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Joshua Maximus,
The Gospel According To The Storyteller

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by Dennis Carroll

Novellas and short stories are copyrighted by Dennis Carroll, 2013.
E-mail inquiries and comments to denniscarroll@denniscarroll.me
Criticism and comments may be posted on the Smashwords site.
All stories are published only in Ebook format and are published through Smashwords. The stories are available through most Ebook providers. "Seek" will be published in hardcover format after e-publication of all of the short stories.

Foreword

“Joshua Maximus” is a short story of 15,700 words or approximately 63 pages. The genre is historical religious fiction revolving around Jesus and John the Baptist. The story provides a secular interpretation of the two most significant religious figures of the time and perhaps provides non-Christians a base from which to seek truth within Christian traditions.

To be raised in a good working class Southern Baptist Church gives one a lot of time to consider the intricacies of God and theology. It gives one pause to sit captive for an hour each Sunday learning how we were born in sin and that God is going to throw us into the deepest pits of a fiery hell if we don’t accept the love of his son Jesus. There are embellishments but this is the basic message. I never rejected any of this. Perhaps it is true.

But I have always felt that I was missing something and not getting the full story. Three Persian Priests suddenly show up at some kid’s birth in Judea with gifts. They had not been heard of before and they were not heard of since. How random is that? The two most famous religious figures of the time were cousins? The Angel Gabriel floats in and out of many religious stories. Where is this angel now? Why did he simply stop dropping in? Jesus had to wait three days before he raised Lazarus from the dead. Why wait? Bring the man back right away! Jesus was a very pious Jew, but, in my mind, he was changing the Law, not just adding to it. When, where and how did Jesus become King of the Jews? There is a tradition of Jesus on a trading mission to England, and another of Jesus and/or his twin brother, Judas Thomas, traveling to India (“Thomas” means “Twin”). Later in life I learned that Mary, Mother of Jesus, was an Essene of high standing and that the Gnostic religion still exists in Iran. They trace their traditions back in an unbroken line to its originator — John the Baptist.

The Da Vinci Code, a work of fiction by Dan Brown, renewed my interest in early Christianity. I started reading about Templars, Jesus’ wife and child retiring to France, and the historical undeniable great battle between Orthodox and Gnostic thought. I began to connect random facts into a coherent, internally consistent story. This is a work of fiction. Nevertheless, it is my attempt to create a backstory integrating all of the random facts with which I was concerned. Read this story as fiction but know this -- the Essenes really WERE expecting two Messiah’s.

Prelude: The Storyteller

Were this a stage play rather than a word play, there would be a Master of Ceremonies, “The Storyteller.” He would be standing in front of a stage filled with props. The actors and stage hands would be scurrying around, readying for the play to begin. The stage lighting would be broad and even. The Storyteller would shout, “Hellooo, everybody, Helloooooo. How y’all doin’ tonight?” He would be dressed in a cute dress with an outrageous, gigantic hat.

“I’m Longinus, the centurion that oversaw our friend, Joshua, get nailed to that cross. His dad paid me good money to not mangle the boy’s body. Some religious thing he said. Prolongs the agony on the cross, but hey, what was that to me. At any rate, I looked into this guys career and kept up with him after the Cross thing. I guess I was blessed with immortality since I don’t seem to die. I just wander around telling these stories. Any Jews in the audience? Hey, of course there are Jews. They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere. You guys really missed the boat. One minute. Change one minute in history and Western civilization would be entirely different today. You might even have the United States of Europe under the political and judicial leadership of the nation of Israel. One minute. One lousy minute. You guys know the story but don’t quite see the whole history. I mean, you see it but you don’t interpret it quite right. As they say, 'you have eyes but you don’t see.' If you view a thing under a different light, the change in perspective can change everything you know about a subject.”

He pauses, snaps his fingers, the stage goes pitch black. Cymbals clash. A bright spotlight hits the Storyteller.  The spotlight transforms the cute dress into a Roman army tunic, the hat into a Roman battle helmet. He holds a broadsword beside him. His voice is an octave deeper. He is terrifying.

“Just a little light can change our entire perception of a thing. I will now tell you stories of a man whose life is written through the changing dark-clouded mirrors of history and circumstance. A man to whom the ghosts of Alexander and the Caesars would have kneeled. I will tell you stories of Joshua Maximus, the Son of Man.”

1. The Council

The Council sat in contemplative silence, heads bowed, facing the window of the rising morning sun. Outside, the Brothers and Initiates lay prostrate on the ground facing the East. Silently they prayed. “God, hear our prayer. We beseech you. Show us the way.”

The sun would rise within the hour. The decision would be made within the hour. The will of God would be made clear.

Gabriel rose and walked to the door of the inner sanctum. Pulling back the curtain, he said “Father, it is time.” The old man silently emerged from the inner room and strode to the chair facing the Council. Sitting, he surveyed the Council and then spoke. “We have studied the Word and the Prophesies. The will of God as told to Isaiah cannot come to pass without sacrifice from his chosen people. We must do that which must be done in order to fulfill the Prophesies. We must act. It is not given to us to simply wait. We must fulfill the Word of our Lord and God. What say ye?”

Balthasar, the Zorastrian priest, spoke softly. “We know well your prophesy. We know well it did not come to pass at your expected time. We priests of Persia find this fortuitous. Your new day of possibility coincides exactly with the stars alignment for the prophesy of the birth of our great King in the West. This cannot be coincidental. The plan is flawless. All known facts intersect at this time and place. It must be done. You are the Father to all Essenes, the most respected Jew in all Judea, the closest a man can come to being a perfect man and a perfect disciple of God. We must all agree, here and now. This plan is the uncontestable will of your God and ours. You have only to say it.”

Murmurs of agreement from the Council filled the room forming a peaceful, forceful wave of assent.

The old man rose from his chair and said simply, “His will be done.”

The rising morning sun filled the room with soft morning light.

2. Zechariah

“No! That thing shall not come to pass! How dare you suggest such a thing? I am Zechariah, a priest of the Temple. Elizabeth is the most pious and devout woman in all Judea, a daughter of Aaron. How dare you suggest such a thing? I will not allow it! It shall not be!”

Gabriel lowered his eyes in contrition. Softly, “It is not enough that you don’t allow it, Zechariah You must command it. Without your command, how could this ever come to be? Only through your love for God, your total commitment to the Word, your painful sacrifice, your will, and your faithful abeyance to the will of God can this come to pass. No, Zechariah. Not only must you allow it, you must command it.”

Pacing, the priest was not comforted. “Gabriel, I acknowledge the wishes of the Father as if they were words directly from God. But this is too much to ask of me. It is not even possible. It shall not be!”

“Zechariah. This IS the word directly from God. And it is NOT too much to ask of you. And it IS possible. It is a great blessing from God. Your suffering will be great. What a wonderful gift given to you from heaven, to suffer for the glory of God.”

“Command it, Zechariah. Command it!”

Chapters 3 through 34
The entire short story is available for purchase online at Smashwords.com.