Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Who Is That? Scribes and Pharisees

Today I'm continuing the "clarification" of characters in the Immanu'El novels as promised. In the first blog of this series, I covered the characters whose names begin with "Y" (most of the protagonists, as it turns out). In the second blog, I talked about the women. So now, having covered heroes and romantic interests, I guess I should touch on the villains. For some reason, the bad guys in my novels tend to be the religious leaders. Then again, most of the bad guys in the New Testament are also the religious leaders, so I guess I am just sticking with tradition here.

Hanan ben Seth - Introduced in The Voice and having a minor albeit significant role in the Talmid trilogy, Hanan is based on the High Priest Annas, whose influence on the people of first-century Judea is documented not only in the gospels but also by the historians of the period, most notably Josephus.

Yosef ben Kaiapha - Ben Kaiapha, also introduced in The Voice, has a much larger role in Talmid. This is to be expected, since he is based on another first-century High Priest -- Caiaphas -- who is known best for having turned Jesus over to the Romans and demanded his crucifixion. Josephus has a lot to say about Caiaphas as well.

Zephanyah bar Uziyel - This guy, I take full credit (or blame) for. Purely fictitious in all his misguided zeal and downright meanness.

But wait! Not all of my scribes and Pharisees are evil! In fact, most of them are quite respectable.

Elazar -  Elazar (or Lazar as his sister calls him) is of course inspired by Lazarus (John 11). The gospel account describes his friendship with Jesus but says nothing of how that friendship began. The account I give in Talmid is imaginary, except for his illness, death, and resurrection.

Nakdimon - The student of The Voice becomes the rabbi of Talmid, who is based on Nicodemus (John 3). The idea that he gave Jesus the key to Gethsemane is purely fictitious, but their hidden friendship is gospel.

Yosef ha Ramathiy - Another secret supporter of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea comes into the gospel accounts only in conjunction with the crucifixion. As with Elazar, I created an imaginary backstory for the beginning of his relationship with Jesus.

Rabbi Gamaliel - I didn't even change the name here. Gamaliel was one of the most famous of the first-century rabbis of Jerusalem, a highly respected alumnus of the School of Hillel. He is portrayed in the Book of Acts as one of the more moderate judges dealing with the first Apostles. The idea of making both Nakdimon (Nicodemus) and Elazar (Lazarus) students in his school was my own, as was the idea of having him be one of the rabbis who met the boy Jesus in the Temple.

Rabbi Ezra ben Shimeon - Rabbi Ezra was originally slated to be one of the narrators in the book that eventually became Brothers. I demoted him during revision because I decided that all of my narrators should be characters based on actual Biblical figures, and Ezra is purely fictitious.

Pinechas - Another fictional character, though his role (High Priest and Instructor of the Yahad) is based on descriptions of the leadership of the yahad community of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Next blog: Disciples
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  1. I really enjoyed the Rabbi Ezra and was quite sorry he died.
    I also enjoyed puzzling over the biblical equivalents of the characters, with the different spellings to challenge my knowledge of scriptural characters. And the disciples as well, how they were mostly contemporaries, friends and family, fun to see them relating together in (yes, extrabiblical) entirely plausible situations.

  2. Thank you. I am glad you enjoy the "puzzling" that apparently annoys many people. I was also sorry to lose Ezra. In my original draft of that story, he was one of the narrators, but I reconsidered the decision to tell the story from the point of view of a fictional character (all the other narrators are based on people who really lived). He had a lot of really cool inner thoughts that were never voiced, and I felt like I got to know him well. I wanted readers to see that not ALL Pharisees were bad.