Authors Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear are working archaeologists who have put their
knowledge together to give lay readers a look into native cultures in their The People Of... North
America's Forgotten Past series and their Anasazi Mysteries series. Together they have written over
40 novels since 1988. So, when I found that they had written a book about the historical Jesus, I
knew that scholarship and strong research would be the basis for a good story.
The Betrayal: The Lost Life of Jesus is a startling retelling of Jesus' life and of the
early church. Two stories in two different time periods are woven through this book. It begins with
a snippet about Jesus and his disciples and his closest companion and staunchest follower, Maryam,
whom we know today as Mary Magdalen. As this biblical story unfolds in pieces through the book,
readers discover that Maryam was a disciple and not a prostitute. In fact, she was a much-sought-after
hairdresser and that was why she had money to buy expensive oils and perfumes to anoint Jesus' feet.
Readers also learn about Joseph of Arimathea who offered his own tomb for Jesus' burial, his position
within the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin, his relationship with Pontius Pilate, and much more.
The other story stream takes place over three centuries after Jesus' death during the Roman Emperor
Constantine's reign. Biblical scholars Barnabas, Zarathan, and Cyrus escape a mass poisoning at their
monastery and a scroll burning that is part of a purge of documents deemed heretical after the Council
of Nicea's designation of what should be the official texts contained in the Bible. With the help of
the pagan washerwoman, Kalay, the monks carry away a small cache of suspect books and a very cryptic
parchment that is supposed to lead to The Pearl, something Rome wants to find first and destroy. There
are narrow escapes, coded cyphers, and attacks by soldiers of the Church bent on finding the parchment
they carry and silencing them.
What unfolds in these two stories, and supported heavily by extensive footnotes, is a glimpse into
the histories of these two time periods. Much of what the Gears bring to these timeworn narratives will
surprise many readers who may not accept what these scholars have unearthed through their research.
Not only do they use many of the lost books of the Bible recovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but they
use writings by Romans, Jews, and Greeks of the time. They even delve deep into Jewish law, revealing
how the Sanhedrin operated and explaining many of the rules for trials. This is all fascinating
reading in itself, but it also enhances the reading of the two story streams in the novel.
The Betrayal: The Lost Life of Jesus is a compelling read, on the one hand, for a great
adventure story; and on the other to explore a more detailed history of these two moments in history
surrounding Jesus and the early Church. It is controversial, but far less so than The Da Vinci
Code. This book is currently available in hardcover, and a new mass market
paperback will be
released March 3, 2009.