Each of Yeshua’s Cats e-books only $.99!

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Great news! All 3 Yeshua’s Cats Kindle e-books will be on sale for only $.99 each, for 3 whole days!

The sale starts at 8AM EDT on Friday, May 20th and runs until 8AM EDT on Monday, May 23rd.

Be sure to mark your calendars and spread the word!

There won’t be another sale like it this year!

Paul and the Damascus Wall

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Doing the research for The Cats of Rekem was a long and fascinating process. Perhaps the most surprising part of it was discovering how little we really know about those first days after Paul’s vision on the Damascus road. Here are the only biblical verses (from The New English translation) that describe those days:

Acts 9:19-25–[immediately after his conversion] “He spent some time with the disciples in Damascus. Soon he was proclaiming Jesus publicly in the synagogues. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is the Son of God.’  All who heard were astounded. ‘Is not this the man,’ they said, ‘who was in Jerusalem trying to destroy those who invoke this name? Did he not come here for the sole purpose of arresting them and taking them to the chief priests?’ But Saul grew more and more forceful and silenced the Jews of Damascus with his cogent proofs that Jesus was the Messiah. As the days mounted up, the Jews hatched a plot against his life; but their plans became known to Saul. They kept close watch on the city gates day and night so that they might murder him; but his converts took him one night and let him down by the wall, lowering him in a basket.”

2 Corinthians 11:32-33–“When I was in Damascus, the commissioner of King Aretas kept the city under observation so as to have me arrested; and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his clutches.”

Galatians 1:16-20–“When that happened [his conversion], without consulting any human being, without going up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, I went off at once to Arabia, and afterwards returned to Damascus. Three years later I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas. I stayed with him for a fortnight, without seeing any other of the apostles, except James, the Lord’s brother. What I write is plain truth; before God I am not lying.”

In the Acts account, in the paragraph following the one above describing Paul’s escape from Damascus, Luke speaks of Paul’s trip to Jerusalem, where he met all the disciples. In light of Paul’s own words in his letter to the Galatians above, I believe Luke must have been describing a later trip to Jerusalem. Paul states clearly that he went immediately to Arabia from Damascus. The three passages above, then, are our only sources for Paul’s departure from Damascus.

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So what do we know about Paul’s night at the wall?  Let’s look first at the wall itself.

The biblical text in Galatians uses the word θυρίς, thuris, which means a small opening or window. The text in Acts merely says Paul was lowered through the wall; no opening is specified. So, perhaps the word need not be translated “window.”

I had some difficulty imagining a window in the middle of a Decapolis city wall, so I started researching 1st C CE city walls in Roman Syria, specifically at Damascus. I discovered that not much more than a few foundation stones are visible in Damascus, underneath later walls dating mostly to the Middle Ages. But I did discover that Damascus was transformed by its Seleucid (Greek) conquerors somewhere around the 3rd C BCE. The city was then rebuilt along N/S and E/W axes, in much the same pattern that remains today. The city walls were rebuilt as well. When the Romans took over Damascus in the mid-1st C BCE, they set to work rebuilding much of the city again, adding their typical monumental touches. They also strengthened the walls and extended them outward to include an area larger than the earlier Greek walls. The Roman walls stood approximately where the walls stand today.

In the pictures below you can see a reconstruction of the east gate in the Roman wall surrounding the Decapolis city of Hippos, and a model of the Decapolis city of Scythopolis (Bet She’an), with the city wall around it. Notice in both that the only openings/windows are in the actual gate towers, which are guard quarters. The walls themselves are high and smooth, without openings, although the spaces in the crenelations might be called “openings.”

Hippos East Gate

Hippos East Gate

Model of Scythopolis

Model of Scythopolis

But what exactly did Roman walls look like? How were they constructed? I discovered that there is an amazing amount of research dedicated to the study of Roman walls. As a result we know quite a lot about their internal structure and appearance. By the time of the Roman building projects in Damascus (which were approaching their peak when Paul visited there), Roman walls were often being constructed with a rubble core faced with concrete and tiles. The huge quarried stones of earlier walls were being used only for the foundations.

Structure of a Roman Wall/Arch

Structure of a Roman Wall/Arch

Hadrian’s Wall is a good example of this style of wall, and has survived well enough to be studied thoroughly. The pictures below are artist’s reconstructions of Hadrian’s Wall.

This rubble-core style of wall-building is described in The Cats of Rekem. Such walls would lend themselves even less easily than ashlar walls to openings/windows, even if windows were considered desirable in defensive walls. Nowhere did I find Roman walls like the early ones pictured in childhood Bible studies, where city walls were made up of the walls of houses haphazardly connected together. So, how could there be an “opening” in the Damascus wall, “through” which Paul might be lowered in a basket? I decided that a collapsed rubble wall might serve the purpose: perhaps poorly made, weakened by earthquake, attack, or collapse of subterranean chamber–any of those would do. The result would be a breach in the wall that might be described as an opening. There you have the basis of Paul’s adventure as I described it in The Cats of Rekem.

Bab Kisan, traditional site of Paul's escape

Bab Kisan, traditional site of Paul’s escape, mainly medieval stonework

I also moved Paul’s escape route to a different part of the wall from the one that Church tradition identifies,  in the photo above. I agree with Ross Burns, in his excellent book, Damascus: A History, that a location right over a Roman gate–and in the Jewish quarter, was an unlikely place for a successful escape. You can see that the traditional gate above, Bab Kisan, is #3 on the map of Old Damascus as it is known today (above). That same gate is on the map of Roman Damascus (also above), and located on the south side, near the eastern corner: at the major market thoroughfare and adjoining the Jewish quarter. Paul’s escape in The Cats of Rekem is marked by the words “broken wall,” just north of the gate under construction on the eastern wall.

Cats of Rekem Kindle Countdown Deal: March 11!

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Just in time for Easter!

Get your Kindle copy of The Cats of Rekem: The Sequel to Yeshua’s Cat

for as little as $.99!

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The Cats of Rekem‘s Kindle Countdown Deal begins on March 11!

Here’s how it works:

  • Starting at 8 AM PST on Friday, March 11 through 7 AM PST March 12, the Kindle version of The Cats of Rekem will be offered on Amazon USA for only $.99!
  • From 7 AM PST on Saturday, March 12 until 7 AM PST March 13, the Kindle version of The Cats of Rekem will be offered on Amazon USA for only $1.99!
  • From 7 AM PST Sunday March 13 until 8 AM PST on March 14, the Kindle version of The Cats of Rekem will be offered on Amazon USA for only $2.99!

The regular price is $5.99!

Don’t forget to order your copy!

Cats of Rekem chosen as one of IndieReader’s Best of 2015!

 

Exciting news for The Cats of Rekem!

IndieReader has selected The Cats of Rekem as one of the

Best Self-Published Books of 2015!

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To check out all of IndieReader’s top picks, click here.

 

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Cats of Rekem Goodreads Giveaway!

 

Starting today, November 21st!

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Cats of Rekem by C.L. Francisco

The Cats of Rekem

by C.L. Francisco

Giveaway ends December 05, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Rave reviews for The Cats of Rekem!

 

The first 3 reviews are in for The Cats of Rekem!

 

Indie_5“The Cats of Rekem is an intriguing and beautifully written consideration of the life of Jesus and the meaning of his teachings, offered from a novel perspective. The writing is poetic and lush, with moments of tender emotion, spiritual ecstasy and sorrow, enlivened by touches of humor . . . 5 stars!”

IndieReader

 

SPR-WIdget-4Half“The Cats of Rekem is a wonderful addition to historical fiction . . . a fascinating interpretation of Jesus, his life, and how he impacted those around him . . . clever and magical . . . well-balanced with a twist . . . a powerful lesson for today! 4 1/2 stars!”

Self Publishing Review

 

Midwest“The Cats of Rekem represents spiritual fantasy at its best . . .brimming with flavor . . . the feel of the times springs to life . . . scintillatingly haunting . . . Christian fantasy readers will find it a delightful adventure!”

                                    — Midwest Book Review

 

Read the full reviews HERE.

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Cats of Rekem now available!

 

Now available!

The Cats of Rekem

Kindle and Paperback!

 

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The Cats of Rekem: The Sequel to Yeshua’s Cat
by C. L. Francisco
 

“We are the cats of Rekem, descended from the sacred cats of the Egyptian temple of Bast. We bear the Mother’s gift of language, passed down since the days before time began, so that we might speak our wisdom into the minds of the troubled human race. We gather here to honor Yeshua ben Yosef, friend of cats—He Who Brings Life to the Earth—whose light shines upon all flesh, animal and human alike.”

The Cats of Rekem opens in the fabled city of Rekem (Petra, Jordan), capital of ancient Nabataea, destroyed by earthquake and swallowed up by desert sands long ago. Francisco brings Rekem to swirling, glittering life, in a kaleidoscopic pageant of exotic characters from a lost culture that reached its peak during the days of Jesus of Nazareth. On the fringes of Rekem’s urban clamor, cats quietly sun themselves, eavesdropping and speaking their thoughts into human minds as the need arises.

25 years have passed in Rekem since the child Yeshua’s rescue (in A Cat Out of Egypt) by Zaidan, a powerful caravan master, and Tikos, an Egyptian priestess fleeing Egypt with a pregnant temple cat from Bubastis. Tikos and Zaidan have married. The Egyptian cats have interbred with wild cats from the hills, and their descendants settled throughout the city with their chosen humans.

In an age of relentless empire building, the independent Nabataeans stubbornly hold to their own traditions, defying the advancing Roman Empire and Israel’s grasping Herod Antipas. Yet Rekem is increasingly caught up in the tide of strange new religions sweeping through the Roman world. Zaidan, Tikos, and their family worship Yeshua’s One God and cherish ties with the risen Yeshua, but the dark mysteries of Isis seduce their daughter Hinat into the goddess’ temple. When Tikos steps in to protect Hinat, King Aretas is enraged by her insult to the gods who stand behind his throne. All of Zaidan’s clan lie beneath the threat of his simmering wrath.

Into this turmoil stumbles a bemused young Apostle Paul, smuggled out of Damascus by Zaidan’s sons, Yeshua’s cat Mari, and Mary Magdalene. Still reeling from his vision on the Damascus road, Paul is painfully confused about what his new life might be. His arrival in Rekem attracts the palace’s attention, loosing a flood of scandal and violence that endangers everyone around him . . . as well as threatening his own future before it can even begin.

 

The Cats of Rekem: Coming this fall!

 

Coming November 1, 2015!

The Cats of Rekem

3rd book in the Yeshua’s Cats series!

The third book in the Yeshua’s Cats series, The Cats of Rekem, will be released on November 1!  Joining characters from A Cat Out of Egypt many years later, The Cats of Rekem (or Petra) follows them through Yeshua’s death and resurrection, and into the earliest days of the Apostle Paul’s sojourn in Arabia.

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Mark your calendars for Christmas gifts now!

 

Click here to read more

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The Acts of John, a Gnostic gospel

 

“Grace dances . . . dance, all of you!”
The Acts of John

Heresy vs orthodoxy is the stuff that breeds wars, and Church history is full of it. Without getting into a discussion of Church councils and the creation of the Christian canon, I’d like to look at a 2nd C gnostic gospel that was pronounced heretical—and see what it might say to us today.

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St Ignatius of Antioch, Enemy of Docetism

St Ignatius of Antioch, Enemy of Docetism

The Acts of John was condemned by Church fathers as docetic (docetism is the belief that Jesus’ humanity and physical body were an illusion). To modern eyes John can be a peculiar book, full of bizarre notions and unappealing ideas—particularly its contention that the spirit of Christ abandoned the man Jesus to suffer on the cross alone, while the divine essence stood apart, untouched by pain.

 

But if you can set that notion aside, The Acts of John offers a number of intriguing thoughts. Perhaps most familiar is a lovely passage known as “The Circle Dance of the Cross,” in which, the night before his death, Jesus invites all his disciples to form a circle and dance around him. Those of you who have read Yeshua’s Cat may recognize the last four lines of the quote below as part of Yeshua’s conversation with his mother before he left Nazareth for the last time.

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Here is an edited version of the original text:

[Jesus] stood in the circle’s center and said, “Answer ‘Amen’ to everything I say.” Then he began to sing a hymn, saying:
“Glory be to you, Father.”
And we, moving around him in a ring, answered him: “Amen.”
“We praise you, O Father; we give thanks to you, O Light where darkness cannot dwell.”
“Amen.”
“I would be saved, and I would save.”
“Amen.”
“I would be freed, and I would free.”
“Amen.”
“I would be wounded, and I would wound.”
“Amen.”
“I would be born, and I would give birth.”
“Amen.”
“I would eat, and I would be eaten.”
“Amen.”
“I would hear, and I would be heard.”
“Amen.”
“I would be thought of, being wholly thought.”
“Amen.”
“I would be washed, and I would wash.”
“Amen.”
“Grace dances. I would pipe; dance, all of you.”
“Amen.”
“I would mourn: lament, all of you.”
“Amen . . .”
“The Whole on high takes part in our dancing.”
“Amen.”
“Whoever does not dance cannot understand what is coming to pass.”
“Amen.”
“I would flee, and I would stay.”
“Amen.”
“I would adorn, and I would be adorned.”
“Amen.”
“I would be united, and I would unite.”
“Amen . . .”
“A lamp am I to you who behold me.”
“Amen.”
“A mirror am I to you who perceive me.”
“Amen.”
“A door am I to you who knock at me.”
“Amen.”
“A way am I to you a wanderer . . . “

Picasso, "Dance of Youth"

Picasso, “Dance of Youth”

Christian mystics down through the centuries have used the metaphor of dance to describe the human relationship to God, and I found John’s Circle Dance delightful.

Well, I mused, if The Acts of John can include the Circle Dance, what else might I find? So I examined the book more closely. Another idea present throughout the book is that Jesus appeared in many different guises while he walked the earth. I must admit that John’s list allows for a few more possibilities than the canonical gospels: a child, a young handsome man, a youth just bearding, a middle-aged balding man, a small ugly man, a huge heavenly man, a being of whiteness and light, a man with a soft yielding body, a man whose body was hard as stone, a body firm to the touch, and a body with no physical solidity at all. John describes the significance of these guises with the words, “. . . his great grace, his unity that had many faces . . . “

Those words reminded me of recent critics in the search for the historical Jesus who point out that people of every age have tried to mold Jesus into their own ideal of who he should be—thus hopelessly muddying the waters for anyone trying to discern the true historical person.

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But here’s my thought: what if Jesus’ message right from the beginning was intended to be a message for all ages and all people? What if his message always had access points that could lead people along diverse paths to the One through him? What if he included embryonic possibilities in his teaching that could support every positive interpretation ever put on his original message? Everything from human rights, the light within, and justice—to caring for the environment and liberation theology? What if most Christian heresies, while diverging from the mainstream, have a unique glimmer of this truth?

Unfortunately, we as humans too often seize on glimmers of truth as if they were the final and complete word of God rather than single facets. Just so the Church has long been at fault for trying to narrow Jesus’ message to fit their limited understanding, enclosing it within a box made to their order. In the hands of the Church, too often the multifaceted diamond of Jesus’ message has been transformed into a stony concretion in crumbling stone—frozen and trapped beneath masses of accumulated tradition.

“His unity that had many faces . . .” is one insight from The Acts of John that we might wish to heed. What if one of Jesus’ primary goals—long obscured by human ignorance—was to bring healing to the shattered images of the One, fragmented for so long among human cultures? What if he offered freedom, and the brilliant unity of God’s countenance, to all people—and we have warped them instead into shadow and condemnation?

Just a thought.

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Photo from thefreedomexperiment.com

 

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