In the twelfth year of Emperor Tiberius's reign, a new Roman procurator was sent to the eastern Mediterranean to govern the subject land of Judaea. Some ten years later, he was removed from office for a misdeed and exiled to Gaul, where he may have committed suicide. The man, Pontius Pilate, could never have imagined that his name would be forever fixed in history through a minor event of those years in Palestine - his sentencing to death of an accused rebel, a Jew named Jesus.
Palestine was the scene of great political, social, and religious upheaval in the two centuries surrounding the life of Jesus. The Romans under Pompey arrived as conquerors in 63 BCE. Not until CE 135, two centuries later, was Roman mastery of the troublesome Jewish homeland made complete. The Jews, inheritors and guardians of an ancient belief in a single, all-powerful God, were dispersed to many lands.
The followers of Jesus, originally a minor sect within Judaism, eventually forged a powerful religion out of the belief that he was the Messiah. As different as they remain, Judaism and Christianity share a common reverence for the Old Testament and for the Holy Land, where Jesus once walked, and where, since 1948, the Jewish state of Israel has flourished.
Here is the story of a land in ferment and the growth of these two faiths. It forms an absorbing and important historical chronicle.