Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear are a husband and wife team of award-winning authors and archaeologists whose work has spanned several international bestsellers. With their latest work, the Gears turn their consideration towards the lost life of Jesus Christ in the book that reveals, according to the press release, “the Jesus that the Bible doesn’t want you to see.”
Naturally, such a line raised my sceptic’s eyebrow slightly. “The Jesus that the Bible doesn’t want you to see?” Isn’t that a little like saying “Pepsi is the soft drink that Coke doesn’t want you to purchase?” An inanimate object surely doesn’t have an opinion on the subject, but perchance the makers of Coke do. And perchance the authors of the Bible have an opinion on whether or not a modern reader partakes in The Betrayal: The Lost Life of Jesus.
At least that’s what the Gears seem to hope…
Having read stacks and stacks of theological works, the ground covered by the Gears’ book was nothing novel for me. I have been a progressive Christian for quite some time and the idea that Jesus was not born of a virgin, was not bodily resurrected, and had siblings didn’t strike me as particularly scandalous or unworkable.
But the Gears build around the “cover-up of the century,” to borrow from Dan Brown, with The Betrayal. Using fictional casing, the book describes the story of Brother Barnabas in 325 C.E. and intersperses moments from the life of Jesus as cobbled from a range of “lost writings” discarded at Nicaea.
Brother Barnabas is a zealous student of ancient holy texts and spends his time in a monastery library studying numerous contentious pieces of literature. Through reading the writings of Mary Magdalene, Philip, and James, good Brother Barnabas learns the “truth” about the “real” Jesus Christ and aims to protect it at all costs against the Evil Emperor Constantine.
As the ecumenical council at Nicaea decrees the books being studied by Barnabas to be heretical, he embarks on a quest to guard the books and flees the monastery with some trusted companions. Stalked and threatened by the Evil Emperor’s minions, Barnabas’ fight to preserve the truth takes flight.