Jan 16, 2022
Interview conducted by Dianna – Ordained Minister, Universal Life Church.
Your new book, The Lost Gospels of Mariam and Judas, was published in September 2021. Where did you get the idea for this?
It was sometime in the late winter or early spring of 2017. I was browsing the Internet and came across some information that surprised me. What I read made me wonder “What if this is true?” and then “How would that change the rest of the biblical story?” I banged out a quick story outline, started doing more research, and then it took off from there.
What was it that you found on the Internet?
If I tell you that it would reveal part of the storyline of the whole book. That’s no fun. I will say this, if that 2,000 year-old writing by a 2nd century Greek philosopher is true, and which is also cited in other early texts, then it changes everything people think they know about Jesus of Nazareth.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God?
What my personal beliefs are, be they religious or theological or philosophical, do not have any bearing on the story whatsoever.
Why do you say that? You’ve written a story about Jesus, didn’t your beliefs play a part in your interpretation of his life?
Actually my story is about Yeshua the Nazarene. That would have been his name, before it got Latinized into the word Jesus which is a Roman transliteration of the Greek name Iesous. I invested over four and a half years of intense research for this story. I ended up with a roomful of biblical and scholarly texts, books, magazine articles, maps, sketches and drawings, and pages from thousands of Internet searches. I studied the religious, social, cultural, military and political environment of that time period. I wanted to make the story as true to the historical background as possible. I was still researching and checking my notes right up to typing the last word, and even past that, while editing and revising the manuscript to its final form.
Do you think your version is the truth?
The truth? Does anyone really know the truth? Socrates told us, ‘all we really know is that we know nothing’. Pliny the Elder, who lived during the 1st century, wrote, ‘the only certainty is that nothing is certain’. If people get a sense of hope from their faith and their religion, that’s good, let them believe whatever they want. The problem arises when certain people think that what they believe is what everyone else should believe. That’s dangerous thinking. It can lead to violent, unrestrained results, which is a historical fact, and continues to headlines in today’s news.
But some people might take offense at your re-imagining of the life of Jesus. Especially the way you describe him. It’s, frankly, shocking.
What makes you think I’m the first person who has, as you say, re-imagined the person known as Jesus?
What do you mean?
In the year 325 AD the First Council of Nicaea was convened by the Roman emperor Constantine. Constantine had decreed that Christianity would be the official religion of the Roman Empire. All the Christian bishops, over 1,000 of them from all the countries and territories of the empire were invited. It’s noted that over 300 attended. At this council it was vigorously debated whether Jesus was created or begotten. The final decision was that Jesus was begotten, of the Father’s substance, and therefore, Jesus was co-eternal with God. That was a great big re-imagining. And that decision, that re-imagining, was not made by God but by men. It has been the Christian doctrine ever since.
Created or begotten? What does that mean?
That’s a very good question, and it’s beyond the scope of our discussion here. But I suggest that it could be something studied at every Christian church next Sunday. It is the essence, the foundation, of Christianity. Also, here’s a tricky point of math for you: Question – how many English translation versions of the Christian bible are there?
About 150. The first was by William Tyndale, in England, around 1522. Tyndale translated the Greek and Hebrew bibles into English. For this monumental literary effort he was rewarded by the Roman Catholic Church, which was the main faith of England at the time, by being defrocked and publicly humiliated, then strangled to death and burned at the stake. Since then the bible has been translated into over 3,000 different languages. In all those different translations and versions, over the last 2,000 years, do you think it’s possible that the story of the life of Jesus may have been “re-imagined” somewhat? Even the Old Testament stories are re-imaginings. It’s obvious, if you study the history and archeology of ancient times.
What do you mean by that?
The ancient Egyptians believed in resurrection. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh tells of the creation of the first man, a Garden of Eden, a tree of knowledge, a tricky serpent, and a flood myth. The origin of the Moses story goes back to Sargon of the Akkadian empire. All those accounts pre-date the Old Testament by several thousand years. Maybe it’s all been a game of Telephone!
I have to ask. Do you believe in God? What do you believe? Or are you an atheist?
If you insist on putting a label on me, then you can call me a student.
A student of what?
Can you explain that?
Throughout the history of humanity on earth, across the millennia and continents and cultures, there are common myths. Different civilizations and tribes have had their own Creation story, and Flood story, and stories of gods impregnating mortal women and their babies being some sort of super-men, for example the Greek hero Heracles who was the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene. Different cultures also have their own Resurrection and Ascension stories. So, did all those stories, that are somewhat varied but also very similar, have in their genesis, a proto-myth?
What do you mean, a proto-myth?
It is something that came before. What was the first story? What started it all? Was there something that occurred, tens of thousands of years ago, 100,000 years ago, that the remembrance of has been lost or diluted over time?
There’s lots of theories. Let your imagination run wild. Is the DNA of modern humanity a science experiment? Did some smarter creatures from somewhere else in the universe come to the third rock from the sun and manipulate the genetic code of furry critters, to make Homo sapiens? That’s not an original thought. There have been many stories written and movies made about that subject.
Do you believe that?
Do you believe that an invisible omniscient omnipotent supernatural super-being created everything 6,000 years ago? Look, religious debate is a waste of time. I’m not going to convince you of what I might think, and you won’t convince me of what you think. But as a final note on the subject, I would suggest you look at the masterpiece, “Cain fleeing before Jehovah’s Curse” painted in 1880 by Fernand Cormon. Look at it and ask yourself – have humans really evolved much since those stone-age days?
Ok. Let’s talk about you. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In the 4th grade, when I got hooked on reading.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It’s different for each book. It depends on whether the story is a flight of fancy or if it requires serious research. The research and drafts for this one consumed 4 ½ years of my life. During some of those years I had a full time job and worked on the book part time. I guess, adding it up, the actual writing took two years, the last year during the pandemic working full time at it. Then I worked another third of a year writing the screenplay adaptation.
Is the screenplay adaptation finished?
Yes. Now I’m doing the scene breakdowns and storyboarding.
You’re going to make a movie, of the book?
That’s the plan.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I start early in the morning. I try to put in at least a solid eight hour day. I definitely work five, sometimes six days a week. I go at it like it’s a job.
Do you revise as you go, or wait to the end?
I start each day by re-reading what I wrote in the last session, to be able to continue the thought. During that I do some cleaning up but the major editing and revisions are done after The End. I wrote this book three times, to get to the final draft.
What did you revise or edit out of the earlier versions?
Over ten thousand words. If a sentence didn’t push the story, it was gone.
Ten thousand words is a novelette. Did it hurt to cut those thoughts?
Yes, but it would have hurt more to have a story that droned on and on and didn’t get to the point.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I’m a carpenter by trade. I see every word as a nail. If you pick up the hammer, don’t stop hammering until all the nails are nailed. Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Pages. Chapters. Persistence. Your story won’t get written unless you’re writing. You just got to keep going.
What is your favorite book or author?
The Philosophy of Humanism, by Corliss Lamont.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Writing is re-writing. Get your story as good as you possibly can. Strive to create your masterpiece. But remember, the finished product, what I’ve written, or what you’ve written, is just another story told around the campfire. It’s just another story in the collective consciousness of the Human race. I like to think the purpose of storytelling is to stimulate the imagination, to make us more thoughtful people. I don’t think any writing should be a directive to tell people how or what they should think. I would not, and I hope you would not, presume to tell anyone what they should believe or how they should live their lives. I’ve worked on jobs with Amish carpenters. They work the wood until it is just right, then they give it a soft tap to knock it, mentally, out of alignment.
They do this as an acknowledgment that: Only God is Perfect.
Perhaps we can talk again sometime?
I’d like that. Thank you.