“The Shoemaker’s Gospel is the result of much prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation” according to the back of the book’s jacket. The author himself concurs that the book is modeled on Ignatian meditation in which one re-creates in one’s imagination the scenes of Gospel accounts and then places themselves in these scenes, watching and listening (p. xii). The author has placed himself in many of the scenes of the gospels, and, for the purposes of this novel, not as himself but as a shoemaker who was a contemporary of Jesus. This allows the reader to hear the inner reactions of a hypothetical disciple to Jesus’ words and deeds, and allows the narrator to record various conversations between the shoemaker and some of Jesus’ followers and even between the shoemaker, whom Jesus calls “Soft Shoes” and Jesus himself.
The book is organized under three headings: The River; The Lake, and Jerusalem. These sites structure Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem: 1) his baptism at the Jordan; 2) events in Jesus’ public ministry, including his relationship with Jairus and his daughter, with the blind man, and with Zacchaeus, and 3) Jesus’ celebration of the Passover and his execution. The last chapter takes place at the inn at Emmaus.
The Shoemaker’s Gospel is “fiction” but it is also narrative theology; it conforms to traditional biblical interpretation consistent with Michelangelo’s Pieta, Handel’s Messiah, and even Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ. It is not meant to be modern historical criticism. It is meant to be imaginative reconstruction and to nourish the imaginations of those who pray the gospels. In that purpose the volume succeeds.