Dumachas and Sheba were lovers in Jerusalem at the time of Christ, and lordy how they do love. . . with that scarlet abandon common to most seedy Biblicals. Dumachas is a Jewish hero who's adored by both the little people--a poet, a rabbi, the regulars at the cafe he half-owns--and the big people, like Pontius Pilate, wife Claudia (whom Dumachas generously beds), and Pilate's major-domo. Exactly why Dumachas is so beloved is puzzling; he does speak out occasionally against Roman oppression and has reluctantly killed a bit, but he seems merely to radiate. Certainly his rhetoric douses rather than kindles: ""If enough people were to complain loud enough and long enough, day and night, some changes would be made."" Most of the time Dumachas attempts to rescue Sheba from Marcellus, a Roman nasty who will cause Dumachas to be crucified--the other ""thief"" beside Jesus. Dumachas is so ""good"" that even Jesus realizes that Dumachas is ""so intensely alive and vibrant he could make the most devout religious man have second thoughts."" Before Dumachas dies and Sheba kills Marcellus, there's lots of blood and dirtied linen and enough skewing of religions, period mores, and diction to offend practically everyone. Wise, author of two tolerable non-Biblical novels, should have stayed in the 20th century.