The First Section
How is it possible to write a book about a first century religious figure and still make readers feel they are a part of the story. The most convenient way is to start on a college campus with a discussion between two students walking into a large auditorium to take their final exam. At first this might appear to be a bit of a stretch. However, the college campus scenario is one that many people look back on with great memories. The combination of academic research, learning, freedom from institutional public education and for the first time and making your own decisions can be exhilarating. Aside from those benefits, believing you know everything is short lived. For when you move on from your college days you realize with each passing day that you know extraordinarily little.
So, the story to be told begins on a college campus. It revolves around two young men who are anxious to complete the exam and to be done with their “antiquities” course. Prior to the exam though, apprehension is expressed because of the unpredictability of the professor and the variety of exams posted from previous classes. They both express the fact that there is no way to prepare for the exam. The element of surprise comes after it is announced ay the beginning of the class that the professor had just been presented with an extremely large grant. Assuming the professor would invest in himself and his program, the class is excited to hear he is going to invest part of the award to this class. He has arranged for the twenty students to travel (in pairs) to a different part of the world in search of the best piece of antiquity they could locate and to present it to the class in two weeks. And it would be this presentation that would determine their final grade. All expenses will be paid, all flights have been arranged, the student just need to get home, pack, and get to the airport. Prior to departure though the students must come to the front and pick out a slip of paper that informs them they will be traveling too. These two kids pick Xi’an China, the home of the Terra Cotta Soldier dig site. Totally unaware of the significance of this site along with being inexperienced travelers, the two meet at the airport to start their adventure.
On the flight they discuss their plan at to what places they will visit and what they might be looking for. They also realize that they only have four days in Xi’an and then they will fly up to Beijing to finish out the trip before they must head home with their discovery. Once they sit down and start creating their day-to-day itinerary, they begin to realize how daunting this project might be. On the plane with them happens to be a student travel group on a spring vacation travel exchange trip. This also presents the two kids with a false sense of security in thinking that if a group of 30 junior high kids could navigate China so could they. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. They immediately realize they can’t even pronounce the names of the cities they will be visiting. They also discover that neither one of them has traveled much let alone out of the country.
Fortunately for them they both strike up conversations with the adults who are leading the tour group. In the course of their discussion, they are provided some helpful tips on navigating customs and immigrations and getting to the hotel. Once the plane lands and disembarks, the trip becomes more complicated as their flight to Xi’an has been cancelled. The two are obviously lost and have no clue how to proceed. They can see though that the travel group who is in the same situation, was able to negotiate accommodations for the night, dinner, transportation to the hotel and boarding passes for the next morning. Out of a sense of concern and kindness the travel group leaders realizing the two college kids had no idea what to do, invited them to stay with the group for the night at the hotel.
The next morning the travel group supervisors informed the college kids they had arranged transportation and updated their boarding passes to get Xi’an and they needed leave right away. Traveling on their own they managed to navigate both airports, pick up their luggage and get to the hotel. Once they settle in and feel adventuresome, they again realize how inept and unprepared they really are. However, their luck continues when they arrive back at the hotel only to find the travel group had to change their itinerary due to inclement weather. At the evening meal the group leader introduces them to their local guide who sets them up with another guide for the following day.
Understanding that they were under pressure to make progress in securing an item of antiquity for their exam, they visit as many markets and shops as possible. Not having any luck after visiting these places, they find themselves at a friendship store by the Terra Cotta Warrior dig site. Their guide knows the owner and are given access to the back area storerooms. Here they discover an item which they are certain is just what they were looking for. After bargaining and purchasing it, they take it back to the hotel to show the others. Upon examination, both local guides agree it is a valuable item with some unusual qualities. In the hotel, there also happens to be a vising professor of antiquities from a local university who was working at the dig site. He confirms the highly unusual and valuable aspects of the item. At this point the college students contact their university professor and email pictures of the item to him. Overly excited the professor arranges for the two to come back with the item immediately. The university also provides a personal guide to get them and the item home safe.
Once they arrive, the professor and a colleague confirm the value of the item and decide to take the item to Jerusalem to have it examined by the Israel Antiquities Research Group (IARG). Upon arrival they are met by two highly trained specialist who explain the process of dealing with such a valuable item They take the item to their lab and begin the process of discovering the secrets that it holds. The following day, the two professors meet in an auditorium with the specialist and contents of items that was discovered are revealed. They also bring in another highly trained linguistic in ancient Greek language to help decipher the contents. It is here then, that the story shifts to first century Jerusalem.