The authors of the blockbuster "Left Behind" series, which has sold more than 60 million books worldwide, have now written a new book -- "The Jesus Chronicles, John's Story: The Last Eyewitness."
Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins talked with "Good Morning America" anchor Chris Cuomo about the book's meaning.
Cuomo: A little bit of the setup here is that John probably was the youngest of the disciples, so therefore he lives the longest. He gets to be about 90 years old, and people start to speak about Jesus not being the son of God, and he decides to hold forth, right? Flush it out for me.
LaHaye: Yes, exactly. When Cerinthus, the first century heretic began to say, well, Jesus wasn't really God in human flesh, and he really didn't walk on water, he really didn't perform miracles. John was the last person who could say, wait a minute. I saw those miracles. I saw Lazarus raised from the dead, just recite things that how could Cerinthus answer. That may be one of the reasons Cerinthus didn't do well in the first century.
Cuomo: Mr. LaHaye, because of what you've done before with the "Left Behind" series, what makes this book so interesting when you start to read it? Is it [that it] reads like a gripping thriller? It has that aspect of it. So how much did you stick to scripture when you were telling the story of John?
LaHaye: Whenever the story has to be … from the Bible in actual word, Jerry shifts into that. But the buildup to it and preparation to it is taken a lot from tradition and first century stories about people's lives. And it's so fascinating, because it helps people understand why John did what he did.
Cuomo: And when you were parsing through what you wanted to use to draw upon because, you know, John is not an uncommon story, especially to Christians who've heard about it. So in deciding what to use and how to adapt it -- how did you go about that?
Jenkins: Well, I think one of the more fascinating parts of the research was finding how much tradition there is, especially even from the Catholic side. We know as Protestants and Protestant writers, and yet there so much tradition there, and as I was doing the research I found the story -- the traditional story about John being boiled in oil and not dying -- and I know that there will be some readers who will say, "Well wait a minute, that's not in the Bible."
Well, it's fiction and so where we can flush things out, we try to do that. The little boy who brought his lunch to Jesus -- we give him a name, and we have him interact with the disciples, just things that might have happened that I think will bring interest to people.
Cuomo: Are you concerned about the purists who will say no, no, no -- it must be word for word, no deviation? Are you worried about that at all?
LaHaye: Not really, because in many places it is word for word, but then the story is, as Jerry says, leading up to help people understand why it was written.
Cuomo: Tell us about some of the miracles that you put in the book, that you believe are particularly instructive.
Jenkins: Well, of course the first miracle was when Jesus changed the water into wine and one of the more interesting aspects of that is we added Lazarus. Now, the Bible doesn't say that Lazarus was there. But it says that when Jesus heard that Lazarus died, he wept, which means they had to be close. And so it makes sense that maybe he was there, and so we have him there and interacting.
Cuomo: Why is it fundamental that Jesus be perceived as more than a man to have the message resonate? To have the message matter?
LaHaye: A man asked me that on the plane recently. He said, "How could one man die for the sins of the whole world?" And I said he could, but if he was the son of God, God in the human flesh then the blood that flowed on Calvery's cross was efficacious enough to cover the sins of all human beings. And that blood has to be the blood of God.
Cuomo: And do you think Jerry -- you know you guys consider all these same things, and it's a great collaboration for the reader and I'm sure also for the writers. When you're designing the book, do you think that it's important that, for the message to take, that the reader must believe in the truth of the actual occurrences?
Jenkins: One of the things we want people to get from this book is that if Jesus wasn't the son of God then he shouldn't be admired as a great teacher or a great leader because he said he was the son of God. So if he wasn't then … he's a liar or a lunatic or the Lord of all.
Cuomo: You, you, you put it on Jesus, you know, either he was telling the truth or he wasn't. That's interesting. And in terms of the lessons to be learned here, what specifically, do you think John attempts to teach us in his Gospel? What is the lesson you think?
LaHaye: I think the primary lesson came out in his interchange with Nicodemus, where here's a religious leader [who spent] his entire life accumulating religious accolades, and he said, "Well, what must I do to be saved?" and Jesus said, "To man must be born again." And everybody has to have that initiating experience, just as Jesus came into this world as a little baby and lived a normal life. He offered a spiritual kingdom into which people could enter by personally receiving him and that the bottom line is believing in who he was and John proves who he was.
Cuomo: Last question for you two gentlemen. Do you have to be a believer to get something out of the book?
LaHaye: Oh, no. You can get something out of the Bible just reading it. And what we've done I think made it more interesting to read the Gospel of John. And we're hoping that people will read it and believe it.