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Literature / The Letters From Nicodemus

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Rabbi Nicodemus ben Nicodemus is a wealthy, respected writer of haggadas (parables), who would be perfectly happy with his quiet life and work, if only his beloved Ruth was healthy. Her illness, though, is wearing at them both, as he confesses in writing to his old teacher, Justus.

The times, however, are tumultous - a new prophet is said to have shown up at the shores of Jordan, a new prophet who baptises and chastises the people, claiming Someone else is near - and he's unworthy of unlacing His sandals...

The year is 3788, or, as Romans call it, year of the consulship of Piso and Frugi.

One of several novels that Jan Dobraczyński set in biblical times, Listy Nikodema ("The letters from Nicodemus") deals with "taking up the cross" and what it really means.


Tropes that have taken the leap of faith:

  • Anachronism Stew: Served at Herod's party in the form of turkeys and maize alkohol.
  • Badass Preacher: How John the Baptist appears (until his imprisonment).
  • Been There, Shaped History: From the very first letter we learn Nicodemus is good friends with Joseph of Arimathea. Then he personally meets John the Baptist, several disciples, and then Jesus Himself. He also knows many of the bad guys and is a witness to several miracles, as well as Salome's dance. And owns the house where they had the Last Supper.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After twenty four letters worth of angst, Nicodemus sells what he owns and goes forth to spread the Word.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Some things are called the way they were back in the day, like simlah (a cape).
  • The Caretaker: Is the point of view character, so we're shown several facets of this.
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  • Composite Character: Mary of Bethany (Lazarus and Martha's sister) somehow got traits of Mary Magdalene. She's also the one to bring the fragrant oils that Judas deemed so wasteful.
  • Creepy Child: Nicodemus finds young Salome weird to the point of being scary.
  • Crisis of Faith: Nicodemus, for the entire story. Solves it in the end.
  • Restored My Faith in Humanity: Nicodemus starts out somewhat bigoted (not nearly as bigoted as his colleagues), but in the last letter finally admits that he's came to regard Peter and the other disciples (galileean fishermen, mind) as better than he himself is.
  • Stoic Woobie: John the Baptist after his imprisonment.


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