Book Review: The Holy War

The Holy War Made By Shaddai Upon Diabolus For The Regaining Of The Metropolis Of The World, by John Bunyan

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Aneko Press.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

In some ways it is unfortunate that this book stands in the shadow of the author’s more familiar Pilgrim’s Progress, which is one of the best known Christian fictional works of all time, if not the best known [1] even now.  This book is part of the ongoing Aneko Press series of classic Christian works [2], and it is a classic I never heard of until it showed up surprisingly one day at my door.  This is the sort of book that prompts the reader to wonder why it is that writers get known for just one work when they have others that are almost as good.  If Pilgrim’s Progress had not existed, perhaps Bunyan might have been known for this excellent book, but given that it does exist, the shadow of that classic has likely made it more difficult for readers to appreciate the larger context of his writing, which was far more diverse than being simply a series of great allegories, although it is good these allegories have been remembered.

This book is a relatively sizable one at some 400 pages, liberally filled with excellent artwork and in a helpfully modernized vocabulary to make it easier to read.  Although allegories are not very common books anymore, this one is easy to read and a gripping, page-turning tale.  I will attempt to briefly summarize the plot of the story, which has a narrative that exists not far from the biblical one (which ought to be obvious from the book’s longer title).  A city, named Mansoul (most of the names in the book are like this) exists in a state of innocence until it is taken over by deceit and trickery by Diabolus and then subjected to a long period of misrule.  At length the army of Shaddai besieges the city and eventually takes it with the help of Emmanuel, but the lack of moral reformation among the oddly named citizens of Mansoul and the continued presence of some Diabolans in disguise lead Emmanuel to distance himself from the city and for an invasion by Diabolus to succeed in taking the city but failing to take the city’s besieged citidel, which remains firm.  Eventually a sortie by the town’s residents and a return attack by the armies of Emmanuel lead to a victory with the promise, eventually of Mansoul being replaced by a new and spiritual city that is free of evil altogether.  The book ends with a biographical sketch of John Bunyan that taught me a lot about his complicated life and explained at least a little bit why his books had the sense of compelling drama that they do.

This book is one that strikes the reader as very odd unless they are familiar with the drama of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  Although the author himself was strongly anti-Catholic, being an unlicensed minister who spent many years in jail on that charge in 17th century England, the book itself has some strong elements from the Medieval plays where stock characters represented specific qualities.  And so we get a book that has characters with what would seem to contemporary readers to have unrealistic names like No-Hope and Innocency, and many others (there is a glossary of these names at the end of the novel as well).  Nevertheless, this is the sort of story that greatly rewards those who are able to overlook its odd elements and to appreciate its compelling narrative and the relevance of that narrative to the moral state of people as well as to humanity at large.  I was very pleasantly surprised at how amazing this book was and how easy it was to read.  With some name changes I could see this book very easily being turned into a compelling Christian drama in our contemporary period, and not many novels can remain relevant hundreds of years after they were written.  This book is one of them.


[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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