Pillars of Barabbas

 



Today I'm delighted to welcome author M. D. House to my blog, to tell about book 2 in her Barabbas series. At this point, I'm eager to read both book 1 and book 2, as I'm sure you will be too. But first, please would you tell us a little about how and why you're writing this series?



  1. By the time of Book 2 in the Barabbas series, Barabbas, the prisoner released in exchange for Jesus, has accepted Christ and joined himself to the body of the church. The second book, Pillars of Barabbas, seeks to imagine how how he continued his progress. But did you come to visualize his path?

My original plans for Barabbas have evolved in surprising ways. To a large degree, I, too, have been led on a journey of discovering possibilities, seeing things I hadn’t contemplated before.

That evolution occurs as I study the history—including the New Testament of the Bible—and continually try to place myself in the full milieu of that time period, recognizing how similar those people were to us. Ideas come, and the links in the chain form. It is an incredible—and deeply fulfilling—process. The final product is astounding to me, because it’s not what I expected.

 

  1. I've had the same experience working on my children's Bible stories. Which leads me to my next question: What research into the history and politics of the time did you do? 

I’ve purchased a few books on ancient Rome, plus New and Old Testament commentaries, and there are many decent resources available online as well. I’ll never be accused of writing a dissertation on the history of the time period, and I realize that much of the scholarship isn’t perfectly harmonious, but it was good to study events and people from various angles, even when the accounts sometimes conflicted.

As we know, history is written by the victors. It is also often changed later by those in power who seek to cast a particular light on past events, groups of people, etc. in order to promote current political or social aims. With that in mind, I used what I consider the most reliable of the ancient sources—the New Testament—and built frameworks from there that made sense given some of the secular histories and our common human nature.

My wife and I also took a trip to Rome, and part of the reason was so that I could “feel the bones” of the Eternal City, particularly the ancient ruins. It was everything I had hoped for. When writing about Rome, I can now say that I’ve walked those streets and been able to imagine how Paul, Peter, and early church members felt as they walked the same cobbled roads, humbly carrying the greatest message the world has ever known.

 

  1. Wow! I wish I could take a trip to Rome - my parents did, but I've never managed it. I love how you mention the New Testament as the most reliable source - as indeed it is, written really close to the time, by people really close to the events, and well-corroborated by other works.

    Of course, there are other significant Biblical figures who make appearances in the novel. How did you choose them?

As in Book 1, the Apostle Paul is most prominent, but Peter and his brother Andrew also play significant roles in the story. Peter, of course, was the Lord’s chief apostle on the earth, and his leadership was instrumental in the growing strength of the new church. Barabbas interacts with Peter in both Jerusalem and Rome, while Andrew spends time in Eastern Africa with Cornelius, who reprises his role from Book 1, though he has retired from the Roman army to focus on building the kingdom of God on earth. I’ve really fallen in love with Cornelius and his family and wish I had as much courage and faith.

Mary the mother of Jesus is mentioned in Book 2, as she passes away, but her friend Joanna enters the scene, joining another strong and influential woman—Priscilla, wife of Aquila—in having a significant impact. It seemed fitting to cover Mary’s passing, which resulted in a full reunion with her son Jesus. Pondering that pulls on the heartstrings. Joanna had been a prominent supporter of Jesus during his mortal ministry, and it was likely she continued to be a bright light for the saints.

Luke is also present, both as Paul’s companion and on his own. What a faithful, loyal, and revered man Luke was! Paul treasured his companionship and advice, and he was a prolific and impactful writer.

 

  1. Great figures, all of them. Can you say something here about the significant non-Biblical historical figures who appear in the story too?

Nero plays the largest role, which makes sense given the focus on Rome. A lot has been written about Nero (full regal name—not birth name—Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) over the last two millennia, much of it conflicting. I’m sure that, like all of us, he was a complex individual with both good and bad traits. He was young—just sixteen—when the emperorship was thrust upon him, his mother reportedly having his adopted father, Emperor Claudius, poisoned.

What would a conversation between an apostle of Jesus Christ and the Emperor of Rome have looked like? I’m 100% convinced that at least one conversation took place. Paul was a well-known ‘prisoner’ who had appealed to the Emperor based on his status as a Roman citizen, and he spent significant time in Rome with little hindrance to his movements, building up the church and encouraging the saints. In my telling of the story, more than one conversation takes place, and those were fascinating to write.

Another historical figure I brought in was a known member of the Roman Senate from that time frame—Manius Acilius Aviola. There is no known historical record of him being a Christian, but in the story he is one, and he provides crucial support to Paul and the saints.

 

  1. Those conversations between Nero and Paul sound fascinating, and how logical too, to assume something of sort would have taken place. I'm growing more and more eager to read the book as you answer these questions!

    I have to confess, I've not read the first book yet. But I'm told the primary theme from Book 1 was personal redemption. What is the primary theme of Book 2?

There are two primary themes in Book 2: Triumph through Adversity, which the burgeoning church of Christ surely experienced, and Every Soul is Precious, which lies at the heart of the Savior’s message in all ages of the world.

So, while the new church was growing in numbers and influence, while faith and attendant miracles were increasing, the purpose wasn’t to make God look good, or even powerful. The purpose was to save souls, individual souls with unlimited, eternal potential.

The primary difference between Christ and Satan is that Satan seeks to rule over us for his own glory, while Christ leads us along a path of self-mastery and knowledge that will bring us limitless, joyous glory—both personal and familial—and that is what Christ rejoices in.

 

  1. How true! Why do women play such a prominent role in church leadership as you have imagined it among the early Christian saints?

When Christ established his church, he spent at least forty days training his disciples how to administer it and help it grow. He most certainly would have made it crystal clear how valuable each and every person—male or female, regardless of perceivable physical attributes—was to the growth, function and purpose of the kingdom of God.

That seems obvious to most of us now, but most societies of the time were politically and economically dominated by males, even if those males were often influenced by mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc. Christ’s church was refreshingly different, with men and women both playing prominent roles in decision-making and execution. That was difficult for some people to accept, and persecutions arose from it, but God values all of his children equally, and all have valuable talents that we can only ignore at our peril.

 

  1. Yay! And yes, that has been my conclusion too. Priscilla and Aquila being a case in point. So, what lessons can today’s readers take away from the lives of the early saints and the men and women who led them?

They were real people, facing real challenges with which each of us can identify. They were steeped in myriad entrenched traditions and doctrines, but their souls had come from the hallowed halls of heaven. Twinges of remembrance reverberated in their hearts when they heard the message of the gospel, when the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior was announced and explained to them.

Their spirits rejoiced, and yet the vicissitudes and temptations of mortality continued to challenge them. Satan continuously tried to beat them down and convince them it wasn’t worth getting back up and trying to be the kind of person Christ had shown them they could become. In their basic essence, our experiences are exactly the same.

 

  1. Can Pillars of Barabbas help readers strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ?

I certainly hope so, yes. That was the intent. Pillars of Barabbas and I Was Called Barabbas were written with a scriptural foundation. The teachings of Christ are presented throughout, in the words and actions of the various characters, including well-known personalities like the Apostles Peter, Paul, and Andrew, the Centurion Cornelius, the ever-faithful Luke and Joanna, and the wise Aquila and Priscilla.

But beyond just reading about the teachings of Christ, we must commune with him and heed those teachings, continually. Redemption is a life-long process. It requires a tremendous amount of work and determination. It’s worth it, especially as we help each other and become unified in following our Savior. Unity in Christ is our true strength, because mortal ethnicity, skin color, economic station, etc. don’t matter a whit when it comes to accessing his promised blessings, both here and in the eternities.

 

  1. And his Spirit is always there to strengthen and guide us. We love, because He first loved us. So, I'm curious, what other projects are you working on?

I’ll soon start planning Book 3, the final book of the Barabbas series. One of the major events in that book will be the horrific Roman siege of Jerusalem by Titus, during and after which as much as 90% of the Jewish inhabitants were killed. Christ himself had foretold the event, but nobody had imagined something so drastically awful could happen. There’s more research to do on what happened to the Christians in Jerusalem. Many suggest they were warned to leave before the siege happened. Either way, the church was already building centers of influence elsewhere, particularly in Rome.

I’ve just started working again on the sequel to my first novel, which was soft sci-fi with a political and religious bent, titled Patriot Star. I had set that sequel aside several years ago after getting through about 60% of the first draft, but after recently re-reading it—and having received several requests—I’ve decided to pick it back up. Revealing the title would be a spoiler, so I won’t … yet.

For LDS Christians, I’m well along toward completing the first draft of a story about a man born in 70-80 BC and referred to in the Book of Mormon only as “the servant of Helaman” (which is also the working title). Political intrigues, questions of faith in Christ, and the horrible impacts of violent conflict will make this an intense ride over a short period of time (~ two years). Writing this story has been immensely enjoyable, similar to the journey Barabbas has been giving me.

It’s because I have so many projects going on now that I’ve stepped away from a lucrative business career. It’s a risk worth taking. I love telling these stories, and I firmly hope they aren’t just entertaining, but genuinely useful to people.

I’ll be sure to keep people updated on my projects through my website (www.mdhouselive.com) and my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/LiteraryThunder). I’ll do a bit of blogging here and there as well.

 

  1. Where can readers purchase a copy of Pillars of Barabbas?

Pillars of Barabbas can be purchased on Amazon in both print and ebook. It will soon be available in audiobook on the Amazon/Audible and iTunes platforms as well. (Note: the number of outlets may expand.)

 

Thank you so much, and I shall definitely aim to read both books (all three when the third comes out).

Meanwhile, here are some useful links:

Comments

M.D. House said…
Thanks for posting this! Here's a little more flavor on the genesis and purpose of the books, from my interview with Rick and Dan of FaithTalk Live this week:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC6fDMiX_wo

Thanks again!

M.D. House

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