Sunday, July 26, 2015

Who Is That Lady?

Yesterday, in response to a reader's inquiry, I "clarified" who the protagonists of my Immanu'El novels are ... or at least, which Biblical figure inspired and shaped each of them. Today I continue the list by taking a peek at some of the women in these stories. 

Maryam bat Yoachim, the wife of Yosef and mother of Yisu (and many others), is pretty obviously representative of Mary the mother of Jesus, more commonly known as the Virgin Mary. As with some of my other characters, Maryam is a compilation of various theories and traditions about the Blessed Virgin and "the other Mary" and "Mary the mother of James and Joses" (in the Immanu'El universe, all three of them are the same person).

Shelomith bat Yoachim, the wife of Zebdi the fisherman and mother of Yakob and Yuannan, is the end result of countless hours wading through the gospel accounts of the women at the cross ... Salome is one of them, as is Mary's sister, and I blended the two because that made the most sense to me. My Shelom is Maryam's sister by adoption only, but that idea was not suggested by anything in Scripture. (I confess, I have some fairly convoluted family trees here, mostly because I was having a hard time figuring out how a Galilean fisherman would have access to the home of the High Priest.)

Elisheba bat Amram ("Aunt Elisheba"), the wife of Zechariah and mother of Yochanan, is my tribute to Elizabeth, the elderly kinswoman of Mary, who miraculously gave birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1). My Elisheba is also the elder sister of Yoachim (see previous note about convoluted family trees).

Maryam Magdalit is based on Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus drove out seven demons, and who supported his mission financially (Luke 8) and was the first witness to his resurrection (John 20). She has made only a token appearance in the series so far but is the protagonist of the novel I am currently writing (Seven Demons).

Yochanah "Yunna" ha Shealtiel is a creation of my own imagination, although I also use her to reenact the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery (John 8).

Michal, Philip's sister, is pure fiction, as are Leah, Talyah, and Tamar. 

Shoshonah is Susanna, another of the women at the cross, though the Bible does not imply that she was Philip's wife. (Her story is told in more depth in Seven Demons.)

Rachel, Hannah, Sarah, and Rebekah, Yisu's sisters, are semi-fictional. The Bible does mention that Jesus had "sisters" living in Nazareth but does not say how many or what their names were, though "Hannah" may well have been one of them since tradition gives this as the name of Mary's mother ("Anna"). (Hannah, Sarah, and Rebekah were given those names in my novels because of a promise I made to my cousins Hannah, Sarah, and Rebekah.)

I think that pretty much exhausts the female characters.
Next blog: the Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Who Is That?

Yesterday I received this email from one of my readers:

Love All your books--am on the second read. Can you clarify who the characters are?

I immediately went into "should I or shouldn't I" mode. As I have explained in the "Note About the Names" that appears as front matter in all of my novels, I made a conscious decision years ago to stick with the Hebrew and Aramaic names rather than their English derivations. I did this for several reasons, not the least of which was the hope that this would allow readers to approach these stories without all of the preconceptions invariably associated with those oh-so-familiar English derivations.

This hope has proven to be as forlorn as Little Bo Peep sans sheep. Even I have succumbed to the convenience of using the E.D. name forms when discussing the books with friends and family. But this is a dangerous habit and I am reluctant to enable its development in others. You see, I am not writing biographies about Jesus and John and Joseph and Mary, historical figures regarding whom people have very strong opinions ... I am writing fiction about Yisu and Yochanan and Yosef and Maryam, people who might well have existed but probably were nothing at all like the characters in my novels. I can take certain liberties with fictional characters that I dare not take with historical figures.

Even so, most (if not all) of my readers seem to enjoy playing the "Who Is That?" game as they read. For this reason, I will attempt to "clarify." (In other words, here is the answer key that will never appear as an appendix to any of the novels unless a publisher sneaks it in over my protests.)

Today, let's clarify some characters whose names begin with the letter Y, since they tend to be the protagonists. 

Yeshua "Yisu" bar Yosef attempts to be as much like Jesus as this author can make him. However, since this author is a fallible human being, Yisu is also fallible and should not be listened to by anyone who is not willing to take his words and compare them to the red letter sections of the Bible. 

Yosef bar Yaakob represents my attempt to get inside the mind of Joseph the husband of Mary (see Matthew 2). This effort was probably doomed from the start since Joseph was a 1st-century Jewish man and I am a 21st-century American woman, but hey, it's called "fiction" for a reason.

Yaakob "Katan" bar Yosef translates to James the Less. There is a bit of disagreement concerning the identity of that Biblical figure; was he James the Just, half-brother of Jesus and purported author of the book of James, or was he James son of Alphaeus, one of the twelve apostles? Regardless of who you believe James the Less to have been, Yaakob Katan is the half-brother of Yisu, and will eventually become leader of the fledgling Church in Jerusalem (though that particular story has not yet been written).

Yochanan "Tabol" ben Zechariah grew out of my desire to better understand John the Baptist.

Yuannan "Yuani" bar Zebdi is hoping to grow up one day to be the Apostle John, a.k.a. Saint John the Revelator, a.k.a. the Beloved Disciple. However, the way I've written the character of Yuani (a teenage boy: arrogant, impetuous, and decidedly immature) there is a definite possibility that the real Son of Thunder will punch me in the face when I meet him in the next life.

Yakob "Kobi" bar Zebdi was inspired by James son of Zebedee, one of the twelve apostles. Since little is known of him other than his occupation (fisherman) his nickname ("Son of Thunder") and his death (beheaded by Herod), I filled in the gaps with amphibian DNA -- oh, wait, that was Jurassic Park. Never  mind.

Yoshiah bar Zebdi has never lived anywhere except in the imagination of the author. He was created to provide backstory for Yakob. Though I wrestled with the morality of creating a character for the sole purpose of killing him, morality lost.

Yoachim "Saba" "Dodi" ben Amram is based not on a Biblical figure but one from the church tradition that credits "Joachim" as the father of the Virgin Mary. However, the name Yoachim is the only thing I borrowed from that tradition. Everything else about the man was dreamed up, but if Saba never lived, he should have. At least, that's my opinion.

Today's blog (complete with spoilers) was brought to you by the letter Y.  
Next blog: the ladies of Immanu'El.

(You may submit requests for specific character clarifications in the Comments section.)