With riots at her door, a woman on her deathbed tells the story of when she was the servant girl of Josephus of Arimathea, who tried to save the Jewish people by grooming a messiah.
The settings form a tapestry of cultures, styles and imagery across the Eastern Roman Empire, starting in the farmlands of the Galilee, then moving to magnificent Jerusalem and the Temple, the architectural marvel of the whole Roman Empire, then off to Alexandria, the port city that supplies over half the goods to the Roman Empire, from the grain fields in Egypt to the spices, silks and foreign goods from India and lands beyond, and finally to the arid city of Petra and the nascent Palmyra.
Josephus, a simple merchant/trader, wants to be a good Jew but he needs to save his family land from predatory Romans, which pulls him into political intrigues in Jerusalem as tensions grow between the various Jewish people and the Romans. What is driving the action is a small, but growing sect of zealots, the Sacarii, is goading Rome into action through assassinations. One of the few things agreed upon by the Jewish leaders is that they need a new leader that can bring the various factions together based on their birth, duty and beliefs, and that this person needs to be prepared for the role somewhere outside of Judea, which is decided to be Alexandria. Yoḥanan ben Zachiriah, known as John, is selected as the future leader and Josephus is elected to bring his nephew to Alexandria for training, while his other nephew, Yehosua ben Joseph, or Jesus, tags along.