Discover the Beautiful Prequel to Kristi Saare Duarte's The Transmigrant with The Virgin of Galilee - the story of how Jesus' parents met.
Sometimes when we fall in love, especially in the beginning of a relationship, we are so blinded by our insecurities and society’s notions of how a relationship is meant to be, we ignore how we truly feel. Everywhere you look, you will find articles, books and TV-shows that list signs of what true love is meant to be like. Our friends give us advice and say, “he’s not good enough for you,” or “she doesn’t love you if she does this.” But although the advice is well-meant, we are all different. Not all relationships start off perfect. But if you listen to your gut feeling and manage to overlook your doubts, great love can sprout from the tiniest seed of affection.
Many years ago, I heard a legend about a man who might be the real father of Jesus: a Roman legionnaire called Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera. This legend inspired The Virgin of Galilee, and the more I researched its feasibility, the more possible it seemed. This quote shows an attack on a Galilean marketplace, where Jesus’s mother is assaulted. During the Roman Empire, the Romans were known for being ruthless, even barbaric. As the rulers of the world, they would terrorize their underlings in the occupied territories. Although drunkenness was not condoned, the young soldiers were far from home, and boosted by their feelings of superiority, they would sometimes raze cities to the ground, rape the women, and even kill people. The Jews were specifically targeted and hated, because of their absolute refusal to adopt the Roman religion. We are often told that Anti-Semitism took root after Jesus’s crucifixion, but the hatred and fearmongering started much earlier, and unfortunately exists even today.
What if Jesus was just an ordinary boy searching for enlightenment? This award-winning novel re-imagines Jesus's epic life, and in particular, the eighteen years not mentioned in the Bible. In the year 8 AD, five-year-old Yeshua receives a visit from two mysterious strangers who predict he will bring a message of peace to the world. Oblivious of the prophecy, Yeshua grows up yearning to be a rabbi, but soon learns that it’s his duty and destiny to become a carpenter like his father. One day, when a Buddhist pilgrim tells Yeshua about a country called Sindh where anyone can be a monk, his hope is kindled. He joins a camel caravan and sets off on a thousand-mile journey across the Silk Road into the unknown. Along the way, he studies the teachings of the Buddha and Krishna and loses his virginity to a beautiful young widow in a secluded convent. Upon returning to Palestine after nearly twenty years, he finds a country tormented by the Romans who perceive him as a dangerous rebel. THE TRANSMIGRANT is an alternative, fictional take on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, inspired both by ancient scriptures and relatively new findings, such as Russian traveler Nicolas Notovitch's 1894 book "The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ." It is a remarkable tale of self-discovery and a reflection on the lengths to which a man will go to be admired, accepted, and, ultimately, loved.
In this chapter, Yeshua is finally given the chance to speak before a crowd in the sacred city Benares (Varanasi). This is all he’s ever aspired to, the reason for all his hard work: his dream come true. But when the time comes to share his knowledge, he gets nervous. Speaking always seemed easy, until now. What if he fails? Whatever happens, he just cannot mess this up.
Like many teenagers and young adults, Yeshua is a somewhat arrogant know-it-all. But in his heart, he is closely connected to God. And he understands that everyone is equal, whatever their heritage, whatever their standing in society, and that the rules of separation are man-made. He makes it his cause to teach the untouchables, even though his Master, Arcahia, has explicitly forbidden him to do so. Speaking to untouchables was a crime that was punishable by death.
There’s something special about that pink, hazy hour at dawn when nature is just waking up. A new day filled with new possibilities, a chance to start over. All religions view dawn as the holy hour. Hindus take their morning bath just before dawn, Christians go to Mass, even yoga teachers get up for meditation at dawn. Although I’m not a morning person (at all!), I know how special those first hours can be. When I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain a few years ago, I often got up before dawn and started walking through the woods toward the next village. Because when your mind is still in that dreamlike space, ego hasn’t taken charge of your brain yet, and you can have the most amazing insights.
The Second Temple of Jerusalem was the most sacred place in the world for first-century Jews. All faithful men and women were expected to travel there seven times a year to partake in the holy festivals. Of course, in those days, this was an impossibility for poor families who couldn’t give up several days of work for religious practices. Instead, many villages would choose one family to represent them. Often, this would coincide with the year their oldest son turned twelve and became a man. Yeshua, who had always believed he had a unique relationship with God, expected the temple priests to fawn over him and realize just how special he was. Unfortunately, things did not turn out quite like he had planned.
People do crazy things for their faith, to prove their allegiance to God. During the Maha Kumbh Mela in India a few years ago, the world’s largest religious festival with 40 million participants, I met gurus who had held their hand up in the air for months until the arm dried of blood and became a wood-like stick. Anything is possible if you believe. The hunger-abating trick in this passage came from a book called Buddhist Scriptures, a collection of early Buddhist texts. One of the most difficult things about writing about old religions is that they have changed so many times over the years. You must be fastidious in only looking at the oldest possible manuscripts.
In this passage, Yeshua returns to the Temple of Jerusalem for the first time in eighteen years, after having travelled the world and studied with masters of many faiths. The circle comes to a close, and he looks back upon his life in gratitude. When I started writing the novel, I didn’t know how his story would end. I followed him on his journey and learned together with him, chapter after chapter, country after country, and religion after religion. When it came to the end, I knew I had to say goodbye to Yeshua at a point where the New Testament continues. For me, the circle was also complete. Yeshua had told his story the way he wanted to tell it, and I had to accept his wish.
Jesus is such a strong figure in the Bible. Aside from asking if the cup could pass from him before his crucifixion, he seems almost unshakable. But how did he gain his strength? Most people have to go through hell in order to grow, and to awaken. It’s like God knocks you off your feet to make you see what you’ve refused to accept thus far. Yeshua’s reaction to his Abba’s death is inspired by my own loss of my parents. When you’re young, you think your parents will be around forever. And if their deaths are sudden, you’re left with a whole lot of guilt and remorse, and you never get the chance to ask for forgiveness. Yeshua also had to experience true loss in order to realize that what he sought could not be found in one specific place. And it was time to return home after sixteen years on the road.
As a reader, I love traveling with the characters in books and learning through them. While writing about Yeshua’s journey, I had to read up on Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity, because I didn’t know much about any of them. I’d had this idea for a long time that all religions are the same at the core (treat others how you’d like to be treated), but that they have been changed over time as a means to control the local public. And I wanted to write about that. Everywhere I go, anywhere in the world, all people long for the same things: love, respect, and acceptance. We are more alike than most people think. And to be honest, the more I studied the different religions, the more alike they seemed. All faiths have both good and bad in them. The only guru any one of us needs resides within us, and that’s what Yeshua learns.
Contemporary spiritual people like the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis are always smiling, happy, and full of love. They all have a great sense of humor. Why would Jesus have been any different? While he’s often portrayed with bleeding wrists and a sorrowful face, I saw him in another light. The boy Yeshua is a mischievous, fun-loving child, albeit with a higher sense of awareness and spirituality than other children. This scene is about his reactions to a girl his father wants him to marry despite Yeshua’s protests. Because Yeshua has made it absolutely clear to one and all that all he wants is to become a priest and spend his days praying and serving God.
What do we really know about Jesus’s father? Not a lot. Tradition tells us that he’s an older, deeply religious man who marries a young pregnant girl, but that’s about it. I wanted to bring him to life. I based part of his character on ancient tradition, but also gave him a huge heart. Abba reminds me of my grandfather, who would chase us grandkids around the yard, yelling at us for some mischief or other, anger almost steaming from his ears. When he finally caught us, however, he couldn’t keep a straight face and we all ended up laughing and hugging. I wanted Abba to be just as loveable.
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