In the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, Dr. James Wardwell of Houghton College dropped an author’s name into my life: Graham Greene. Twenty-eight years later that seed Dr. Wardwell planted sprouted into my life as The Power and the Glory. I have read it through in its entirety once, but its first chapter at least thrice.
Why thrice? Not three times for its charm, but rather for its artistry and things I missed. The first character Greene inflates from the bleaching dust of an exhausted Mexican city is the dentist Tench. The life of Tench sets the tone, but a fugitive came from the forest making the mystery. This fugitive never gets a name, but he does get the lead role.
The thing I initially missed was that this character was a priest. I should have recognized some of Greene’s hints making the first-chapter-mystery-man out as a priest, but I did not. I took his disguise as a quack physician too literally.
That Greene tricked me, would have made my college professor smile. I think Dr. Wardwell would have chuckled, “That was Greene’s goal.” Greene did well and snuck his character right into the first chapter and right back out. Upon coming to the second chapter, I was worried the focus would be on my nemesis: dentists.
John the Apostle is like Graham Greene. He uses literary skill and artistry in step-by-step truth-telling. John the Apostle is also not like Graham Greene. John gives his readers solidity, finality, truth-anchors while Greene lets his readers draw some of their own conclusions about what happened to the priest.