DiscoverHistorical Fiction

Persuaded

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Loved it! 😍

An intriguing look at a minor yet well-known New Testament figure about what he COULD have been doing behind the scenes.

Synopsis

Escaped narrowly after the fall of Jerusalem . . .
Pursued relentlessly by the Sanhedrin . . .
Entrusted covertly with a mission more significant than he had imagined . . .

From the prison colony on Patmos, the Apostle John entrusts Nicodemus with manuscripts for the Christian fellowships increasing throughout the Roman Empire. While transcribing the manuscript, Nicodemus is prompted to recall his former life and his encounter with Yeshua - a man of mystery, a healer, a teacher, and a prophet. An encounter that changed everything.

Under the cover of darkness, risking his reputation and endangering his life even further, it is here that Nicodemus realizes the world-changing power of the Good News . . . and what being a follower of Yeshua truly means.

  I have always been drawn to alternate history books, and also to those that take a minor character and present more about him or her. The New Testament figure of Nicodemus appears in the well-known third chapter of St. John’s Gospel, and appears twice more. A non-canonical gospel was attributed to him, and various legends originated about him.

  The author had written a plausible story of Nicodemus’ role in the Early Church. Rather than being portrayed as an elderly member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus here is a younger man whose father is in that group; Nicodemus is slated to join the Sanhedrin in due time. While a younger Nicodemus is not part of the tradition, it must be remembered that there is no definite proof of his age. Therefore what the author has chosen to do it plausible, and it does make for good reading.

    For me that first part of the book was the best. Nicodemus’ escape from a besieged Jerusalem in 70 A.D. is exciting and plausible. An aged Joseph of Arimathea enabled Nicodemus to escape, and to undertake the risky trip to visit the Apostle John, who is imprisoned on Patmos.  The descriptions of the voyages to and from that prison island are quite well-done.

    In the middle section, dialog takes control of the text. Descriptions of people and places is largely, but not completely, pushed to the background. The plot is driven by lengthy conversations and a close following of the Fourth Gospel itself. The author does create a sense of historicity by referring to Jesus as Y’shua. Other, but not all, characters are referred to by Hebrew names (assuming of course that they are indeed Hebrew), instead of the more-familiar versions

    When depicting events that are not in the New Testament, or which are not fully-depicting in it, what the author presents it logical and not contradictory. The death and burial of Y’shua sections are very well-written and go into great detail.

   In conclusion, Persuaded makes for good reading and it worth one’s time.

Reviewed by

I am a published poet with four books out there of my own, and two in collaboration with artist Carol Worthington-Levy. Additionally I have drafts of a novel and one short story in the process of being sent out.

Synopsis

Escaped narrowly after the fall of Jerusalem . . .
Pursued relentlessly by the Sanhedrin . . .
Entrusted covertly with a mission more significant than he had imagined . . .

From the prison colony on Patmos, the Apostle John entrusts Nicodemus with manuscripts for the Christian fellowships increasing throughout the Roman Empire. While transcribing the manuscript, Nicodemus is prompted to recall his former life and his encounter with Yeshua - a man of mystery, a healer, a teacher, and a prophet. An encounter that changed everything.

Under the cover of darkness, risking his reputation and endangering his life even further, it is here that Nicodemus realizes the world-changing power of the Good News . . . and what being a follower of Yeshua truly means.

Chapter One

THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM

THROUGHOUT THE ANCIENT CITY OF Jerusalem, anarchy

gripped the city. Roman soldiers laid siege while resistance Hebrew

groups inflamed the situation further. The Roman war machine displayed

its full might as they sought to eradicate what it considered to

be an uncivilized and ungrateful population. Caught between two

warring factions were the average citizens, the people just trying to

eke out a living and survive.

Central to the town, and clustered among many similar-looking

stone structures, sat the simple home of Nicodemus. A descendant of

the dominant ruling class of Pharisees, and a member of the religious

council known as the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus was destined to rise as a

leader. Yet, all of his aspirations were quickly being erased.

In this living anguish, tomorrow was an eternity.

“YaHoWaH, hear my prayers, for I am frightened for my life. Our

town, the city of David, is being torn apart. Please provide a miracle

and find a way for me to escape. For You are— ”

Interrupted, Nicodemus swiveled his head and stared. With their

fist, someone pounded on the front door. He stopped breathing, and

his eyes narrowed in fright.

The banging repeated.

A voice on the other side of the door shouted, “Nicodemus, open

the door!”

Cautious, he arose from his kneeling position of prayer. His

knees covered in dust from the dirt, Nicodemus crept slowly and quietly

to the door. He peered through the cracks between the boards

and spotted two imposing Roman soldiers along with another nonmilitary

man.

Terrified, Nicodemus panted and leaned his back against the door.

Think, Nicodemus, think.

The knocking continued, and Nicodemus could feel the vibrations

of the door throughout his body.

“Nicodemus, can you hear me? I am a friend of Joseph of

Arimathea. Please open this door at once!”

The name Joseph of Arimathea was welcome news. Against all

instincts, Nicodemus turned and lifted the weighty beam away from

the door. He opened it a mere inch. He saw a physically fit, younger

man, in his early twenties with his fist poised to pound on the door

once more. The man’s blue eyes were filled with trepidation.

His voice hoarse, he whispered. “Nicodemus, you must come

with us right now. Joseph says it’s not safe for you here in Jerusalem.

The Romans have surrounded the city and are destroying everything

in their sight. The city will fall by tonight!”

Nicodemus’ eyes darted between the two Roman soldiers standing

on either side of the man. One a centurion, the other a regular

soldier. Muscular, they wore expressions of determination. Their

presence seemed ominous. Nicodemus’ knees felt weak. The young

man followed Nicodemus’ gaze and tried to reassure him.

“I am Leontis. Your friend, Joseph of Arimathea, says you must

come with these two soldiers and me. They will escort us from the

dangers occurring in the city. You must hurry, for there is very little

time left. Joseph awaits us in a cart by the Gate of the Essenes. Now,

please!”

While Nicodemus contemplated the man’s demands, several

Roman soldiers ran down the passageway between houses, chasing a

woman and small child. Everyone watched in horror as the soldiers

seized the fleeing individuals and butchered them instantly in the

street. Blood splattered the walls of nearby buildings as one soldier

with his sword sliced open both the woman and child in one swoop.

The two escort soldiers with Leontis burst their way into

Nicodemus’ house. They pulled Leontis inside as they entered and

slammed the door shut. One Roman kept watch, his foot bracing the

door closed.

He shouted. “In a few moments, it will be too late!”

Screams of terror and the sound of swords terrorizing humanity

filled the outside air.

Leontis grabbed Nicodemus by the shoulders. “Do you wish to

bring anything important? We have to leave now, or you will die.”

Nicodemus hastily seized a large satchel, set it on his table. He

stuffed his scrolls and research papers into the bag. As he reached

out for ink jars and stylus pens, the Centurion knocked them out of

Nicodemus’ hand, causing them to spill on the floor.

Stunned by the abruptness, Nicodemus stared with an open

mouth.

“Citizen, enough! You can replace them later. We must go now.”

He roughly grabbed Nicodemus and shoved him toward the door.

The heavy satchel slipped off Nicodemus’ shoulder, so he bent

over to retrieve it. The Roman centurion snapped the bag off the

floor and pushed the group outside.

Everywhere they looked, crazed Romans killed innocent people

in bloodlust. The Roman soldiers escorting Leontis and Nicodemus

grabbed an arm of each man and marched them between two

buildings.

As the four worked their way through the city, complete pandemonium

erupted throughout the streets. Every time Nicodemus looked

around he saw nothing but blood and dead bodies. Recognizing a few

of the individuals as friends or neighbors, Nicodemus felt sick to his

stomach.

The two Roman escorts urgently pulled Nicodemus and Leontis

along as they moved closer to the southern wall of the city. When

Nicodemus looked over his shoulder in the direction of the temple,

he saw thick black smoke rising. Nicodemus lost his footing and

stumbled, but Leontis took hold of his other arm. Running, the soldier

and Leontis nearly dragged Nicodemus the last hundred feet by

his arms.

Nearing the Gate of the Essenes, Nicodemus recognized Joseph

hunched over, waiting. When Joseph heard the four men approaching,

he looked up and smiled. Leontis pulled back a heavy cloth covering

the rear of the cart. Multiple small crates, sacks of grain, and

hay littered the floor of the wagon.

One Roman soldier hefted Nicodemus into the back. He then rearranged

the cargo and pointed. “You, hide up there below the seat of

your friends. Make yourself tight, into a ball and don’t make a sound!”

Without hesitation, Nicodemus did as instructed and pulled his

satchel in tight to his body. These notes represented his life’s work.

The soldiers and Leontis arranged the cargo and moved the extra

hay around Nicodemus. They then pulled the tarp back over the rear

area.

The Centurion leaned in close to where he suspected Nicodemus

lay concealed. “Not a sound or you will die. No matter what happens,

the other soldiers cannot know you’re back here. Do you understand

me?” he demanded.

“Yes,” came Nicodemus’ clipped reply.

The soldier slapped the donkey’s backside, and the cart jerked forward.

As the wagon plodded along with Joseph and Leontis driving,

the two soldiers walked on either side of the wagon as a protective

detail.

As they cleared the gate, a cluster of Roman soldiers nailed a man

to a crucifix. He screamed as they drove nails into his wrists. The

detail of soldiers stopped their work and watched their two fellow

soldiers with the cart. A sizeable menacing man approached the four

intruders as they departed the city.

“Halt, who goes there?”

The escort Centurion stepped forward. “Step aside, Decanus. We

are on official business per the legatus, Pontius Pilate.”

The lower ranking Decanus saluted by striking his fist to his

breastplate and then extending his arm forward. “Yes sir, Centurion,”

but he was suspicious. “What, if I may ask, is in the cart, sir?”

Irritated, the Centurion chastised the soldier, “Supplies for our

unit bringing up the rear of this campaign.”

The others associated with the cart, watched in shock as the

Centurion pulled the heavy cloth partially aside revealing the boxed

contents. Nicodemus froze, praying no one could see him. After a

long pause, the Centurion pulled the fabric back over the rear.

With an icy edge in his voice, he barked at the Decanus. “Satisfied?”

The Roman nodded, “Yes sir.”

The centurion slapped the donkey’s backside again, forcing

their journey forward. Leontis started to look back but was abruptly

stopped.

“Eyes forward, Leontis. Please,” mumbled Joseph.

After about thirty minutes elapsed, the four individuals began to

relax when they rounded a small hill and encountered a full Roman

detachment blocking the road. Two Roman sentries halted their

progress.

Before the sentries could ask, the Centurion of the escort group

quickly explained to minimize curiosity. “We are conducting official

business per the legatus, Pontius Pilate.”

“What’s in the back?” demanded one the sentries.

“Supplies for our unit bringing up the rear of this campaign,” said

the Centurion.

Joseph pulled out a roll of parchment with a red seal and held it

out. The Centurion escort took it and showed it to the sentry.

The sentry inspected the parchment roll and saw the official red

wax seal, but then refused to touch it.

An officer appeared and dismounted his horse. “Legionnaire,

what’s going on?” The officer handed the reins to the nearest soldier.

The soldier snapped to attention. “Travelers with supplies to a

rear detachment, sir.”

The Tribuni looked at the escort Centurion, “Tell me, to what

unit are you assigned?”

The Centurion saluted, “The Legio VI Ferrata, sir.” He held out

the roll of parchment, and the Tribuni never hesitated but opened

the wax seal.

After reading the contents, the Tribuni handed the document

back. “Check the back of their wagon, Legionnaire.”

The sentry took his sword and slashed through the cloth cover,

letting tip strike wood. Moving around, he stabbed several times. He

lifted the tarp and saw crates, small barrels, sacks of grain and scattered

hay. Satisfied, he nodded to the Tribuni.

Curled tight and barely breathing, Nicodemus watched with horror

as the sharp Roman blade pierced the cloth striking the area all

around his hidden position. On the last plunge of the sword, the tip

nicked Nicodemus’ calf, slicing a deep gash into the flesh. Nicodemus

squeezed his eyes shut and bit hard into his tongue. He stifled a

scream. The searing pain was excruciating.

Joseph kept his face down the entire time and instantly spotted

red droplets falling from beneath the cart. Worried, he saw the crimson

liquid forming into a small pool. Joseph held his breath.

The Tribuni used his riding crop handle and lifted the face of

Joseph. “Name?”

“Joseph of Arimathea.” He smiled up at the Roman officer.

The Tribuni looked at the athletic young man seated alongside

Joseph. “What’s his story? He looks fit enough to fight for the Romans.”

Joseph snatched the left arm of Leontis and thrust it toward the

Tribuni. When he performed this maneuver, an iron bracelet affixed

to the man’s wrist revealed in Latin and Greek letters, the man was a

slave. “His name is Leontis and my servant.”

The Tribuni gazed into the eyes of the two men seated in the cart,

as if gauging whether they were telling the truth. After a brief pause,

he remounted his horse.

“Let them pass,” commanded the Tribuni.

The high-spirited horse, anxious and ready to run, acted like a

racehorse ready at the gate. The Tribuni pulled on the reins to maintain

eye contact with the Centurion of the escort. “Give my regards

to your Praefectus Castrorum. Perhaps we can be finished with these

savages soon enough and return home to our wives.”

“Yes sir, and thank you,” replied the Centurion as he saluted.

The Roman encampment contained several thousand men, so

the four-person escort gradually navigated the horde as soldiers surrounding

their position watched them pass through. When the group

neared the edge of the camp, Joseph saw captured Israeli zealots in a

holding area.

Without regard for their ghastly screams, the Romans began

hacking off the limbs of the Zealots. Once the prisoner was devoid of

his arms and legs, the soldiers then decapitated their wailing heads.

Other Roman soldiers tossed the severed body parts onto a colossal

burning pyre. The stench was retching and the sight even more

grotesque.

As the cart with the four individuals detoured around the ghoulish

spectacle, Leontis glared at the Roman soldiers.

Joseph raised his eyes just slightly toward his slave and muttered,

“Don’t watch, Leontis.”

“Why on earth are they doing this?” Leontis barely whispered.

Joseph tightly gripped Leontis’ wrist.

The two Roman soldiers and their escorts traveled several more

miles, and then the Centurion stopped their progress. They were now

out of sight and far away from the Roman detachment.

“As requested, we’ve completed our task, per orders of the legatus,

Pontius Pilate. Don’t think I’m not repulsed by our performance,

for I have just lied to a Tribuni and several brothers back there. And

for what—to save a wealthy citizen, his slave, and this Jew?” the

Centurion shook his fist at them.

Leontis doubled his hands and tightened his body. Joseph patted

Leontis’ leg, and then reached under his seat and pulled out a small

chest. After unlocking it, he retrieved two purple cloth bags with

gold drawstrings. Each bag was the size of two men’s fists. He handed

them to Leontis.

“Please pay the soldiers.”

Leontis vehemently hissed, “Master, one bag equals the wages of

a man’s lifetime.”

Joseph smiled, “Centurion, here is your payment for your services.

There are one hundred gold shekels for each of you. May YaHoWaH

bless you for what you have done for my friends and me.”

The mood instantly shifted as the Centurion and soldier hefted

the weight of the bags in their hands. Like gleeful school boys who

escaped punishment for their misdeeds, the two soldiers smiled with

pleasure. They grinned at one another. One soldier opened his bag

and pulled a gold piece out and laughed.

“Yes, this made our deception worth it. I suggest you never come

back this way again,” the Centurion threatened. “The outcome may

not be so favorable.”

Both soldiers turned and walked back in the direction of

Jerusalem. While they walked, they endlessly congratulated themselves

for their new fortunes. Leontis and Joseph watched them disappear

over a small rise in the road.

“Master, why so much money. They will just spend it on prostitutes

and beer!” objected Leontis.

Joseph half smiled. “And I was prepared to spend even more to

save my friend’s life.”

Joseph reached down and patted their stowaway under the cloth.

“Nicodemus, it is safe, you may come out. We are now far from the

city and any danger.”

Nicodemus didn’t move.

Leontis jumped from the cart and pulled back the heavy cloth.

He sucked air between his teeth when he saw the vast pool of dried

blood. Nicodemus was curled into a tight ball, his eyes jammed closed.

Leontis shook the man.

“We’re out of danger, Nicodemus, can you get up? Are you hurt?”

asked Leontis.

Slowly at first, Nicodemus opened one eye then the other. He

paused and surveyed their surroundings. He was soaked with sweat.

“Quickly, Leontis, give him some water,” commanded Joseph as

he handed the clay watering jar to his slave.

The servant helped Nicodemus sit up and let him sip some water.

“Let me look at your wound.”

Ripping several long narrow strips of cloth from his outer robe,

Leontis bandaged Nicodemus’ leg. He smiled up at Joseph. “It is a surface

cut; not too deep.”

Nicodemus winced, “Surface cut? It’s not your leg!”

Both Joseph and his servant chuckled.

“You’re alive Nicodemus, and you’ll probably have a nasty reminder

once it heals, but you’re alive and away from the city,” said

Joseph.

Nicodemus felt relief. “Thank you, Joseph.” He looked at Leontis.

“Thank you both for saving my life. You are the answer to my prayers.”

When the three men looked back in the direction of Jerusalem,

they could see nothing but dark billowing smoke rising to the clouds.

Joseph shuddered and mourned over the destruction. “My friends,

we are observing the end of an era for Israel. Our history is forever

changed by what we have witnessed here, and I doubt we will recover

for several thousand years.”

About the author

David Harder resides in the Prescott area of Arizona with his wife, and their border collie. David served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam conflict. A graduate of San Jose College, David also studied at Santa Clara University and graduated Vineyard Institute in Biblical studies and leadership. view profile

Published on June 09, 2020

Published by Ambassador International

90000 words

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by

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