Q&A with novelist M.D House – Barabbas Trilogy

At last, we have the final instalment from Christian novelist M.D. House, The Barabbas Legacy.

In The Barabbas Trilogy, M.D. House has imagined the life Barabbas went on to live after being spared his sentence of death in exchange for Jesus Christ. His journey has intertwined with those of many of the apostles, including Paul, Peter and Luke, as they sacrificed everything to spread the Gospel throughout the world.

Now, author House concludes the story of Barabbas’ life in the final chapter of the trilogy, The Barabbas Legacy, which follows Barabbas and his wife Chanah as they continue their evangelistic mission across the known world as cauldrons of political and military chaos boil across the Roman Empire.

About the novel, House says, “As I’ve journeyed with Barabbas, his family, the apostle Paul, and the centurion Cornelius, I remind myself that God loves each of his children equally, aiding them in the best ways possible in all ages of the earth. He sent his son to advocate for all of us, from our first earthly parents, Adam and Eve, to the very last baby born before the advent of Christ’s millennial reign. We may become discouraged amid hardship or persecution. The early saints struggled with it as well. But Christ is faithful, and there is nothing in our experiences or in our “modernity” that he doesn’t understand completely. Continued trust in him will be well-rewarded, both now and in the next life.”

After completing intensive historical research into the Roman Empire, House crafted a novel that works to give readers a sense of the world the early saints inhabited as they made their way through Rome and interacted with historical figures like Emperor Nero. As in the first two volumes, several notable historical figures and events are woven into Barabbas’ story, such as Nero, General Vespasian and his son Titus, and the final siege of Jerusalem.

About the author and Q&A

M.D. HOUSE is the author of The Barabbas Legacy, as well as the first two volumes in The Barabbas Trilogy, I Was Called Barabbas and Pillars of Barabbas. He also authored the science-fiction novel, Patriot Star. Before beginning his second career as a writer, he worked for twenty-five years in the world of corporate finance, strategic planning, and business development. Now, Michael lives in Utah with his wife, where he spends his time writing and enjoying his children and grandchildren. Learn more about Michael and his work at www.mdhouselive.com.

Book 3 of the Barabbas series, The Barabbas Legacy, deals directly with major world events and travels more broadly than the prior two volumes.

1. What excited you most about these new journeys?

As I’ve journeyed with Barabbas, his family, the apostle Paul, and the centurion Cornelius, researching many of the places they could have travelled and the events they may have witnessed, my desire to know the people of that time and those places has intensified. My respect for them has also grown. How did they survive, and even thrive, in circumstances so difficult and often desperate?

I remind myself that God loves each of his children equally, aiding them in the best ways possible in all ages of the earth. He sent his son to advocate for all of us, from our first earthly parents, Adam and Eve, to the very last baby born before the advent of Christ’s millennial reign.

  1. What research into the history and politics of the time did you do?

History is written by the victors. It is also often changed later by those in power who seek to cast a particular light on past events, groups of people, etc. in order to promote current political or social aims. With that in mind, I used what I consider the most reliable of the ancient sources—the New Testament—and built frameworks from there that made sense given some of the secular histories and our common human nature.

Why is the New Testament proving with every passing day (note the fantastic ongoing work of Biblical archeologists) to be our most accurate source of historical truth? Because Jesus Christ won the supreme victory, and he actively inspired its writing, even after his ascension. To call him the ultimate historian is a vast understatement.

P.S. If you want to learn more about recent archeological discoveries firming up the historical foundations of the Bible, check out Eric Metaxas’s new book, “Is Atheism Dead?” You won’t regret it.

  1. Other significant Biblical figures make appearances in the novel. How did you choose them?

The apostle Paul continues to play a prominent role, and that has been a personal blessing. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying his epistles, trying to understand better both what he taught and who he was. Among the other apostles, we get to know Philip a bit, along with Thomas. We also, of course, see a number of the apostles being martyred. Dates are hard to pin down, but between 65 and 75 AD, the apostles may have lost half their number, which was a staggering blow. We know others were called, as was Matthias (who replaced Judas Iscariot), but at some point the apostleship sadly (and literally) died out.

I loved Cornelius’s new role in Legacy. He’s older, he has grown children, he’s no longer in the Roman legions, and he is a great asset to the burgeoning Church of Christ. It was so much fun to journey with him a final time as well.

Finally, we encounter Mary Magdalene—and one of her daughters—in Legacy. There is some evidence she moved to Armenia, which is a fascinating place to research (and on my bucket list to visit someday). Perhaps her presence there still lingers powerfully, as Armenia, which was the first officially Christian country, is still almost 95% Christian. Amazing.

  1. What significant non-Biblical historical figures appear in the story?

We see Nero’s final scenes, and then we get the brutal year of four emperors … which must have made many Christians believe the world had gone stark, raving mad and Christ needed to return ASAP. The most significant figures to this story are Vespasian and his son Titus. Vespasian was a respected general who came out on top in that fateful year of emperor roulette. His son Titus (who also later become emperor) engineered the final siege of Jerusalem.

That event, prophesied by Christ himself, was almost too horrific to contemplate. Jerusalem, swollen with pilgrims to a population of nearly one million people, lost as much as 90 percent of its population, effectively ending the Jewish state for nearly two thousand years.

  1. What are the primary themes of the capstone of the trilogy?

The triumphs and failures of the early saints, in the context of the fierce maelstrom of the human condition—which was no different then than it is now—gave backdrop to a fascinating opportunity to explore my own strong desire for the Lord’s return. We may be tempted to focus too many of our pleadings on bringing forth the glorious, joyous day of his coming, while slackening in our efforts to serve others and rejoice in the challenging life we’ve been given.

We can also be tempted to stray from the true path, and for various reasons. We may become discouraged amid hardship or persecution. We may decide to seek joy or solace in succumbing to our passions. Or we may allow “new, superior, modern” ideas to take root in the soil of our souls and sap the strength of the true vine. Apostasy is a very real danger, and it comes in many forms. The early saints struggled with it as well. But Christ is faithful, and there is nothing in our experiences or in our “modernity” that he doesn’t understand completely. Continued trust in him will be well-rewarded, both now and in the next life.

A great example to me of steadiness in the hope of Christ is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the courageous German pastor who opposed Hitler and was executed shortly before the end of World War II. His faith was an active faith, which in the end led him to a courage he had so often feared would elude him. His trust in God through all adversities, diligently focused through the lens of the life and mission of Jesus Christ, engendered in him eternal perspective and full confidence in God’s sure promises. He wrote,

“Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behaviour. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered.”

  1. Why do women play such a prominent role in church leadership as you have imagined it among the early Christian saints?

When Christ established his church, he spent at least forty days training his disciples how to administer it and help it grow. He most certainly would have made it crystal clear how valuable each and every person—male or female, regardless of perceivable physical attributes—was to the growth, function and purpose of the kingdom of God.

That seems obvious to most of us now, but most societies of the time were politically and economically dominated by males, even if those males were often influenced by mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc. (The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, so the saying goes.) Christ’s church was refreshingly different, with men and women both playing prominent roles in decision-making and execution. That was difficult for some people to accept, and persecutions arose from it, but God values all of his children equally, and all have valuable talents that we can only ignore at our peril.

  1. What lessons can today’s readers take away from the lives of the early saints and the men and women who led them?

They were real people, facing real challenges with which each of us can identify. They were steeped in myriad entrenched traditions and doctrines, but their souls had come from the hallowed halls of heaven. Twinges of remembrance reverberated in their hearts when they heard the message of the gospel, when the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior was announced and explained to them.

Their spirits rejoiced, and yet the vicissitudes and temptations of mortality continued to challenge them. Satan continuously tried to beat them down and convince them it wasn’t worth getting back up and trying to be the kind of person Christ had shown them they could become. In their basic essence, our experiences are exactly the same.

Like us, they had ample opportunities to learn that the primary difference between Christ and Satan is that Satan seeks to rule over us for his own glory, while Christ leads us along a path of self-mastery and knowledge that will bring us limitless, joyous glory—both personal and familial—and that is what Christ rejoices in.

  1. Can The Barabbas Legacy help readers strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ?

I certainly hope so, yes. The entire series was written with a scriptural, spiritual foundation, designed to point us toward the Savior and his ever-open arms. I prayed hard in crafting the right messages, and I wasn’t disappointed. As I mentioned, this journey has been an incredible blessing to me. The teachings of Christ are presented throughout, in the words and actions of the various characters, and I’ve endeavoured not only to stay true to the gospel message, but to amplify it any way I can, so that it sings in your heart the way it sings in mine.

Of course, beyond studying the teachings of Christ, or contemplating the stories of his life and the lives of his faithful followers, we must commune with him personally and heed his teachings, continually. The scriptures were not designed to be explained to us by others; only God himself can open them fully to us. But we have to seek him; we have to ask.

We must also remember that redemption is a life-long process. It requires a tremendous amount of work and determination. It’s worth it, especially as we help each other and become unified in following our Savior. Unity in Christ is our true strength, because mortal ethnicity, native language, economic station, etc. don’t matter a whit when it comes to accessing his promised blessings, both here and in the eternities.

  1. What other projects are you working on?

You’ll see at the very end of Legacy that I’ve created an offramp to an intriguing first spin-off. Barabbas’s days of being a primary character are past, but the next generation will forge new paths.

I’ve also begun work on a study guide for the Barabbas series—or perhaps three of them, one for each book. The Barabbas Companion will provide some additional valuable resources, interesting facts, and fun insights into the process of creating this series. I’m already enjoying it more than I expected to.

For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Christians), I’m just about to launch a novel about man previously referred to only as “the servant of Helaman.” That will, in fact, be the title. Political intrigues, questions of faith in Christ, and the horrible impacts of violent conflict will make this an intense ride over a short period of time (~ two years), taking place in about 50 BC somewhere in the Americas. The Servant of Helaman is tapping in at about 430 pages, so it’s a bit heftier than the Barabbas books.

Draft two of Kindred Star, science fiction sequel to Patriot Star, is also complete. There’s much work left to be done, especially as these books are much longer. Patriot Star is 800 pages; Kindred Star looks like it will end up at about 700. These are so much fun to write, though (and to read!). While not specifically Christian, they also carry strong religious and moral themes.

Soon, I’ll be starting work on a fantasy book as well, along with a short(ish) Christmas story. Hopefully I can get to all of it quickly!

I’ll be sure to keep people updated on my projects through my website (www.mdhouselive.com) and my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/LiteraryThunder). I’ll do a bit of blogging here and there as well.

  1. Where can readers purchase a copy of Pillars of Barabbas?

The Barabbas Legacy can be purchased on Amazon in both print (soft and hard covers) and e-book. It will soon be available in audiobook on the Amazon/Audible and iTunes platforms as well, narrated by actor Kirby Heyborne. (Note: the number of outlets may expand.)

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