Jesus, a carpenter and cross-maker, the son of Mary and the carpenter Joseph. A troubled youth, full of fear and rebelliousness, and tormented by “vulture claws” seemingly sent from God, he is also possessed by a strong pity for humanity. Continually tempted to be something other than who he really is, he grows as he journeys from home to the monastery, where he loses much of his guilt, and turns to preaching love to the people. Later, his trials and visions in the desert convince him that the rotten tree of the world must be felled by ax and fire. Eventually, he becomes obsessed by death, knowing that his own is necessary. When he awakes from his final nightmare of a compromised life and finds himself on the cross, he is filled with a hero’s joy.
Judas Iscariot, a blacksmith. Committed to the cause of Israel and a member of the fierce Zealots, he can kill and, in fact, is commissioned to kill Jesus. He hesitates because he suspects that Jesus may be the One. A man of action who challenges and finally comes to love the man of contemplation, Jesus, he is the only disciple with the necessary endurance to assist the Messiah in his sacrificial death.
Mary, the wife of Joseph of Nazareth and the mother of Jesus. Past her youth, she continually grieves because of the agitation her paralytic husband and possessed son cause her. Preoccupied with her own pain, she prays that her son live a normal life and be a family man, not a saint.
Joseph, a carpenter. Paralyzed since his wedding day, he has spent each day since in convulsive, sputtering efforts to pronounce the syllables of God’s name: A-do-na-i....
(The entire section is 711 words.)