Holy Conspiracy, by Kristi Saare Duarte

Review

Kristi Saare Duarte has crafted an insightful and beautifully written story delving into a seldom discussed topic that has shaped Western civilization for 2,000 years. Holy Conspiracy asks the question, Who was Jesus, and what does he have to do with Christianity?

This book follows in the footsteps of Duarte’s earlier novel, The Transmigrant, which traced the steps of a young Jesus (Yeshua in the ancient tongue) as he traveled from Galilee to India and the Himalayas before returning to begin his ministry. In Holy Conspiracy he has already been crucified and his followers, including his widow Mary Magdalen (Mariamne) and his brother James the Just (Yakov, for Jacob), are trying to define their purpose as they regroup.

Yakov lacks Yeshua’s charisma and clear realization of his own bond with the divine, so he struggles to fulfill the leadership role thrust upon him by the community. Mariamne has the qualities of a leader that her brother-in-law lacks but suffers an obstacle she cannot overcome: She is a woman. But the two support each other in trying to help their community of the faithful move forward with its mission. As Duarte puts it, “Their love for Yeshua, his brother and her husband, would always unite them. And the faith Yeshua had placed in each of them.”

The community moves to the hills outside Jerusalem and establishes itself in a self-sustaining compound. Eventually, however, drought strikes the region and the faithful face the very real prospect of starvation. 

Enter Saul of Tarsus. The wealthy Roman citizen brings food and supplies to help the community through its time of need. But it soon becomes apparent that Saul is demanding that Yakov and the others acknowledge his own superiority and anointing by God to proclaim the gospel to the world. Though he never met Jesus and cares little for anything the man may have said during his ministry, Saul claims that the eternal spirit of Yeshua Christos has chosen him alone out of all humanity to tell the world of God’s grace. 

Mariamne has her doubts:

“Maybe it was true what he said about Yeshua. Perhaps her husband had truly spoken to Saul. But how could it be true? Yeshua had always spoken of unity, inclusion, and equality. Saul’s message was quite the opposite: his Yeshua would save only those who believed in him as the Messiah. Saul’s Yeshua would let everyone else burn.”

Readers may feel frustration at Yakov’s lack of confidence in his own authority to correct Saul’s errors and lead the community to its full potential. They will certainly feel wrath at Saul’s arrogance and self-aggrandizement and his corruption of Jesus’s message. Historically, both of these figures suffered martyrdom for their faith. But Holy Conspiracy makes no secret which character deserves a reader’s sympathy for his sacrifice.

Holy Conspiracy, by Kristi Saare Duarte, is due for release on September 16, 2020.

About pwandersen

Patrick W. Andersen's debut novel, Second Born, won critical acclaim for its reimagining of the life of Jesus as he grew up with his brothers and sisters in Sepphoris. His new novel, Acts of the Women, tells stories of how women, in the decades after the crucifixion, helped give birth to what eventually became Christianity.
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