The Man Clothed in Linen begins with a virgin named Mary brought to King Herod’s sickbed to warm him. When Herod hears that the virgin is pregnant, he orders her child killed. Joanna the steward’s wife thwarts Herod’s order, not the last time she’ll play a key role in the unfolding drama.
In Herod’s last will, he names his reckless son, Archelaus, as his successor. Rome acquiesces, but when Palestine goes up in flames , Rome removes Archelaus and only permits his brother, Herod Antipas, to rule Galilee and Peraea as a prince, not a king.
And there in his new princedom Herod Antipas is confronted by a childhood friend determined to criticize him. This is John the Baptist. Beheading the Baptist does nothing to dispel the people’s disquiet, for soon thereafter the charmed boy who escaped Herod’s wrath appears. Jesus of Nazareth begins threading a dangerous path between revolutionaries and zealots on the one side and supporters of the Temple and Rome on the other.
The battle is set: Pilate wants to control all of Palestine, Herod Antipas wants to reclaim the entirety of his father’s kingdom, and Jesus thinks Palestine is no more than a prelude to the ultimate conquest of the human heart.