Told in the first person by the author of the Gospel of Mark, The Cloak and the Parchments relates the story of how the earliest gospel came to be written against the backdrop of emergent Christianity's doctrinal tensions. But it is also the story of one man's struggle of faith, especially with the remarkable notion--at least for a first-century Jew steeped in monotheistic tradition--of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
The year is 64 CE, and Paul has summoned Mark and Timothy from Ephesus to his prison cell in Rome. On their journey, the travelers discuss many of Paul's teachings, including that Jesus is truly the Son of God. After reaching Italy they meet up with Peter, whose own account of Jesus's ministry quickly poses a challenge to Paul's views. But there will be no opportunity to hear Peter and Paul debate their differences, for they arrive in Rome at the outbreak of the Great Fire. Amid the turmoil of the resulting Christian persecution, Paul urges Mark to escape and write Peter's account of Jesus's ministry consistently with Paul's own teaching. Mark finds himself conflicted by his promises to both men, and by the disparity between Peter's eyewitness testimony and Paul's claim to direct revelation. In the end, he finds the answer he seeks hidden in the depths of his own soul--as ultimately, we all must.
The Cloak and the Parchments brings these New Testament characters to life in all of their humanity, and presents a cogent argument for the necessity of mystical experience in religious belief.