In Association with The Jesus Puzzle web site: www.jesuspuzzle.com and www.jesuspuzzle.org
Earl Doherty

VARDIS FISHER'S "TESTAMENT OF MAN"

 

The "Testament of Man": a series of eleven historical novels (completed by a twelfth, contemporary one) written by American author Vardis Fisher (1895-1968) tracing the development of religious and social ideas from the dawn of human intelligence two million years ago to the Christian Middle Ages.

I first wrote this set of reviews and commentary on Fisher's Testament of Man in 1989, as part of an unpublished work titled A Journey Through History in Fiction: A Reader's Guide to History and Historical Novels. Recently, it was adapted for publication in six parts in the magazine American Atheist, published by American Atheist Press. The series ran from Autumn 2000 to Winter 2001-2002 and is now complete. It can also be read in the American Atheist on-line edition at: www.americanatheist.org.

I am reproducing this series on the Age of Reason website in the hope of bringing Vardis Fisher and his work to wider public attention, and especially to those interested in the promotion of rationalist views of history and rationalist ideals in society. Written between 1943 and 1960, the Testament of Man was based on the most progressive scholarship of Fisher's day, and has never been surpassed in the field of fiction for its breadth of vision and for its evocative and insightful portrayal of the evolution of western civilization's shaping foundations.

It is not too much to say that our society today still finds itself mired in irrationality. Our myths mean more to us than our history, our fantasies are more valued than our realities. The scientific picture of life and humanity's long evolution on this planet is presently rejected by half the population of North American society as a colossal error or an atheist plot; science for many takes second place to metaphysics and superstition. We are in desperate need of corrective measures. I invite you to join me in surveying Vardis Fisher's powerful and provocative journey down the long eons of prehistory, through the centuries of early Judaeo-Graeco-Christian civilization, as a skilled and imaginative writer traces the origin and development of our millennia-old mythology of the supernatural, our visions of deities and demons and otherworld dimensions which culminated in the concept of the sacrificed god that has loomed over western society for more than two thousand years.

PART ONE:  Introduction; Darkness and the Deep; The Golden Rooms
PART TWOIntimations of Eve; Adam and the Serpent; The Divine Passion
PART THREEThe Valley of Vision; The Island of the Innocent
PART FOURJesus Came Again: A Parable
PART FIVEA Goat For Azazel
PART SIXPeace Like a River; My Holy Satan; Postscript (Orphans in Gethsemane)