveness.
The characters were all very well developed. They felt like real people. Something the movie got totally wrong was Marcellus's relationship with his slave Demetrius. Demetrius is a really awesome guy, not a sullen slave, and he and Marcellus are quite devoted to one another. Time and again Demetrius turned down his freedom because Marcellus still needed him. They were close friends. And the more they learned about Jesus, the less their relationship was master/slave and the more it was just best friends. I liked Diana, and while I wish she'd come around sooner, I can't say I was displeased with her actions at the end. She was just as heroic as Marcellus.
The ending is sad, but triumphant. If you believe in Jesus, you will not die, but have everlasting life.
Read The Robe. You won't regret it.