Ricci is a fantastic storyteller, and the four testimonies he’s bound in Testament comprise an unsettling book.

Set in a remote corner of the Roman Empire at a moment of political unrest and spiritual uncertainty, Testament is the timeless story of how a holy man of enormous charisma and passionate belief alters forever the course of human history. Through the eyes of four very different observers, we come to know the teacher Yeshua. First, through Yihuda, a political fighter who is invigorated by their discussions about a sovereign state for the Jews—a place Yeshua, however, imagines as a philosophical rather than physical kingdom. Through Miryam of Migdal, we come to learn of the controversy of Yeshua’s teachings as the two travel through Galilee,Yeshua encouraging the many to question the teachings of the powerful few. Through Miryam, his mother, we learn of Yeshua’s all-too-human vulnerability, the rigor of his conviction and his unfailing compassion. Finally, through Simon of Gergesa, a Syrian shepherd, we witness the last days of the Jewish preacher whom he calls Jesus.

READ Nino’s essay “On Writing Testament”

Provocative, ambitious and rich in the sights and smells of the ancient world, Testament brings a new perspective to the greatest story ever told.

◊ Winner of the Trillium Award ◊
◊ Shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize ◊
◊ Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize, Canada and Caribbean Region ◊
◊ A Vancouver Sun Book of the Year ◊
◊ A Booklist Choice for Top Ten Historical Novels of the Year ◊

Praise for Testament

In the beauty of its language, its rich detail of place and character, its humanity and grace and sense of wonder, Nino Ricci’s Testament both transcends and revalidates the so-called historical novel. Religion aside, history aside, this is a lovely work of fiction.— Tim O’Brien

A hypnotic, deeply lyrical presentation of four gospels . . . A writer of impeccable craft . . . recreating, in his incantatory prose, the very aroma and the wild, sorcery-filled world through which Jesus walked.— Pico Iyer, Los Angeles Times Book Review

[Ricci’s] latest book is a stunning historical novel that will only enhance his high reputation . . . An absolutely beautiful, rigorously intelligent, fiercely thoughtful fictional biography.— Booklist, starred review

Nino Ricci pulls off a genuine tour-de-force. Testament’s last 50 pages are grisly, wrenching and utterly absorbing — Yeshua’s all-too-human suffering and death have a real and terrible power, unrelieved by lightning flashes of divinity or miraculous interventions.— The Washington Post

Testament is a remarkable retelling of the Jesus story, doing what great art always does — making what is familiar suddenly fresh, daring, challenging. You will never think of the characters of the gospel accounts in the same way again, which is the good news of this stunning novel.— Reverend Stephen Kendrick, First and Second Church, Boston

A bold and brilliant premise for a novel, and Ricci doesn’t disappoint. His spare, lyrical prose reflects the extreme terrain of Palestine under the Romans . . . and the rugged psychological landscape that the narrators traverse . . . With this novel, Ricci deserves legions of new readers.— Montreal Gazette

The sum of these various reminiscences makes a highly readable narrative . . . There is, moreover, an element of suspense that is sustained throughout the novel despite — or even because of — the universally known outcome of Jesus’ career.— Toronto Star

Ricci has given us a contemporary Jesus. Like a palimpsest, with each fresh image superimposed on earlier images, Ricci’s Jesus testifies to the inexhaustible power of story, reminding us that enduring myths are not windows through which we view objective truths, but mirrors framing our own evanescent mortality and morality plays.— Globe and Mail

Testament, a refracted biography of Jesus, becomes too an examination of storytelling itself, for what is Jesus of Nazareth if not a teller of stories? . . . From the good book Ricci has fashioned a great story. — Quill and Quire

Compelling . . . balances history and parable, political conflict and religious faith.— Ottawa Citizen

Covers new, daunting, and unexpected territory. . . Much of this retelling accumulates a mysterious power of its own, even as it roils the reader.— Commonweal

A uniquely down-to-earth treatment of the life of Christ that plunges the reader into the sounds, smells, and emotions of his Jewish world.— Utne

Ricci transcends the stale confines of ‘the historical Jesus’ debate and invites us into that imaginative region where Jesus finds a living context.— Dr. Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography

This is a remarkable work — immensely savvy about the nature of human longing, compassionate about human failure, and illuminating about the trajectory of the hero. It’s beautifully written, an endeavor both humble and risky.— Barry Lopez

Reader’s Guides

Media Files


  • Available in paperback from Anchor Books in Canada and from Mariner Books in the U.S.
  • as Testamentet, Natur och Cultur, Stockholm, 2003
  • as Заветът, Perseus Books, Sofia, 2008
  • as Zavet (tr. Dubravka Srećković Divković), Laguna Publishers, Belgrade, 2008
  • as Завет, AST Publishers, Moscow, 2009

Read an Excerpt