Don Chatelain is a former businesses owner and entrepreneur, church Bible teacher, Elder in the Presbyterian church, camp ministry developer and retired adjunct seminary instructor as a Protestant Evangelical. Don has an artist wife, Martha, two daughters and two grandchildren. Moving to Portland in 2005, Don set up a practice in Business Mentoring for owners, presidents, pastors and executive directors of small enterprises. Having run a dozen small enterprises, Don says "Most owners appreciate single sourcing of business consulting expertise in one trustworthy person by their side." Don also offers his services as an interim CEO, where a given small to mid size company truly needs a "franchise player" to make "course corrections" before a new CEO is hired.
Don's love and research area is first century Protestant Christianity. His Messiah Scrolls Project includes several sub-projects; one of them is the present historical novel, second edition as of February 2014, The Parable of the Messiah Scrolls, about the followers of Jesus at the end of the first century. The Messiah Scrolls draws a deeper personal and social portrait of the famous Apostle John, (first century New Testament author of the Gospel of John, Three Epistles, and Revelation), including a clear, surprising picture of his later life. John, the novel’s protagonist, leads the disciples through tough canonical choices showing the dialogues that led to the Gospels being written by mid first century and then applied to lives, then, and now. While Apostle John is the closest personal friend to the earthly Jesus, he is also best soul mates with the hero of the novel, Tertius Falcon X and his partner, Lydia of Thyatira.
A second keen research interest arises from his research into the first Christian community (Acts 2:41-42) which prefigured 2000 years later, the formation of the modern day megachurch; given substance by the Messiah scrolls novel itself. The History of the Megachurch, an essay by Don Chatelain, with a review by Tom Krattenmaker, published on his website http://www.themessiahscrolls.com/megachurch/.
The novel's organizing question is, "How did ten to twelve rag-tag apostles and their cult leader, Jesus, not only stand down the Roman Empire but, by 74 AD, build two hundred Messiah Communities that eventually established Christianity as a dominant personal, social, cultural and literary force for the next two thousand years?"
In other words, the goal of the full Messiah Scrolls novel is to show in a single biblical and fictional narrative the formation and stunningly rapid growth of the original Christian community.
How much of the novel is Biblically based? What are its key concerns?
Most of the novel's geographical and biblical research is factual. The fictional settlement of Rhakotis (suggested by the recent discovery, near Alexandria, of what may be Ancient Rhakotis) is argued to be the site of the original Christian community, called Community Zero. The novel's main characters are from the Bible, their lives fictionally extended. Other characters have been fictionally constructed from various personalities in the first century. Concerns of the novel include:
The novel makes an imaginative leap: what if the authors of the Gospels had used Holy Spirit-inspired time travel to re-visit the key events of Jesus' ministry, in order to confirm that their Scriptural accounts were as authoritative and accurate as (super) humanly possible?
During visions of other times, the time travelers' actions and words appear in the right-hand yellow column. Occasionally characters' private prayers and meditations appear in the yellow column, along with occasional sections called "Evidence of Provenance" that provide background information.
Some chapters contain lots of talking, or as the first-century Jesus Followers practiced it, "dialogue". In our own time, face to face dialogue is in competition with TV, email, chat rooms, discussion forums, instant messaging, twittering, mobile phones, Blackberries, and blogs. While Greco-Roman values and conduct raise concerns, nonetheless, the original Greco-Roman dialogues, as mirrored in this novel, were high arts of community and theology.
Informed and mentored by their closeness to The Risen Christ, and with much less distraction from media culture, dialogues of the first century Christians included divine guidance and intervention coming from within as the Holy Spirit resided in each believer. [As an example, see John 14:15-17 and the concept of 'mysterion' in the pop-up links.]
John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, has written:
It would be difficult to discuss with ancients the concept of divine intervention, because in their worldview deity was too integrated into the cosmos to intervene in it. For the most part deity is on the inside not the outside. All experience was (is) religious experience. All law was spiritual in nature, all duties were duties to gods; all events had deity as their cause. Life was "religion" & "religion" could not be compartmentalized within life.
- John Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2006, page 87.
Modern day culture has successfully placed John Walton's omnipresent deity almost completely on the outside of one's life, for example, by promoting adulation of a media culture where celebrity stars reign as gods.
Martin Buber accepts the internal or intense inside religious experience as the primary focus for faith - with the proviso that cultural experience itself is salutary (I-it) and restoration of the personal and divine relationships (I-you and I-Thou) are primary.
While the author is concerned about disputed scholarly questions relative to the first century Christian communities, in addition, biblical scholarship has in recent decades run amok, discrediting or distorting the New Testament authors, their writings, and the central personage of their writing, Jesus Christ himself, as both man and God. This discrediting and distortion is blasphemy.
The literary structure of the Messiah Scrolls combines biblical fact with prose/narrative fiction, both of which inform the meaning of the final form of the Canonical text. David Bauer and Robert Traina emphasize that inductively approached exegesis finds
this final form is, in fact, the only text that actually exists today. All earlier sources or redactional (editorial) processes that may lie behind the text and could have contributed to the development of the text are more or less speculative in terms of whether they ever existed or their specific character or shape. In any case these earlier stages of the tradition no longer have a material existence but are scholarly constructions.
- David R. Bauer and Robert A. Traina, Inductive Bible Study A Comphrensive Guide to the Practice of Hermeneutics, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2011, page 3.
While the Messiah Scrolls for purposes of good, solid literary structure includes many scholarly constructions, all scripture references arise from meanings of the final form of the Canonical text.
Academic scholarship and Christian historical fiction aside, the primary concern of being Christian is believing and living as Jesus taught (referred to in the novel as the Jesus Praxis), and as the New Testament records and affirms.
In our world of attention deficits and budget deficits, authentically understanding (e.g., authorial intent) the Scriptures of our faith is the Christian's new currency. Within ourselves - when Christians live within this currency, leveraging the psycho-social benefits of truly knowing our faith - then and only then can we make earnest Christ-embedded decisions, aiding all our brothers and sisters (Christian and otherwise), our homes, our communities, and the world in which we live.
What then was it like to live in the first century, believing in one God while living among nations that lived in many ways with many gods? Then to live in the time and text of The Story within the first century Christ Culture - Yes it's true - in the first century as now in the 21st century - There is only one Holy God of three component substances; Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Here is what we find: What you read is all there is. Lives are lived based on the history in which they participate. The historical fact of God the Father giving Followers to Jesus the Son, who sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within each Follower, consumed the first century heart, mind (conscience and energos) and spirit embedded soul (Ruach: Presence of the Holy Spirit). This Trinity became a Presence that compelled them and compels each of us as readers, to connect with the characters, who listen, give and take with other Jesus Followers as they are guided to historic decision making, in the original Christian community.
In the spirit of dialogue, Don Chatelain/Tertius 29 welcomes your annotations to the text, your feedback in the vBulletin forums, as well as direct discussion of the novel's ideas (and the scholarship it draws upon) via e-mail or letter (using the Project mailing address on the payment by check page).
Thanks for reading and participating.
Don Chatelain, Tertius 29