(Before I get to tonight's blogging topic - welcome to all my new readers! I don't know who you are or where you came from, but my page views have shot up over the last month, from 40-60 a week to nearly 300 this last week. Keep coming back for more! Updates every Tuesday.)
So how much of what I write in my stories is really true? I get that a lot when people come to my table at book signings and read the synopsis of my novels.
"Is this real??" they ask.
"Well, it's a novel," I explain.
"So it really happened?"
That being said, what I try to do in all my stories is to use fiction to convey larger truths. So, with that in mind, let me explain a bit about what is true and what is not in my three published works. Incidentally, this blog post contains a few spoilers about my books, so if you don't like knowing stuff in advance, I would recommend that you go out, RIGHT NOW, buy all three books, read them, then come back and finish my post. Here's the Amazon link to the first one, click on the author name and it'll take you straight to the other two:
Back? Good. Now that you're in the loop . . .
In THE TESTIMONIUM, I describe the discovery of Pontius Pilate's long-lost report to Tiberius Caesar regarding the trial and execution of Jesus. What we know for sure is this: There was apparently such a report, and it supported the claims of the early church about the death and resurrection of Christ. How do we know this? The quote I shared at the beginning of the book from Justin Martyr, who lived around 145 AD - a little over a century after the time of Christ. He wrote a lengthy letter to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, appealing for the legalization of Christianity, which was known as the "First Apology." In it he described the crucifixion of Jesus in some detail, and then told the Emperor of Rome: "And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate." ("Acts", in the terminology of the time, meant an official report of someone's deeds.) That Justin would make such a bold appeal to the ruler of the Empire meant that he was pretty confident of two things: first, that the report still existed, and second, that it would verify his claims as to the manner of Christ's death.
Now, Pilate's report has been lost for two thousand years. There were a few later forgeries made during the medieval era, purporting to be the original, but they contain such glaring anachronisms that it's obvious they were fabricated many years later. But, supposing a copy of the report actually survived? And suppose it were found today, and published? That's the crux of my tale.
In the course of the story, I reference several other archeological discoveries. Some of them are real; however, the discoveries that I attribute to my characters themselves are obviously fictitious. The greatest literary license I took was in the sped-up timeline of the scroll being removed, translated, and published. I did try to provide myself some cover by referencing the public site where the discovery was made and the pushy publicity director for the Italian Antiquities Bureau, but honestly, a scroll like that would take a year or two to be opened, translated, studied, and published. So THE TESTIMONIUM is a fictitious tale about the rediscovery of a document now lost for nearly two thousand years, rediscovered and revealed to the world, but it does contain some references to real events.
My second novel (and my favorite of the three I have currently in print) is called THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE and is a historic novel set entirely in the ancient world. I tried to imagine what the beginnings of Christianity would have looked like to a cruel, arrogant Roman aristocrat who was not too happy to be stuck in the desert province of Judea. This book is closely based on real historical events and contains nearly everything we know about the real Pontius Pilate, as gleaned from the works of Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and the New Testament. The following events described in the novel are real: The crisis over the Legion standards, the controversy over the aqueduct, the appearance of John the Baptist, the Zealot movement, the trial of Jesus, and the Samaritan revolt that Pilate crushed at the end of his tenure in Judea. Also, some of the events in the life of Tiberius Caesar are accurately described, including his tempestuous relationship with his family and the death of his nephew, Germanicus, and his own son, Drusus, and finally the death of Tiberius. Pilate's involvement in these events, however, is purely speculative on my part, as is Pilate's consulship and his marriage alliance with the Imperial family.
In my third novel, MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH, I try to provide one possible explanation for the so-called "Synoptic Problem" - that is, the inter-relationship and possible interdependency of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In this story, I also postulate the discovery of a doctored copy of Matthew's Gospel and the controversy it creates. Most of this novel is fanciful, although the technologies of pollen analysis and facial reconstruction are both accurately portrayed. I tried to slow the timeline of discovery, excavation, and translation down somewhat in this story. It's a fun and fast moving archeological thriller!
Ultimately, what I try to do in all my works is convey important truths about God, man, and the reliability of the Gospels in the context of an entertaining story that can be read by those who share my beliefs and those who do not with equal enjoyment. Let me know how I did, and I'll see you next week!
PS: I will be doing book signings these next two weekends. Saturday, Feb. 6, I will be at Living Water Christian Bookstore in Paris, TX, and on Feb. 13, I will be in Rockwall, TX, at Half Price Books. Come out, say hi, and get your signed copies!