The perfect Christmas gift (Ch.3 flashes bk to the Magi)--A powerful blending of lives of seekers who might have lived then, told with a unique writing style, which combines poetry, straight dialogue and 1st person stream-of-consciousness narrative with the 3rd person narration. It covers the insurrection against Pilate, a subsequent robbery attempt and the events leading up to and following the Crucifixion.
Intrigue, mystery, romance, family life--it has it all!
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Why you should give my Biblical Novel This Christmas
Step back to Ancient Jerusalem at the time of Christ and of the historical Roman Empire, and ask: What could a cynical, non-conformist dry-goods salesman, a disgruntled blacksmith, and a musing mendicant all have in common? The answer: Down deep, they all seek something better; and eventually, they all find the childlike faith and humility required to enter God's kingdom and find true fulfillment.
The non-conformist, Manaheem, Herod’s foster brother, helps Herod foment an insurrection against Pontius Pilate, using the blacksmith, Barabbas, as insurrection leader, to the dismay of Barabbas' Godly but fearful wife. The mendicant, a young man named Timotheus, joins with an older mendicant completely unsympathetic to his musings. Meanwhile, Pontius Pilate’s wife pushes him to take over Herod’s kingdom. When the insurrection fails, non-conformist, Manaheem, tries to blackmail Herod, and Barabbas turns to robbery, enlisting the aid of our two mendicants. Manaheem almost loses his one true love, his former wife Claressa, also a non-conformist, with whom Manaheem is trying to re-unite. The robbery goes bad, and Barabbas and the mendicants are caught, tried for murder and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Barabbas is also charged with the insurrection against Pontius Pilate.
NOTE. This novel has just been revised and expanded and is out now in the 2nd edition both in print from PublishAmerica and as an e-book on Smashwords.com. Instead of the Epilouge, the 2nd editon has PART III, which covers the early church and the reaction of the rulers to this new sect called Christians. It employs those characters who were still alive at the end of Part II and adds some new ones. Did Claressa embrace Manaheem's new-found faith? What happened to the bereaved family of Benjamin? Did Joseph, the oldest son get to go to Rabbi school? Did Barabbas continue to follow the master and did his wife and children join him? And was Pontius Pilate able to forget about his decision to crucify Jesus and did he become the strong ruler his wife wanted him to be? These and other questions are answered in PART III.
The new characters added include Saul, who becomes Paul, Herod Agrippa, the nephew of Herod Antipas, who wants to take over the latter's territory, and Caligula, the crazy son of Emperor Tiberius and friend of Agrippa.
NOTE: .Remember this novel makes THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT, especially since Chapter 3 is a flashback to the coming of the magi (wise men) at Christ's birth and the slaughter of the innocents.
James M. Becher
It had been a long, tiresome trip and a trying search. The city of
Jerusalem was a teeming metropolis, alive with people from all walks
of life. Surely here, he thought, he would find the type of man he
was looking for. Surely, there was at least one man in Jerusalem
with insight, drive, and motivation, who could be inspired and trained
to lead a small insurrection.
First he tried the cloth shop owner, a short stocky old man with a
withered look about him, whose name, according to the sign in the
window, was Benjamin. He first tried to sell the owner some goods,
as that was his main line of work. But the old miser had already
stocked up for the next three or four months. So he made a note to
As he wrote, he began talking about the evils of the Romans, and
their high taxation.Benjamin never flexed a muscle. “Doesn’t bother me any,” he said. “I’m rich enough to retire. I only keep this shop going for
something to do.”
He could see that he would get nowhere with this fellow. So he left politely and thought he would try the other end of the spectrum.
As his black and white chariot passed along the dusty streets of Jerusalem, he caught sight of a beggar, sitting by the side of the road. Perhaps this was his man. He stopped the chariot and spoke with the mendicant, who was obviously surprised to see a gentleman
of his appearance stop and converse with the likes of himself. As he
continued the conversation, he could see that the beggar, who was short of stature and somewhat elderly, was obviously both uninformed and apathetic about the political situation and how it affected his
daily life. The beggar stared blankly at his visitor, obviously puzzled
by the whole incident. He was also obviously offended when the man started to leave without giving him any money. The stranger apologized, and, reaching into his pocket, pulled out a handful of small change and dropped it into the beggar’s cup.
So, the stranger thought to himself as he rode along in his unique
looking chariot, it’s not to be the rich shopkeeper, nor the poor beggar.
Both were completely apathetic to the situation, the first due to his
money, and the second because of his ignorance. No, the type of
person he was looking for was obviously somewhere between the
two. Perhaps, the brawny blacksmith, whose huge frame caught his
eye as he rode slowly by the large shop window. The sign hanging in
one corner of the window read: “BARABBAS’ BLACKSMITH SHOP. FINE IRON WORK AS WELL AS HORSES SHOD.”
He could see right away that this was a hard-working man. Certainly he
was not rich like Benjamin. Neither did he look to be as ignorant as
the beggar was. Yes, this must be his man. He’d give it a try.
Beads of sweat poured from Barabbas’ forehead, as the crackling
sparks flew upward, some of them hitting and bouncing off of his
rough, black leather apron like so many flitting fireflies. As he finished
the horseshoe, he hung it up to cool. He wiped his face with his huge
white handkerchief and sighed deeply. The day had been long, and
he was hot and tired – tired of standing over the scorching fire all
day, making wheel hoops and horseshoes. He’d had few calls that
week for the fancy plates and shields he so liked to make. If only he
were rich like that cloth shop owner who had stopped by a few days
ago to get his horses shod. When Barabbas asked him how his
business was, he replied, “Not too good right now, but I don’t care. I
only keep my shop open for something to do.” If he had this man’s money, he thought, then, he could make what he wanted to, or not work at all if he didn’t feel like it. Perhaps, he should try raising his prices and cutting corners. He did want his family to enjoy the best. But, it was the Romans who really bothered him. They’d take every shekel you made in taxes if they could. And what do they do with it all? Gorge themselves, that’s what. The community could certainly stand some improvements. But
no! They dodn’t care for the people. They’d kill you if they get a
chance, just like they did his grandfather. After he’d given them his
best efforts, they’d turned on him and crucified him, along with the
rest of the Spartan captives. He would despise them forever for that.
They’re all tyrants, he thought, and murderers at heart! And the local
rulers aren’t much better! There’s that putrid puppet, Pilate, always
bowing and scraping to that Cyclops, Caesar, and his hired helper,
Herod! It’s a known fact that the old fox adds to the amount of the
tax he’s required by Rome to collect in order to fill his own coffers.
Laws are passed for their political expediency rather than for the
good they might do. And then there’s those Roman soldiers, always
parading up and down. They’ve even added a tax of their own,
supposedly for their upkeep. Yes, things are truly in a terrible state!
All these thoughts were running wildly through his mind that afternoon, when the door opened and in walked one of them – a Roman soldier in the flesh. He cringed. The unwelcome visitor
inquired about the sword hanging on the back wall, but when told
the price, declined to buy it, saying, “I’ll wait until the next increase in the soldier’s tax. There is another half-shekel raise scheduled,
you know.” – as if it wasn’t high enough already! The smith nodded
patronizingly, though all the while something inside of him wanted
to take the down sword and thrust it into the soldier’s back as he
turned to leave. But, he thought better of his compulsion and reached
for another horseshoe instead. As he carried the horseshoe to the
hearth, he made every effort to present a calm exterior.
In a moment, the soldier was gone. But, his exit was followed by
the entrance of another figure who was very strange looking. He wore a pitch-black tunic with a wide white belt and a black hat with a white ribbon. His stern face sported a big black mustache, but no beard. The mustache curved down and then up on the sides like one of those fancy doorknockers Barabbas used to make. It connected
nicely with his bushy black and white sideburns. He looked very strange indeed, and a bit frightening! He stood for a minute, looking
the place over. Then, he smiled politely and motioned for the
proprietor to come toward him.
“Yes, sir?” Barabbas said politely. “I’d have come quicker, only I was working with that horseshoe there, and was afraid to drop it.
May I help you, sir?” He noticed that, despite the stranger’s odd
appearance, he still had the look of a Jew about him. The stranger’s penetrating eyes wandered over the profusion of fancy cups, plates, knives, shields and other objects displayed for sale and rested upon the large sword hanging on the back wall.
“That sword there, of what does it consist?”
“Why, it’s made of the finest iron available, sir. Nothing but the
“Well, how sharp might its edges be?”
“Why, sharp enough, sir. Sharp enough to split a rock, or pierce a
“Or,” ventured the stranger, lowering his voice, “slit a Roman soldier’s throat?”
“Yes! Or slit a Roman soldier’s throat, confound ‘em! Now I’ve
gone and said it, haven’t I? I’ve finally said what’s been brooding
inside of me. I suppose you’re one of ‘em in disguise, or one o’ their
spies. Well, arrest me, if you will, and have done with it. Our lives
are without hope anyway under your wretched tyranny!”
The stranger smiled benignly. “Relax, my friend, relax. I’m Roman
in citizenship only – by no means in sympathy. Despite my divergent
appearance, do you not see the Jew in me? I was born a Jew, just like
you. But, I was raised in a somewhat different environment. Having
the chance, I determined to be my own man, to dress, talk, act and
think as much as possible on my own, without the influence of any
“Then, you are not a true Jew.” Barabbas was still on the defensive.
“A Jew follows the precepts of the fathers: the Law, the Prophets
and the Talmud.”
“I believe in the basic spiritual truth behind these teachings. But,
every man must be free to find the meaning of this truth for himself,
OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM
and to apply it to his own life as he sees fit. It is the spirit of these
things that is important, not the letter. Look at you! Where has
following the letter gotten you?”
Barabbas’ mind was racing and he started to speak. “Uh…”
But the stranger raised a finger, smiled and continued: “Ah, but it
did my heart good to hear you speak those treacherous words a
moment ago. For, I, myself, feel the same way. Those Romans are
truly tyrants and must be stopped!”
“Ah-ha!” The smith’s face brightened. “So! You’re not one of
them! Ah! I’m safe! And I have someone with which to share my
“Indeed you do!” exclaimed the stranger, who had been glancing
toward the doorway every now and then to make sure no one entered.
He now leaned over the counter and spoke more softly and yet more
emphatically, so as to ensure his listener’s full attention. “…And
I’m certain there must be more who feel the same way about things
as we do!”
“Most likely. If only they would speak out!”
“And why do you think they do not?”
The smith’s brow wrinkled. “I never thought much about that,
but the only reason I can think of is fear. We’re all afraid to say
“Exactly! If only we could all find each other, as you and I have,
and all band together...” The stranger’s voice trailed off as he turned
and glanced at the sundial outside the window. “I must be leaving
now,” he added, starting toward the door, “But, we shall meet again,
“What about the sword? Do you want to buy it?”
“Not at this time. Perhaps later. Shalom.” He raised his hand in a
parting gesture. That was all. The stranger left as suddenly as he
Barabbas began to think. He thought as he closed up shop and got ready to go home. He thought all the way up the street to his ordinary looking home. He thought, perhaps it would be possible. “If only we could all band together…” That was what the
stranger had said, wasn’t it? But how? How could it happen? If only…
Should he tell his or wife, or not? She’d certainly be against the
whole idea. She greatly resented the fact that her father had been
brutally executed for plotting against the life of Herod, the great.
She knows things are bad, but she’ll just say, “We might as well grin
‘n’ bear it,” or “We’ll get along somehow.”
They had gotten along so far. But things are getting worse. Who
knows if another insurrection might not succeed? If enough people
could be gathered together to fight… But that was a big if.
Well, too late now for any further mental deliberation. The ‘little
tigers’ had spied him coming and were running out to meet him as
usual. Big and boisterous, short and stocky, petite and ladylike, all
three of them descended upon him at once, pulling and screaming.
“Daddy, you’re home!”
“Peace yourselves, you little bunches o’ joy!” he said, reaching
out his big brawny arms to enfold them.
“Did ju bring me anything t’day, Daddy?” asked the smallest of
them. “Did ju?”
“No, sweetheart. Didn’t get a chance.”
As they approached the doorstep, she appeared, a tall, thin, golden
haired vision of beauty. Her apron was still on, as she stepped
decisively up to her huge husband, smiling radiantly.
“Barabbas! You’re home late today!”
“But not by much, Deborah dear. An important customer came in
just as I was closing.”
“Well, come here you big brute and let me feast my eyes upon
y’!” But it wasn’t only their eyes that met. “Umm, ummmm!”
“Wow!” exclaimed a voice from the peanut gallery. “Mama’s
“Ummmm!” As much as he enjoyed her kisses, his stomach told
him it was time to think about supper. “Alright, alright! Enough of
this for now! I’m tired ‘n’ starved half to death!”
“Supper’ll be ready in just a minute, dear. Come on, sit down and
wash your feet. Th’ water’s already poured.”
“Can I help y’, Daddy? Can I?”
They tugged and pulled at him from all sides.
“I want t’ help, Daddy.”
“Now, Caleb, you helped me yesterday. It’s Jason’s turn.”
“Alright. Then, I’ll get y’r slippers.”
“I wanna get Daddy’s slippers!”
“No! I asked first!”
“Now, you kids stop your bickerin’! I’ll get my own confounded
“I heard that, Barabbas! You know you shouldn’t talk like that,
especially in front of th’ children!
“Now, Deborah! All I said was I’d get my own confoun…”
“But you didn’t have t’ say ‘confounded’!”
“Oh, alright, then! I’ll get my own slippers! Confound it!”
“Barabbas! When will you learn? Why, I’ll bet you don’t talk
like that to your customers. Just because you’re home, you think you
“My foot, Deborah! You make such a fuss over one little word!
Tend to th’ supper! I’m starved!”
The sound of Barabbas’ heavy tread upon the bare floor was heard
as he walked deliberately to the bedroom. Then there was a bang, as
he flung the door open. Entering, he grabbed a pair of rough leather
slippers, roughly sewn together with the backs turned down.
Barabbas returned to his chair to sit for the washing of the feet.
His eldest son, Jason held the towel with one hand while helping to
splash the water around with the other. When the feet were washed
and dried, Jason slipped the sippers on his father’s feet. Then he
turned to go.
“Hey, where do you think you’re going? Aren’t you forgetting
something? You know emptying th’ pan is part of the job.
“Sorry, Daddy, I forgot.” He picked up the pan and left.
Barabbas sat and waited. The joy of being home after a hard
day’s work had taken his mind away from the mysterious stranger
and his exciting challenge. He was really hungry and the aroma of
boiled mutton wafting through the room made it all the worse. What
could be taking her so long in the kitchen? But just then, he heard
again the patter of tiny feet.
“Daddy, supper’s ready.”
“Well, it’s about time! I’m half starved to death!”
“So am I, Daddy!”
“Now, what could you have done to get so starved?” he asked,
putting his arm around his little daughter as they walked toward the
“I helped Mama clean th’ house.”
As they reached the kitchen, another voice chimed in: “And I
pulled th’ weeds out o’ th’ yard.”
“Well, well! We’ll have to see what can be done about all this, we
As they took their seats, he perused the feast before him. “Yes,
sir, I’m starved. An’ ummmm, that beans ‘n’ mutton sure smells good.
It was one of the best meals he’d had in a long while. After supper
and the reading of the torah, they got the children ready for bed.
Then, they got ready for bed themselves. Thus, the night went by
without Barabbas telling his wife about the stranger’s strange visit.
No need. He could discuss it with her tomorrow, if she was in a
better mood, or maybe next week, or next month, or maybe never.
Sleep was long in coming that night. What was that the stranger
said? “If only we could all band together...” But, no! It was utterly
He glanced at his sweet wife, sleeping so peacefully at his side.
What did she really know of all this anyway? It wasn’t her grandfather
whom they crucified for no reason. She didn’t even keep up with all
the raises in taxes. As long as they managed to get by she was happy.
But, if things kept up, they might not be getting by for long. If only
something could be done!
Then, his mind turned to the stories of the holy scripture: stories
like that of Gideon, who defeated the whole Midianite army with
only three hundred men; of Samson, who slew a thousand men with
the jawbone of an ass; of Joshua and the walls of Jerico; and of
Jehosaphat, who defeated the enemy through song.
The next thing he knew, the golden rays of the morning sun came
streaming through his window. He awakened with a curiously
combined feeling of despair and hope.
[end of Chapter 1]
End of Chapter 5:
There must be some point, some purpose for existance, but where is it? Is there no answer? Is there no answer?
Manahem's question has echoed in the minds of many men.
For fame, for pleasure,
For contentment witout measure,
For earth's vain illusive treasue,
Barabbas was searching, though he might not have realized it, and it was his searching that made him take careful note of Manaheem's words when the mysterious stranger visited his shop. The fact of Manaheem's searching is evident from the last words of the preceeding chapter. Pilate was searching, and also his wife with him. She, in fact, really thought, though mistakenly, that she had found the answer: more power and authority (take over Herod's territory!)
Let me introduce yet another in the list of searchers....
He was poor all his life, yet...he was spiritually poor as well.
What kind of man the mendicant
Who on the corner begs,
Who has no decent clothes to wear,
But sits in shreds and rags?...
What kind of man the mendicant?
Look inward you who ask.
For every man's a mendicant
Behind his haughty mask.
The following day, Herodius was again with Herod in the palace when a messenger of the guard knocked and entered. “Sorry to disturb you, your majesty, but some of John’s disciples are below and wish to see the prisoner. Shall I escort them the dungeon?”
“No! No one may see the prisoner but me. Tell them to be gone.”
Herod went to the window to watch his command carried out.
The guard relayed the message, but the disciples refused to leave.
“We’ll wait” insisted a spokesman. “Perhaps he’ll change his mind.”
“Suit yourselves,” yelled Herod to the surprised disciples below,
“but you may have a long wait.” Then, moving away from the window, he said to Herodius, “Well, my dear, why don’t we pay the prisoner a visit.”
“Why, it should be fun – a little diversion from all this planning.
Come, you’ll enjoy it.”
And so they walked together down the dimly lit corridors and stairways that led to the dungeon. As soon as John heard their footsteps, he began to cry out at the top of his voice, “Repent, sinners! Repent! Repent!”
As they approached the cell, and he could make out, through the
dim light, who it was, he yelled out, “Herod Antipas, and Herodius!
You must repent of this terrible sin and folly!”
“Quiet!” yelled Herod. “Don’t you ever give up? What is it that makes you so persistent? Almighty God didn’t help you very much, did He? And what about the one you’ve been preaching about, who’s supposed to be the Messiah? Where is he? Why doesn’t he come
here and perform a miracle to release you? Where is your God now,
John, and your Messiah?”
Perhaps he’s right. Where is Jehovah God? Why did He allow me to be imprisoned like this? Why am I forced to live in this dreary dungeon? How can my message be propagated now? Or maybe it’s not supposed to be propagated any more. Maybe my time is
finished, since he has already been manifested.
But what about him? Is he really the Christ? Is he really the promised Messiah as I’ve proclaimed? Is my cousin and childhood playmate really the one who is to be our deliverer? If so, why doesn’t he deliver me from this prison? Perhaps Herod is right. Perhaps he is not the Christ after all, and we should expect another. But how can we know for certain? At least I know him to be an honest person.
Why not ask him and see what he says?
“Well, Herod, perhaps you’re right.”
Herod tried not to show his surprise at John’s answer. Turning to
his lover, he said, “You see, dear, he’s weakening.”
Before she could answer, John spoke again. “I need to know for
certain. Herod, if you could do me one small favor, I would greatly appreciate it.”
“What might that be?”
“Send for some of my disciples and tell them to go to Jesus and
ask him whether he is really the one to come or if we should look for
“You want me to send for your disciples and send them to this
Jesus to ask him if he is really the Christ?”
“If you would.”
“Hmmm. It might be interesting. I wouldn’t have to send for your
disciples, actually. Some of them are here now. They wanted to see
you, but I refused, and they refused to leave.”
“Some of my disciples are here?”
“Well, couldn’t I tell them myself? If you told them, they might not believe the message was really from me.”
“Come on, darling,” urged Herodius, “let him see his disciples.
What harm could it do?”
“Oh, alright. I’ll go and call them in, but only a few of them. We
don’t want a riot on our hands.”
So Herod went out and brought two of John’s disciples into the
dungeon. He and Herodius stood by as the three spoke.”
“John! How are you?”
“As well as can be expected in this dark, damp place.”
“Are they feeding you alright?”
“Well, it’s not locust and wild honey, but it will do. Listen, guys,
I want you to do something for me.”
“Anything John. Just name it.”
“Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in here and I’ve been
having some doubts about my cousin, Jesus. I want you to go to him
and ask him whether he is really the one to come. Ask him if he is
the Christ, or if we are to look for another.”
“But John, I thought you were certain about him. You told us he’s
“I know. But now I’m not sure. Would you please do as I say and
bring me back the answer as soon as you can?”
“Certainly John. As soon as we can.”