Two Women of Galilee
Rourke, a religious scholar and journalist for the LA Times, offers a new interpretation of events leading to the Crucifixion. Her heroine, Joanna, is briefly mentioned in Luke as a woman whom Jesus cured from her afflictions, and Roarke creates a full life for her as a consumptive Jewess whose father alienated his relatives by siding with Rome. Joanna knows every luxury as the wife of Herod Antipas’s chief steward, and though she has her husband’s love, her life revolves around trivial matters, like caring for her rose garden in the village of Sepphoris. A chance encounter in the marketplace reunites her with her long-estranged cousin, Mary. Their acquaintance causes concern for Joanna’s husband, Chuza, who never followed his wife’s birth religion, and it makes Antipas wonder how he can use Joanna’s connections to his advantage.
Presuming on Mary’s friendship, Joanna arranges to meet Mary’s son, whose growing reputation as a healer has spread. Jesus does cure Joanna’s lung-disease, and refreshingly, her miraculous recovery is not instantaneous. Joanna’s spiritual transformation also progresses realistically, as she grows ever more curious about the man who healed her. Still more compelling is Mary, a kind middle-aged woman of Nazareth with a home, family, and admirers, but who is also deeply concerned about her son’s fate.
Aside from the dangers Joanna faces through her association with Jesus, which are considerable, this is essentially a gentle read about one woman’s spiritual growth. The historical background is lightly sketched – there are a few anachronisms – and the language is modern and uncomplicated. Those seeking extensive detail about 1st century Palestine won’t find it here. Yet Two Women of Galilee is an enjoyable tale that provides compassionate insight into two biblical women’s personalities.