The Door Where it Began
by Raymond Robert Fischer


From the outset, I intended The Door Where it Began to be a heartfelt, loving testimony of thanksgiving to Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus Christ) my Lord, my God, and the font of my salvation. Both my darling wife, Donna, and my dear friend and editor, Bill Eldridge commented upon reading the first draft that I had succeeded in doing so. Bill wrote:

I really like this book. It is extremely well written! It flows like the Jordan River on a spring day. I found it to be not only exciting from the perspective of what is going to happen next, how are the lives intertwined, what is the relationship going to be, etc, but also it is clearly the most glorifying historical fiction book written that I have read.

Let me explain: Drew, Carla, Sheldon, Matthias, and Dory are not really the central characters of this book. And whether I was a Christian or not I would come to the same conclusion: Yeshua is! There is no debate on the subject. I know that was your intent, but I don't know if you realize just how powerfully that has come across. The presence and impact of the Almighty God of Israel is evident in every chapter and on just about every page. There is not a single character, who does not in some fashion glorify God through actions or words. He truly is the focus.

If indeed Bill's glowing assessment of this work is by any means correct, then any attendant glory arising from all this, most assuredly, is not creditable to me. Whatever glory there may be is entirely His, the Lord God of Israel's. Throughout the entire almost two year process of bringing this novel forth, I had the clear sense I was being held closely in the hollow of His Holy Hand, and guided every step of the way.
Unlike any of my earlier writings, I found my role in this current writing to be more that of a recorder than a creator as the intertwined millennia, life's challenges, and relationships of its characters played out before me in the theater of my mind.
By way of example, in March, 2004 I was completing a photographic based DVD teaching on the many Bible sites in the Galilee. I had, for no particular reason, saved nearby Capernaum for last in the process that had already yielded well in excess of 1,000 digital pictures.

Thus, one fine morning, as I was about to turn my car into the parking area at Capernaum, I heard a "still quiet voice" in my inner being tell me quite clearly: "No, my son, not here---continue on around to Tel Hadar on the other side of the Lake."
Given that we had already lived in Tiberias for nearly thirteen years and I had never before been to Tel Hadar, nor had the slightest understanding of its significance or even its location, I was quite taken aback by this clear direction which I immediately set out to follow.

During the previous thirteen years, I had driven around the Lake any number of times and had never seen even a hint that a place called Tel Hadar was anywhere to be found along the eastern shore. Even so, it came as no surprise to me that about a third of the way heading south along the shore-side highway, two remarkable simultaneous events occurred: I saw a clearly visible sign "Tel Hadar" with an arrow indicating I should turn right at the next primitive road. At the same moment, I once again heard the "still quiet voice" instruct me simply. "Turn right here."

A few moments later I found myself standing in front of a shore-side monument that had been identified and marked in 1969 by the famous Catholic archeologist, Bargil Pixner. It seems this was the site of Yeshua's second feeding of the multitude where he miraculously fed some 4,000, many of whom He also healed (Mark 8:1-10). It wasn't until very late that night, as I prayerfully tried to find some relevance in all this, that the Lord began to reveal His purpose. He did so by posing two questions, to which He almost immediately supplied what seemed to me to be His own responses.
"Who were these four thousand whom I fed and healed at Tel Hadar?" He asked. "And, from where did they come and then where did they go?"

Then I heard at once: "They were mostly Gentiles---non-Jews---pagans some of whom had followed me to this place all the way from Sidon." (a city now in modern day Lebanon). The answer continued: "The rest of these dear ones were mostly from communities located along the Eastern shore of the lake, and among these, most were from the nearby ancient mountain top city of Hippos."

Then, in a sudden revelation I understood that many of these miraculously fed, divinely healed, and most certainly newly "born again" non-Jewish believers in Yeshua, even as many as several hundred of them, immediately returned to Hippos, which up to that point had been a blatantly pagan community. Certainly, it was there on their home turf in Hippos, that these very first Gentile believers must have sought some way to communally worship their newly embraced Yeshua. It is thus my studied conclusion and contention that they did indeed establish the very first Gentile Christian Church on that site.

Let me say, trying not to get ahead of the amazing story that follows, there is a convincing body of both documented and anecdotal evidence: scriptural, historical and archeological that, I believe strongly supports this idea. There was a Gentile Christian Church, not only in Hippos, but scattered throughout the vast region of the Decapolis, at least some twenty years before the Apostle Paul took his first evangelical journey.

There is enormous significance in this! If this pre-Pauline Church hypothesis can be proven, then Church history, as it has been known for two millennia, has, perforce, been remarkably re-written. Consider this: the Gentile Christian Church would thus be shown to have its origin in the Decapolis of Israel, not in Rome! The first Gentile Christians would likely have been discipled by Torah-observant Jewish believers who dwelled in large numbers on the Western shore, extending all the way to nearby Kursi, just 3 kilometers north of Tel Hadar. There would have been, at least at the outset, a presumed sense of unity between the two groups of believers: the Jews to the West and the Gentiles to the East.

Taking this new understanding of early Church history as a point of departure, the book you hold in your hand traces the development of the two parts of the Body of Yeshua (a.k.a. the Church) though parallel stories of representative characters from the first century and from modern times. I am certain that the lives of all born again believers, irrespective of the barrier of time, are and forever will be inexorably and gloriously intertwined. One of my purposes in telling these two intertwined parallel stories is to add a new, refreshed meaning to the words of our Lord, Yeshua who told us:
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. (John 17:9-12)

If I were asked to forthrightly state the central theme of this book in one word and then briefly state why I, by His hand, have brought it forth, I would have to say that the central theme is Unity and the purpose of this writing is to promote anew, Unity in the Body of Yeshua as I have become persuaded it likely existed in the very early years of this blessed Body's existence.

Finally, you will note that the format I have used for this work is quite unique. I have "officially" labeled this as a novel; i.e., a work of fiction. I have done so in the interest of good scholarship since a portion of the evidence I have used along the way is anecdotal---"a portion" but certainly not all. Given this mix of documented and undocumented evidence from a great variety of sources, I have made it a point to document the book, as if it were a scholarly work of non-fiction, with a number of endnotes for the reader's guidance. I have also used a number of photographs of selected subjects that will, I trust, add further credence to the ideas I have brought forth.

In the end, my prayer is that you will find this reading at the very least entertaining, as you might any good work of fiction, but even more, that it might be otherwise edifying and cause many to reevaluate what has up to now been regarded as "accepted" Church history.

Finally, I pray that you will indeed find Yeshua and His blessed gospel among these pages and having done so that you will be greatly blessed.

Tiberias, Israel
September, 2005

Chapter One

Manhattan, November, 1930

Marcus Frank Sterling, who, since his early adulthood had presented himself to the world as "Mark Francis Sterling," shivered under the meager protection of his inadequate summer weight overcoat. Now, as the biting cold wind assaulted him head on, he hurriedly made his way toward the Union Carbide building at 247 Park Avenue.

It wasn't only the near freezing, early snow threatening conditions of this particular Monday morning that produced in Mark what he vainly hoped were no visible signs of his growing terror. Rather, it was far more the critically important employment interview, scheduled to begin in just 15 minutes that seriously compounded what had become his tremble producing, soul deep uncertainty concerning his future.

Indeed, the outcome of this forthcoming meeting represented much more than potential employment. Rather, it was a matter of basic survival; not just his own physical survival in the New York-centered deeply troubled economic depression wracked world in which he inescapably dwelled, but also, the very survival of his deeply loved and indescribably adored new bride, Leila, who now waited expectantly, and trustingly for him in their tiny, almost entirely unfurnished apartment on Allerton Avenue in the Bronx.

Mark's heart surged at the very thought of Leila, and the nine most wonderful months of his life since they had stood together before a somewhat reluctant young rabbi in the small, exclusively family attended ceremony in her mother's apartment.
Leila was everything to him: extraordinarily beautiful, deeply devoted, the very essence of sweetness with a lingering naivety that was something more deeply rooted than simply the unbridled innocence of her youth.

Mark's trembling surged in a sudden new wave as he once again acknowledged the great depth of his newly acquired responsibility for another person's well being. Leila was a mere child, only eighteen. She not only adored him, but she was totally dependent upon him in every way and for every thing.

Mark's mind raced as the elevator hurriedly transported him to the offices of the National Carbon Company that occupied the entire eighteenth floor. Suddenly, he found himself standing before the imposing closed heavy wooden door upon which the occupant who waited for him on the other side was duly identified by imposing hand carved raised wooden block letters as "Daniel A. Brandon, Director of Sales and Technical Services."

Daniel Brandon's seemingly instinctive ability to instantaneously screen, analyze then evaluate those whom he encountered had never failed him, and now he was immediately impressed with the strikingly handsome, dark complexioned, brown eyed, twenty-three year old job applicant with whom he exchanged a gripping introductory handshake.

"Have a seat, Mark," Dan invited warmly and encouragingly, as he pointed to the simple office chair that stood imposingly in front of his large mahogany executive desk. "You come to us highly recommended by our mutual friend, John Samartano. John told me all about your impressive technical and sales skills," Dan set the stage for the probing interrogation to follow." But, if you don't mind, I'd like to learn more about you personally; your ambition and life's goals."

An hour later, Dan had learned even more, than he had wanted to know about Mark Francis Sterling who had stood up well under the pressure of his deliberately intense probing that was now winding to a conclusion. "Mark," Dan announced warmly, smiling broadly for the first time since they had begun their exchange, "I think you will fit in quite well as a member of the team of technical representatives I am assembling to deal with the public regarding our revolutionary new product, Prestone antifreeze. How does a starting salary of $200 a month, a generous expense account and a company car strike you?"

Mark tried to contain his excitement but didn't quite succeed. "I'm very flattered, Dan," he exclaimed, "and I am more than pleased to begin this relationship with the company that I know will grow into an exciting and rewarding career."

"Okay, then," Dan stood and once again shook Mark's hand strongly. "As far as I am concerned, you're hired, but there is the formality of the formal employment application that you'll need to complete for our personnel department. Mind you," Dan's tone suddenly took on a subtly warning tone that Mark immediately sensed: "This application is only a formality, but it is very important. Mark, I must be very honest with you---I want you on my team---okay," he hesitated for only a brief moment before he went on. "The application form requires that you state your religious preference---. You would be very well advised to exercise due caution on this matter---Mark, if you want this job---well, I'm sure you understand----."
"Say no more, Dan," Mark interrupted, "I understand perfectly, and I, ah, ah--- I can't thank you enough."

"You are more than welcome," Dan replied as he handed Mark the two-page formal application. "Please complete this, and drop it by our personnel office before you leave us today. I'm very anxious to get you on board so I'll push them to expedite your application. If all goes well can you begin next Monday?"

"I'll be here with bells on!" Mark relied, making no effort now to conceal his growing pleasure and excitement.

Some time later, Mark had been efficiently ushered into a small private cubicle by a most helpful personnel clerk who offered to provide any assistance he might require regarding any part of the application Mark had already labored over for nearly an hour. He had quickly responded forthrightly to all of the many self obvious questions that confronted him on this imposing and now suddenly threatening formality that stood between him and the financial security he so desperately sought for himself and his precious Leila. Only one question remained---just one more blank to be filled in--- and it was here that he had hesitated, now, unseemly, for almost a half-hour. The remaining blank space lay before his eyes accusingly----"Please state your religious preference."

"Why do I care?" Mark tried unsuccessfully to diminish the gravity of the moment, as he, for the umpteenth time during the past half hour once again reviewed his own religious, or better described non-religious upbringing. After all, his own father had faced a very like situation many years ago when he had opened his now highly successful machine shop in an exclusively Christian Upper East Side neighborhood that serviced a mostly Christian clientele.

"Mark," his father had explained to his confused only son about the time most Christian boys are "confirmed" and nearly all Jewish boys are Bar Mitzvah-ed: "This is America and America is a Christian country---Jews need to fit in--- to be absorbed!"

"But why?" Mark had innocently responded, "Why can't Jews be Americans too?"
"Of course we can be Americans, my darling son! But, in order to survive, first we must be Jews. If a Jew can pass as a Gentile, he'll find it much easier to make a decent living in this troubled world---even to survive! Tell me, Mark," his father had continued, "do you think it was a painless matter for me to change our family name from Silverman to Sterling? Do you really believe it would be just as easy for you to live in the neighborhood, even in this free country where we live if your name was "Marcus Frank Silverman," like your mother insisted that the Mohel write on your certificate of circumcision?

Although he consciously struggled to be resolute in his decision, Mark's hand nevertheless perceptibly trembled as he entered the single word "Protestant" in the last remaining blank.


Dan Brandon was delighted that the personnel people had honored his request to expedite Mark's application. Here it was only Wednesday morning and the approved "New Hire" personnel package had been hand delivered to his office.

Dan smiled knowingly as he began to dial Mark's home number in order to share the good news of his new prodigy's imminent employment As he did so, his eyes were fixed in a contemplative stare at the single word response to what he instinctively had understood would be Mark's most difficult moment.

In a vain effort to somehow ameliorate his own sense of responsibility, he who had been Bar Mitzvah-ed as Daniel Abraham Berkowitz, whispered entirely for his own benefit: "Strange that we both decided to be 'Protestants'---. At least he didn't have to change his name.

Chapter Two

Qumran, Autumn A.D. 26

Even though Matthias looked to him with the same indescribable awe shared by his many thousands of sectarian brothers, there was something very special about his own, deeply personal relationship with their shared spiritual leader---a bigger than life, giant of a man who was known to his Essene brothers, and even to the world outside of their monastic community at Qumran on the Dead Sea, as Eliezar the High Priest, a son of Zadok.

How greatly Matthias treasured this dear man among men, and how thoroughly he loved him---after all, by the grace of God, Eliezar, whom Matthias knew intimately as Abba (father), had personally chosen him and only one other from among the many newly circumcised Jewish male infant foundlings who were left each year at Qumran to be raised and nurtured by the sect into manhood.

Matthias deeply loved and adored the other exclusively selected male child who was now, like himself, a vital young man in his late twenties. It was as if the two of them were genetic, real life twins---this is how their mutual Abba had treated both himself and this his very special, Godly brother---a wonderful, Spirit filled young man who had only recently become known by his quickly growing group of passionately loyal followers as "Yochanan (John) the Baptizer."

Matthias had a deep, soul nourishing love of Shabbat---the twenty-four hours of divinely ordained rest when all Jews, and most emphatically, all Essenes, because of their rigorously religious sectarian devotion, were called to focus every waking moment on drawing ever closer to Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel, King of the Universe.

But for Matthias, Shabbat was an even more wonderful and compelling holy gift than it was for most of his universally worshipful sectarian brothers. For Matthias, Shabbat was the one day of the week when he could joyfully spend several private hours, together with Yochanan, in the intimate presence of their beloved Abba.

On this particular Shabbat afternoon, as he was about to enter Abba's private chambers, Matthias was not unselfishly aware that he would have Abba all to himself; Yochanan, had earlier announced that he was planning to sleep under the stars at nearby Bethabara on the Jordan River so that he could resume his special work for the Lord as the rising sun confirmed the beginning of the first day of a new week. It was thus that Matthias praised God from the depths of his soul for the intimate private time that he would have with his beloved Abba as he entered Eliezar's unimposing, modestly appointed chambers.

"Greetings in the name of our Lord, Yahweh," Eliezar exclaimed as he joyfully embraced Matthias with a near crushing bear hug, the power of which was easily absorbed by his adoring, athletically built, strikingly handsome, olive complexioned adopted son who stood a half-head taller than himself. "You are looking well, my son!" he exclaimed. "What news do you have of your brother, Yochanan?"
Matthias, who had hungered for this moment, once again marveled at Abba's ability to discern his thoughts and immediately go to their heart. "Abba, I'm told that Yochanan has been performing a holy mikvah on an already very large band of followers, and proclaiming the soon coming of Mashiach," he replied.

"Indeed, my precious son," Abba smiled knowingly, his huge, dark brown, Holy Spirit filled eyes, providing instant confirmation that the words his lips were about to utter would flow from the very heart of God, "Your brother Yochanan is the one whom the great prophet Isaiah spoke of : 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth---.' Matthias," Eliezar proclaimed with unabashed fatherly pride, "Your brother has been called to a very special purpose---to proclaim to all who would only listen that God Himself was about to come into the world and dwell among men."

"Abba," Matthias replied, instantly caught up in the overwhelming magnitude of what Abba had shared, "Surely this holy one that Yochanan speaks of must be the first coming of Mashiach, just as our fathers divinely anticipated and recorded long ago in our sect's sacred scrolls?"

"Indeed He is the Mashiach, my son," Abba replied, "but be careful not to confuse Him with the very different Mashiach who is anticipated by the Pharisees. They look for a man sent by God to come at the end of days as a prophet, priest and king, but by no means as God Himself, come in the flesh as a man to be sacrificed once and for all for the sins of men. I can tell you, my son," Eliezar sighed deeply, making no effort to conceal his profound, wrenching sadness, "I know with a certainty that this gross error that flows from the evil heart of Satan himself will indeed condemn legions of our brother Jews to eternal damnation, both now and throughout the coming ages."

"But, Abba," Matthias exclaimed incredulously, "How is it that the soon to come Mashiach will not make himself known to the world as someone far greater than just a prophet, priest and king? Why won't He proclaim Himself as the one whom our fathers precisely wrote about in our sacred scrolls that: He would be descended from the line of King David; he would come into the world as a perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins men, He would appear twice, both imminently and then again at the end of days--- and, most importantly, He would be a 'great God among the Gods'"?

"Remember, my son," Abba replied with continuing sadness, "It is also written in our scrolls that men will reject Him, even though they have heard the undeniable truth of who He is."

"But why, Abba? Why will there be those who know clearly who He is and why He has come---how will any of these still be able to reject Him?

Eliezar responded with a deliberate firmness to underscore the extreme importance of his reply. "My son, it is also written in our scrolls that to know Mashiach---to embrace Him, to follow Him---to have eternal life that can only be gained through Him--- even so, this knowing of Him cannot be willed by any man---it can only be given to each of us through our faith, and then only as an individual gift from God by His loving grace."

"I have heard all of what you have taught, Abba--. But, it is still too awesome for me to fully understand."

Eliezar, smiled with rightful fatherly pride. "You speak with such wisdom for one so young, my son, and you have only erred in one important part of your understanding."
"In what way have I erred, Abba?" Matthias replied, suddenly taken aback.

"You could have had no way of knowing this, my son," Eliezar fell to his knees as he replied under the power of the awesome truth he was about to share. "The Mashiach is no longer soon to come---He is already in the world! He will soon be with your brother, Yochanan---you must go to them without delay!

Copyright 2011 by Raymond Robert Fischer