Vance Shepperson is a 3rd generation Presbyterian preacher’s son. He attended schools in England, Switzerland, Illinois, and Florida. He earned a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1977 and worked as an Air Force psychologist, assistant professor at a doctoral program in California, and ran a psychotherapy practice with his wife.
Bethyl Joy and Vance served as missionaries in southwest China for five years, teaching counseling skills for another California university’s overseas graduate program. They have also lived in the Lake District of the UK, New Zealand’s south island; and now, the Big Island of Hawaii, where they still practice psychotherapy… but mainly write stuff.
Jesus’ Silent Years is a four-volume series of historical novels, written in modern language for modern people (not using ancient-speak). These novels have one focus, Jesus of Nazareth. They paint contrasting stories from different points of view about Jesus.
Release date: January 5, 2021.
Jesus works as a common tradesman, but with uncommon abilities. He grows into and through the tasks of young adults in this four-book series. We journey with Jesus as he stumbles and recovers from failures. He’s pushed to his limits with sexual temptation, anger, depression, and doubt—yet stays true to his calling.
Live inside Jesus’s world, as he figures out who he is and isn’t, who hisfriends are, and how to battle his enemies.
Caesar Augustus’ granddaughter, Claudia, falls deeply in love with Jesus, and he with her. The Spirit and Father train Jesus in every battle, every defeat, every triumph. You’ll laugh and cry with him and his friends in their ongoing battles to grow up. You might even find outexactly how much he and you are more alike than different.
Release date: February 20, 2021
Parables picks up Jesus’ story at around twenty years of age. We learn how Jesus became a master teacher.
Jesus did not speak without telling parables. He told stories of good people who went bad; bad people who went good; stories with sad outcomes and glad ones. He taught by contrast: this is a good person, that is a bad one. He didn’t lecture. He told stories.
Journey, volume three, walks alongside Jesus in his mid-twenties. These adventure stories are set inside the Italy, modern day Albania, Cyprus, and Egypt.
Journey showcases a growing Jesus who deals with authority, regulates his moods, deals with abuse, and balances love with loss.
We also see how his Spirit, Windy, travels the planet with and apart from him, weaving his presence back and forth into his life and the lives of those he loved.
Homecoming, volume four, takes Jesus back to Israel from Egypt in his late twenties. We walk with him, and his friends, through the desert. We witness the slow healing of one friend, Slow, who’s been fractured into many parts by childhood sexual abuse. We see the ambivalence of Barabbas (aka Rabbus), teetering on the brink of following Jesus or giving into his desire for revenge.
Jesus learns to trust God for water out of hard rock. We learn by story how God seeds us, weeds us, tenders us into adulthood, each in our own way
What I loved about this book series is how much it helped me relate to Jesus as the Son of Man. I know He is the Son of God, but this helped me understand to a new level that He was truly a human being like me in every sense of the word. This helps me trust Him and feel at home with Him. That’s priceless.
Jesus is a very real human being in these books. We see him grow up from age 13 to 30. He’s fully human, as Christianity teaches regarding the Incarnation. His temptations and sufferings, as a teenage boy, as a young man in love, and as a man betrayed, imprisoned, abused, etc., all give profound insight into the role of prayer, faith, and relationship with God through the course of life. We feel his suffering and joys with him, and realize he too joins with us through his Spirit in our modern lives.
While reading these fictional backstories I got great insight into the Gospels and a deeper sense of my own relationship with God. In the author’s own words, “You can find most of these people inside you.” In doing so, you learn much about yourself, about yourself in relationship with others, with God, and even with Satan (through their temptations).
The many characters, Mary and Joseph, Cousin John (later the Baptist), Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Mary Magdelaine Zacchaeus, Pilate, and more, each show us something of ourselves, and give insight into ourselves in relationship with God and our neighbor.
I have gained profound insight into myself and my relationships with God and my neighbors through reading these stories of Jesus and his friends, foes, and family members. As a Priest with a Master’s Degree in Theology, I highly recommend these books to all who are seeking deeper relationships and a deeper understanding of themselves and of their faith.
Does everyone have their own fantasy of Jesus? Does your Jesus skip from 12 to 30 through some sort of divine magic? Shepperson’s Jesus (fictional, of course) packs four books of non-stop adventure into those years, with a richly portrayed supporting cast. This first book all takes place in the strip between Egypt and Syria now known as Israel and its neighbors. There are references back to the child narratives in the gospels, parallel reenactments of gospel with different twists, and anticipations of ministry narratives, just as there are references to the politics, economy, lifestyle, and society of that first century life. Inner lives are filled in, imaginations and longings are created. Dreams happen and some get crushed. Even Father God and the Holy Spirit show up, all given voice, action, and character.
Of course, this is Shepperson’s creation, not yours or mine. He uses voice, language, psychology, history, geography, et al in the service of a very rich, fast paced narrative. It is adult material, including violence, betrayal, sexuality, and suffering. It is also teen material, filled with angst, longing, and developmental challenges. It is modern in style, with each chapter/chunk coming from a participant’s voice. It uses language in an uninhibited street style, sometimes poetic, sometimes hip, perhaps even trite, but certainly not stale.
Did I like it? Mostly. Given what I will put up with on TV or in a movie, this is tame stuff and in service of a good cause. What is that cause? Shepperson doesn’t say, but it felt to me like I was being asked to move Jesus and his world from somewhere out there far away to a place more near and real, and put myself in that world so I could reflect more deeply on the world around me, the world beyond me, and the world within.
It’s a fast-paced, fully textured, vocally rich ride–one that will stay with me for a long time.