What if your brother was the most controversial figure in the history of the world and your job was to protect him? That’s the challenge faced by the Rabbi James of Jerusalem — whom the Bible identifies as “the brother of the Lord” — in MY BROTHER’S KEEPER, an inspired retelling of the Christian story by author Bill Kassel.
What can James do to fulfill a deathbed promise to his father, Joseph, and save Jesus, the Nazarene prophet who is stirring contention among the Jewish religious leadership and the Roman occupiers?
The only hope of keeping his brother from a gruesome death is James’ cordial relationship with the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who turns to him for guidance in matters of Jewish law and custom. Indeed, Pilate views James with the utmost respect, even seeing him as a possible successor to the corrupt high priest, Caiaphas.
Protecting Jesus becomes the consuming focus of James’ life as his brother runs afoul of the temple authorities, and Zealot rebels attempt to exploit his popularity — their goal to foment a revolution against the hated Romans. But can even such a widely admired man of honor and learning as James calm the fears of change stirred by Jesus and his movement? Who can counter the forces of politics, greed and corruption that loom over a First-Century Palestine ready to explode?
Inspired by writings handed down from the earliest days of Christianity, MY BROTHER’S KEEPER tracks the lives of individuals instantly recognizable as religious/cultural icons. But it presents new insights into who those people were, how they lived, and what was going on around them.
The book paints a rich portrait of James, youngest son of the widowed carpenter and builder, Joseph of Nazareth. It reveals how the teenage Mary is placed into Joseph’s care, and relates the perilous circumstances under which Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt with her newborn son to escape the murderous King Herod.
As the story unfolds, we follow James’ adventures through the intrigues of Jerusalem. We watch him train under the great sage, Hillel, to become a rabbi; play a key role in reform efforts within the Sanhedrin; and fall in love with the beautiful Avigail who shares his passion for knowledge and Jewish tradition.
Years later — now a famous scholar and counselor known as James the Just — James attempts to forge a link with Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, in anticipation of having to intercede for his brother. But controversy continues to build around the spiritual mission Jesus has launched. And despite James’ desperate struggle, the political maneuvering by religious and civil leaders puts intense pressure on Pilate, making Jesus’ crucifixion inevitable.
MY BROTHER’S KEEPER is an imaginative and riveting historical/religious novel in the tradition of such bible-based classics as Ben Hur, The Robe, and The Silver Chalice. It offers a sweeping vision of a nation at its tipping point — a proud and ancient people facing economic stress, political division, and the specter of radicalism and violence, conditions not unlike those of our own time. This is a sprawling tale with a fresh and compelling perspective on Jesus and his family that will make you reconsider the story that’s at the very heart of Western Civilization.
MY BROTHER’S KEEPER is available as an eBook in all electronic reader formats…
• Mobi — for Kindle
• ePub — for iBook or Nook
…and can be ordered from BookBaby (380 pages for only $5.99)…
…and other fine online eBook retailers.
Praise for MY BROTHER’S KEEPER:
“From the opening words of Bill Kassel’s novel we are drawn into the complex and colorful world of First Century Israel. The reader is caught up in the drama of Christ through the eyes of Jesus’ natural family. Kassel’s work is unconventional, exciting and controversial, offering fresh insights and inspiration for believers and non-believers alike.”
— Fr. Dwight Longenecker
Blogger and Author of
The Romance of Religion
“Bill Kassel has taken a very different approach to the Christian story. His is not the conventional Christmas card portrait of the Holy Family. Rather, he has delved deeply into the earliest writings in Church Tradition and offered some compelling suppositions about what was going on around Jesus and how the people closest to him might have been affected by it. He has crafted a plot that’s engaging to the modern reader and, surprisingly, doesn’t contradict Scripture.”
Fr. Joe Krupp, Columnist
“What consternation falls upon a family, a village, a society in which the Son of God presents himself as a member? Historical fiction must combine an engaging plot with well-drawn characters while also paying careful attention to the politics, customs, religious devotion, styles of clothing, civil laws and household codes, dietary habits, forms of labor and entertainment, civic rituals and the social relationships of an earlier historical period.
Bill Kassel is a veteran novelist. He can handle all that. But in My Brother’s Keeper, he has the added task of insuring fidelity to the mystery of the Incarnation. It takes unusual skill to imaginatively strive to get behind the eyes of those closest to Jesus. Or to sympathetically profile the reactions of the Pharisees who, we often forget, were the most devout of the Jewish sects.
Kassel performs all these literary tasks with grace and a light touch that draws the reader into the Jewish social and spiritual world of two thousand years ago. What kind of sibling rivalry exists when one of the children is the Son of God? How do you educate him when he is the Wisdom of God? He created the universe, but how does he learn to work with his hands? Kassel elaborates, adapts and embroiders but never contradicts the biblical material. This is a creative and stimulating form of meditation that entertains like a novel but edifies like a prayer. Enjoy it.”
Al Kresta, Host
“Kresta In the Afternoon”
Ave Maria Radio/EWTN
“If I lived in the time of Jesus, who would I think He was? What would I have believed about Him? Would I have espoused His teachings? It wasn’t like being raised Catholic in the 20th century. MY BROTHER’S KEEPER made me realize in a fresh, new way how hard it was, in Jesus’ time, for many people — especially Jews — to believe in Jesus and how amazing His mission really was.”
Ave Maria Radio
MY BROTHER’S KEEPER