Arts > When Christ met Caesar

15 September 2016 | by Mark Lawson

When Christ met Caesar


In an instructive coincidence, the cinematic remake of Ben-Hur appears alongside another speculative variation on the life of Christ. John Wolfson, curator of rare books at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, has adapted his radio play constructing a fascinating what-if around the Crucifixion.

An entry in the New Testament Apocrypha, a dubious third-century collection of supplementary gospels by early Christians, suggests that the dying tyrant, Tiberius Caesar, hearing of a miraculous healer called Jesus working in Judea, became obsessed with the possibility of being cured.

In the Apocryphal version, the emperor sends a messenger, who returns with the devastating news that the holy man has been killed. In Wolfson’s script, Tiberius travels to the Middle East himself and discovers that Christ has died three days previously. However, it should not be a plot-spoiler for any reader of this publication that the Roman is surprised to find that a consultation with the prophet may still be possible.


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