Tabor: The First Christian

Written by Dixie Distler
Review by J. Lynn Else

When the star appears in Bethlehem to announce Jesus’s miraculous birth, Tabor is just a baby. His parents befriend Joseph and Mary, who eventually warn them to flee Bethlehem before Herod’s soldiers arrive with swords drawn. Thus, raised in the hills beyond the city, Tabor grows up a shepherd. He falls in love, marries, and becomes a father. But when Roman soldiers steal Tabor’s daughter to become a slave of Caesar, Tabor sets off to rescue her from the Roman palace where Pontius Pilate lives. When Tabor is later arrested after hiding a sacred artifact from the Romans, he meets a unique prisoner who preaches forgiveness over violence. But how can Tabor forgive the depravity of the Roman occupiers who kidnap Jewish children and loot holy artifacts from their temples?

Tabor: The First Christian is a unique look into a Jewish shepherd’s life during the 1st century. The varied characters drew me in, particularly Saul. The author does a great job illustrating the difficulties the characters faced, ranging from high taxes to prejudice to the exploitation of the Passover holiday. Tabor must also contend with his own conflicts of faith. Through the harshness of this life, it’s easy to understand Tabor’s reasons for hating those who have hurt his family and friends.

Based on the title, I expected a bit more direct interaction with Jesus. Additionally, I think the prologue does a disservice to the power and the surprise of the final chapters. I also felt the pacing midway through slowed a bit. Overall, though, this is a well-researched narrative with good characterization and a bittersweet message.