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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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.
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
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
"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!
by Raymond Robert Fischer