Coming November 1, 2016!
Cat Born to the Purple: A Sequel to Yeshua’s Cat
4th book in the Yeshua’s Cats series!
The continuing story of the young woman healed by Yeshua after being stoned by her neighbors in Yeshua’s Cat
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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Because of the author’s health concerns, no new posts will appear during January and February of 2016. I hope to see you back in the spring!
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“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!”
“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
“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.
“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 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.