The Jesus Conspiracy: An Investigative Reporter's Look at an Extraordinary Life and Death

The Jesus Conspiracy: An Investigative Reporter's Look at an Extraordinary Life and Death

by Gordon Thomas

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Overview

From the New York Times–bestselling author: A vividly personal, historically accurate portrait of Jesus that “transcends all religious boundaries” (Toronto Star).

Meet Jesus again for the very first time. This modern dramatization of the known facts presents a passionate portrait of Christ’s life and brings new light to such figures as Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Martha of Bethany.

In The Jesus Conspiracy, skilled journalist and novelist Gordon Thomas offers a thoughtful account of the life of Jesus in a gripping “you are there” fashion. By pairing current archaeological and anthropological discoveries, Thomas reveals a startling vision of Christ. This modern dramatization brings the social and cultural world of the first century to life for the contemporary reader and leads to some surprising conclusions.
Whether you are a spiritual seeker or a seasoned Christian, this book will enable you to know more about the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497663466
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 711,210
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Gordon Thomas is a political and investigative journalist and the author of fifty-three books, published in more than thirty countries and in dozens of languages. The total sales of his works exceed forty-five million copies.

He has been a widely syndicated foreign correspondent and was a writer and producer for three flagship BBC programs: Man AliveTomorrow’s World, and Horizon. He contributes regularly to Facta, a respected monthly Japanese news magazine. Thomas was the lead expert for a twelve-part series on international intelligence for Ian Punnett’s Coast to Coast, the most listened-to overnight radio broadcast in North America, with three million weekly listeners. He has recently appeared on Euronews (available in ten languages and three hundred million households) and Russia Today.

He has received numerous awards for his reporting, including an International Television Award and two Mark Twain Society Awards. Shipwreck won an Edgar Award.

Four of Thomas’s books—Voyage of the DamnedRuin from the AirThe Day the Bubble Burst, and The Day Their World Ended—have been made into feature films starring such A-listers as Paul Newman, Billy Crystal, Robert Vaughn, and Jacqueline Bisset. The Day Guernica Died is currently under option.

Thomas’s most recent bestseller is Gideon’s Spies: Mossad’s Secret Warriors. Published in sixteen languages and forty countries, Gideon’s Spies is known throughout the world as the leading resource on Israeli intelligence. It was made into a major documentary for Channel 4 in Britain, which Thomas wrote and narrated, called The Spy Machine. The Observer called The Spy Machine a “clear” picture of Israeli intelligence operations, and the Times called it “impressive” and “chilling.”

A member of the London Speaker Bureau and Macmillan Speakers, Thomas continues to grow his already-impressive platform, lecturing widely on the secret world of intelligence. He also regularly provides expert analysis on intelligence for US and European television and radio programs. 
Gordon Thomas is a political and investigative journalist and the author of fifty-three books, published in more than thirty countries and in dozens of languages. The total sales of his works exceed forty-five million copies.

He has been a widely syndicated foreign correspondent and was a writer and producer for three flagship BBC programs: Man AliveTomorrow’s World, and Horizon. He contributes regularly to Facta, a respected monthly Japanese news magazine. Thomas was the lead expert for a twelve-part series on international intelligence for Ian Punnett’s Coast to Coast, the most listened-to overnight radio broadcast in North America, with three million weekly listeners. He has recently appeared on Euronews (available in ten languages and three hundred million households) and Russia Today.

He has received numerous awards for his reporting, including an International Television Award and two Mark Twain Society Awards. Shipwreck won an Edgar Award.

Four of Thomas’s books—Voyage of the DamnedRuin from the AirThe Day the Bubble Burst, and The Day Their World Ended—have been made into feature films starring such A-listers as Paul Newman, Billy Crystal, Robert Vaughn, and Jacqueline Bisset. The Day Guernica Died is currently under option.

Thomas’s most recent bestseller is Gideon’s Spies: Mossad’s Secret Warriors. Published in sixteen languages and forty countries, Gideon’s Spies is known throughout the world as the leading resource on Israeli intelligence. It was made into a major documentary for Channel 4 in Britain, which Thomas wrote and narrated, called The Spy Machine. The Observer called The Spy Machine a “clear” picture of Israeli intelligence operations, and the Times called it “impressive” and ”chilling.”

A member of the London Speaker Bureau and Macmillan Speakers, Thomas continues to grow his already-impressive platform, lecturing widely on the secret world of intelligence. He also regularly provides expert analysis on intelligence for US and European television and radio programs. 

Read an Excerpt

The Jesus Conspiracy

An Investigative Reporter's Look at an Extraordinary Life and Death


By Gordon Thomas

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2000 Gordon Thomas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-6346-6



CHAPTER 1

JESUS

Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.


Mark 8:34

The hour of ritual sacrifice and celebration was once more close. As evening approached the entire community began to gather around the twin plots. The fields were roughly equal in size, each separated and encased by low walls of rock. At the center of one was a hewn boulder upon which the rabbi would stand, as priests had done for centuries, to offer prayers when the time came.

Though it had less than a thousand inhabitants, Shechem was classified by the Romans as a medium-sized city and one of strategic importance: it was on the main road from troublesome Galilee to Jerusalem, and revolutionaries in northern Judea intent on marching on the capital would have to pass this way. In less than a day troops from the imperial coastal citadel at Caesarea could be deployed between the two hills in whose lee Shechem lay, cutting the trail at the first sign of further civil insurrection. In the ninety years since Pompey had first led his legions southwards between the hills into Jerusalem, Roman forces had regularly been rushed here. When the soldiers returned to barracks, the village elders resumed their talk about the nation being rescued from foreign tyranny. In recent years people in Shechem had spoken again of a Jewish king who would one day come and free them. Increasingly, they used the old biblical name for such a deliverer—the Messiah.

This longing for liberation was further reflected in the game Shechem boys played: Zealots and Romans, patriots and tyrants. That part of thegame which depended on the capture of Mount Gerizim always ended in defeat for those luckless enough to be cast as Romans. Legend said Noah had erected the first altar after the flood on top of Gerizim. Those playing Zealots invariably managed to drive their attackers away from the mountain shrine towards the nearby slopes of Mount Ebal. Joshua had placed a curse upon its summit a thousand years earlier; since then evil spirits were still reputed to haunt its peak. Shechem's other claim to fame was the well, as Holy Scripture related, which Jacob had dug, going down seventy-five feet to reach one of the sweet-water springs.

There was tremendous competition among the children to be on the Zealot side and particularly to play the roles of the two most recent heroes of Israel: Judas of Gamala, called simply the Galilean, and Sadduck the Pharisee. Twenty-two years before, in A.D. 6, they had led their followers against the Romans when another of the hated Imperial head-counts had been ordered. The Jews detested a census designed to suck more taxes from them. While Rome's gubernatorial appetite for enrichment was common throughout the empire, the population of Judea was not only more financially impoverished than other occupied lands, but was also the victim of the capricious methods employed by Rome. Pontius Pilate, the latest Roman procurator, had made it clear he intended to extract the last possible shekel of tax—and that defaulters would be imprisoned, their lands seized, their families driven out of their homes and, if need be, sold into bondage to pay off debts. He had also ensured that the once powerful Zealot movement, while maintaining public sympathy, had been greatly reduced numerically by ruthless Roman search-and-destroy operations. Now there were only a few hundred Zealots left, partisans operating for the most part in Galilee and Samaria. They attacked the enemy at night, cutting Roman sentry throats with their short daggers, the sicarii, and then slipping silently through a legion encampment, butchering as they went. Their exploits continuously excited the passions and hopes of the Jewish people.

During one of their mock battles near Mount Ebal the Shechem boys saw a group coming down the track from Thebez to the north. Their first instinct, a well-developed one, was to turn and run. Romans were not above snatching a handful of Jewish youths and using them for spear practice. But the boys quickly realized these strangers were not soldiers. Except for their leader, who was dressed in a cassock-like garment with wide sleeves reaching to the ground, the men wore the traditional haluk, a long woollen garment, girdled with a thong at the waist; over it was a cloak woven either from goat or camel hair. Behind them, at a distance, trudged a group of women, each robed in a voluminous istomukhuium and girdled either with a plain black pinzomata or a colored zonarim, waist sashes.

For months now the people of Shechem had heard stories that far beyond where they would ever dare venture was a man who performed astonishing feats around the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Was this leader the man? He was becoming as celebrated as that other extraordinary preacher, a physical giant who spent his time ministering on the banks of the Jordan, and who was known throughout the land as John the Baptist. Watching the approaching group each boy could have recounted how the thrilling story of John once more graphically illustrated the truth of the scriptural texts they were taught as they squatted round the rabbi behind the Shechem synagogue. As well as memorizing all the ceremonies connected with the sabbath and the various festivals, especially Passover, each child also learned that Yahweh was capable of anything. The entire story of John, from his birth to his emergence as a prophet, confirmed this omnipotence.


It was known to them that John's father was a country priest in a village so small that its only claim to recognition was being on the dirt track which eventually led to that historic spot where David slew Goliath. John's mother was called Elizabeth, respected within the tiny community for three reasons: her great age, the lineage she claimed with the royal house of David, her long and happy marriage to Zachary. Their union had entered its fiftieth year and the couple had long come to accept they would end their days alone, without the joy of their own child to disturb the dignity of their home beside the synagogue where Zachary continued to marry, circumcise, and bury the dead.

Each year they made the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem for Passover. There they would meet Elizabeth's cousin Joachim and his wife, Anna, who traveled south on foot from Nazareth. When she was born, they brought with them their only child, Mary. Elizabeth and Zachary had wistfully watched her grow from an infant in swaddling to a pretty olive-skinned and dark-eyed girl. While Zachary and Joachim, like men everywhere in the Passover crowds, spoke feelingly about the Roman oppression, Elizabeth, Anna and Mary explored the latest delights of the city. Jerusalem was a three-day walk from Nazareth—and the wonders of the metropolis were far removed from those of the isolated mountain village. On each visit there seemed to be new stalls selling even finer silks from all over the Orient: the Street of the Perfume Makers in the Lower City grew longer and more aromatic. At the end of the celebrations, the two families would go their separate ways, exchanging kisses and promising to meet in twelve months.

As the years passed, Elizabeth and Anna both agreed Mary was approaching the time when she would take a husband. The news stirred an old longing in Elizabeth for a child of her own.

One year, Anna had sent word to Elizabeth that they would not be coming to Passover; Joachim was still recovering from a long winter illness. She also had one other piece of news. Mary had been promised in marriage to one of Nazareth's carpenters, Joseph, son of Jacob. Though Anna admitted there was a considerable difference in their ages, something the rabbi of Nazareth was unhappy over, Joseph was a fine and honorable man, abstemious and devout. All in all, she and Joachim had decided he would be a good husband for their daughter.

The news of the betrothal must have been a talking point between Elizabeth and Zachary as they made their slow way to Jerusalem for another festival, but as for a child of their own whom they could give in marriage, God had decided otherwise—and Yahweh's will was not to be questioned.

Elizabeth had, as usual, stopped in the Court of the Women, beyond which any female was forbidden to go within the Temple. Her husband, reputedly stiff-legged from rheumatism, had slowly climbed the steps which allowed him, as a priest, to enter the inner courts. In one of them he had put on ceremonial robes, ready to join all the other rabbis in leading the religious ceremonies. Seventy and more years Zachary may have been, but he had never lost his reverence for the rubric of the sacrifice, the utterance of the ancient prayers, the swinging of his censer that held the burning, pungent spice whose smoke cast its own spell over the worshippers. Dressed and ready to perform his functions as an anointed servant of the living Lord, Zachary had waited his turn to approach the great altar where the high priest, the legendary Annas, ruled supreme.

What happened then had produced a spate of stories. In one, Zachary had suddenly turned and stumbled back into a robing room. In another, he had gone to the vault where the solid gold candlesticks for the high altar were stored. A third report had said he disappeared into the kitchens under the Temple where votive cakes made of wheat and barley were baked along with the twelve loaves of holy shewbread. Wherever he had gone, Zachary had emerged, divested of his raiment and censer, a dazed look on his face, and had fled past the altar, one hand pointing to his open mouth from which came no sound. He had found Elizabeth and clung to her speechlessly. She had taken the stricken husband home. There, Zachary had motioned for a wax tablet and stilus, writing implements. Squatting on the floor, he had carefully formed the characters which would ensure them both a place in history.

"An angel spoke to me at the Temple."

Then, watched by his wife, the old rabbi's stilus had bitten at speed into the wax, forming further astounding words. These, too, would become legendary, to be quoted and paraphrased as veritable proof of the truth of the Scripture that angels did speak with humans. His winged messenger had made a prediction.

Fear not Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.


Elizabeth's reaction would be variously recounted. She had laughed in hysterical disbelief. She had wept. Finally she had asked whether the angel had given his name. Zachary had scratched the word: "Gabriel." Husband and wife were overcome by the enormity of the revelation. Gabriel was one of the four archangels of the heavenly host; he had been the divine messenger who was sent to reassure the greatest of all the prophets, Daniel. Zachary resumed writing, explaining that Gabriel had struck him dumb as verification that he was indeed God's principal herald and that he would not be able to speak again until his son was born.

Zachary's congregation had been stunned; what had happened was beyond their comprehension. Then, in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, a young and attractive girl arrived alone in the village. She was covered in dust and her feet were swollen—and the sharp-eyed village women noticed that she was also with child. She walked towards the house of Elizabeth and Zachary, and the older woman had waddled forth to greet her cousin from Nazareth.

"Hail Mary!" Elizabeth had cried, her face alive with pleasure. "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!" Then she had delivered a further unforgettable outburst. "Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salvation sounded in mine ears the babe leaped in my womb for joy."

Then, sensing the openmouthed stares of her neighbors; Elizabeth had taken Mary by the elbow and led her into the small house: a construction of stone, covered with white plaster.

Inside the dwelling Mary had revealed her momentous decision. She too had been visited by the archangel Gabriel, who had told her she would conceive, and already she felt as if she was a new person, someone filled with glory and humility; she felt strong and wonderfully protected.

Staring at Elizabeth she had spoken. "My soul doth magnify the Lord! And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation."

When she had finished, tears rolled down her travel-weary face. How, she asked Elizabeth brokenly, could she still expect Joseph to believe that she had not been with another man? How could she hope he would marry her now? Then Elizabeth had quietly told her how she had conceived. Sobbing in relief, Mary had clung to the old woman. Later, she had left the house, walking proudly out of the village, never once looking back.

Elizabeth's pregnancy had been normal, and on the predicted day she was delivered of a baby—a lusty, screaming son. Zachary helped to bathe his son, then rubbed his body in salt to harden the skin, and wrapped the child in swaddling clothes. On the eighth day he circumcised the boy, and upon writing upon his tablet that his son's name was John his speech returned.

All this had begun to be recounted when John started his ministry, dipping converts into the River Jordan and assuring them that the Messiah was finally on earth. The news had been passed on with muted voices. Spies were everywhere. It was dangerous to repeat anything which could be construed as a political or religious threat to the Romans, the Temple authorities or the tetrarch. But the word had spread: the Expected One was here.


To the youths of Shechem, their game forgotten, eyes on the approaching strangers, their assumption was that these were more converts making their way to where John performed his baptisms. They had heard how he would stand in the water, raising his massive bronzed arms heavenward, and uttering through his tangled beard words which had become a chant for Jews throughout the land. "The kingdom of heaven is at hand. I indeed baptize you with the water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."

John had uttered them a year ago when his cousin had walked from Nazareth to the spot on the banks of the Jordan where the Baptist ministered. Many had been present at their encounter. The story of what happened had been endlessly repeated around the campfire of the caravan routes and in the squares and souks of Jerusalem and a hundred other cities and towns. To the youngsters of Shechem, already steeped in the local folklore of Noah, Jacob and Joshua, the meeting had taken on an unforgettable aura.


They had finally stood face to face: John, knee-deep in the water, his hair a damp tangle from his exertions, his voice hoarse from hours of shouting about the need for repentance; Jesus, slimmer, features tranquil and free of any exhaustion in spite of the long trek from Nazareth, had walked into the river until the water reached his thighs.

The crowd had suddenly fallen silent, as if they, too, recognized the historic importance of the meeting. Those closest to the two men strained to hear every word. There was a quiet certainty about the request from Jesus to be baptized by John, whose response was a simple, unequivocal statement: it was he who should be immersed by his cousin. Jesus' answer was filled with implication. "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." Then John had baptized Jesus.

The brief ceremony over, the silent, watchful gathering were convinced they saw a snow-white dove suddenly descend and hover for a moment. Folding its wings, the bird perched on the shoulder of the new convert. Then it flew away, finally only a speck that vanished from view. The stunned crowd would later swear that at that moment an unseen voice had cried out from the cloudless sky: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

John had led Jesus from the river and brought him to the cave where he, the hermit prophet, lived. The spectators crowded close to the entrance, straining to catch the quiet exchange between the two men, hoping for an explanation of the celestial events they had witnessed. Among them were the brothers Andrew and Simon, soon to be called Peter; James and John, the sons of Zebedee; as well as the youthful Philip. They were all from Capernaum and knew each other well.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Jesus Conspiracy by Gordon Thomas. Copyright © 2000 Gordon Thomas. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

In Search of Christ,
Introduction: Towards Understanding,
The Principal Players,
28 Anno Christi: The Continuing Preparation,
1. Jesus,
29 Anno Christi: The World of Rome,
2. The Emperor,
30 Anno Christi: The Unholy Triumvirate,
3. The Procurator,
4. The Tetrarch,
5. The High Priest,
The Passover Plot,
6. With Intent to Murder,
7. Hosanna,
8. Pressing Matters,
Hours of Trial,
9. Beyond Arrest,
10. Rush to Judgment,
11. Roman Responses,
12. To Herod and Back,
Beyond the Cross,
13. The Place of the Skull,
Explanations,
Afterword,
Chronology,
Bibliography,
The Tractates,
Other Gospels and Writings,

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