When I was fairly young, I remember going to my mother with the news that I had (somehow) figured out that Santa was not real, but was a fiction made up by parents to deceive their children. Why this was, I was not sure, nor am I today. Thas was so long ago that I can’t remember what facts led me to blurt this out to my mother, but facts there were for sure.
Stories, legends and entire histories are sometimes built on imaginings, fiction, self interest, desire and desperation, to name but a few. These may survive for generations, growing and morphing into things unrecognizable from their beginnings. As they grow and are established through time, they become ever more difficult to change and highly resistant to actual facts and evidence, until some undeniable, pesky fact comes along to demolish the entire edifice.
Origin of Species, Australopithecus africanus, Copernicus placing the sun at the center of the solar system, Einstein demolishing the idea of objective time and simultaneity, the Earth isn’t flat after all, these and more were established by objective evidence that can be ignored but not refuted. That’s the good thing about evidence, it is there until refuted by other, better evidence and it’s better than wishful thinking.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed in the late 1940s and, once they collected and finally translated (a saga in itself consuming almost twenty five years of academic bickering and back-biting), the world was treated to, well,… not much. Christians especially were very interested in what the scrolls would reveal about the origins of their faith or at least what happened in the earliest days to establish their religion. But, there was nothing. It was as if the Christians didn’t exist, which of course they didn’t really. There was evidently a tiny group of dissident Jews centered in Jerusalem and scattered in small villages and farms in Galilee who knew of that particular prophet and followed some of his teachings. His brother and a few of his friends and followers continued to follow, and to quickly change, some of his teachings, forming a community (now referred to by modern Christians as a “church”) in Jerusalem. There were bickerings and interlopers, the main one being a Jew, Saul, who persecuted Jesus’ followers and evidently suffered a significant mental and emotional breakdown, then turning to the dead Jesus as the most significant of the people Saul had persecuted, flipping to the opposite track, changing his name to Paul, and embracing Jesus as his master. Not only that, but declaring that Jesus was actually the Jewish god’s son and had a special message and meaning for everyone. And, you had better listen, or else.
No wonder Jesus’ brother and close friends thought Paul/Saul was crazy. Jesus never talked about himself like Paul now talked about him. They should know. They were there, not Paul, who never met Jesus. Paul’s only authority came from the visions in his head that told him what to say. Paul was, more than likely, mentally deranged, but in a special way.
We had a neighbor whom I’ll call Frank, who had suffered a severe and traumatic brain injury. He is unable to recall what happened, only that he was in his home one night with some other people and came to a few days later in a hospital. Evidently, someone had bashed in the back of his head, inflicting severe brain damage. Through treatment and therapy he became able to function generally, but he has clear, bright, and to him, real experiences of things that aren’t real. Like, Jesus appearing frequently, sitting on the handlebars of his motorcycle, holding conversations with him. Really. I’ve talked with Frank about this and he is totally serious, to the point of tears when he recalls how much Jesus loves him and talks to him, sitting on the handlebars of his bike. Paul didn’t ride a Harley, but I’m of the opinion that something much like Frank’s injury happened to him on the road to Damascus. Robbers? Bandits? Falling off his mule, hitting his head and thereby conjuring visions? We will never know, but most reasons we can put forth are better than Paul’s.
So, I thought a few years back, what would happen if evidence was to come to light, like the Dead Sea Scrolls did, that explained what actually happened in Judea those two thousand years ago before Paul, and James, and the early Jews and Christians put their spin on things? What would it say and how could that information have survived two millenia to come intact to us today. If the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other ancient documents, could survive, then it is quite possible that more scrolls survived and one might be discovered that was written by a person who was there, who saw the significant events in Jesus’ life, and wrote them down in a relatively unbiased way. That meant that my supposed author had to have a non-Jewish, non-Christian, non-religious attitude. The best type of person for that who lived in Judea at that time, I thought, would be Roman, hence one of my main characters, and author of the scroll, Lucius Quintus.
So, the main part of the story, Part 2, is my dramatic retelling of Lucius’ part in the last days of Jesus of Nazareth, and of how the scroll Lucius wrote and Jesus’ all too human body were hidden in the desert near Qumran until discovered in the twenty-first century.
Untold, as yet, is what effect such a discovery might have on the world’s religions, especially in light of the growing religious wars that inflcit our civilization today.