The perfect way to honor and dishonor Christmas simultaneously – give a novel that recognizes the reality of Jesus without the fantasies of divinity. A novel that accounts for every bizarre action, every “miracle”, every lecture by Jesus, and makes sense of them all by contextualizing them within the Roman Occupation that he fought against.
He chased 2,000 pigs off a cliff… why? Whose were they? What was important to him about the number 2,000?
He talked of the Good Samaritan. Why did Jews think of the Samaritans as bad? Why did Jesus want them considered good?
He talked of a son of man being dead and buried and resurrected on the third day… then he waited until the third day to “resurrect” Lazarus. (He himself was only buried for a day and a half before his body was taken from the tomb… Friday evening to Sunday morning.)
He “appeared” after his death, twice – the first time telling the disciples not to tough him because he wasn’t ascended, the second time insisting Thomas touch him although he still wasn’t ascended. Why the discrepancy?
“The Gospel According to the Romans” tells the story through the eyes of Matthew Levi, the Roman agent working as a tax collector (and therefore spy) for the Romans in Galilee. it tells what we know of Jesus’ partially Romanized childhood, of the uprisings in Galilee against the Romans, and of Jesus’ failed attempt to take over the Temple at Passover.
This is Jesus as the Jews and Romans of his time saw him. It is the perfect Christmas gift for the atheist, agnostic, or Roman or Jewish historian on your list!