A telling of the Passion, through the compromised but clear eyes of one Philo, a Greek scribe attached to Pontius Pilate's administration in Judea. Philo, in some disgrace back in Rome because of a dalliance with someone else's wife, has a way, in Callaghan's telling, of meeting up with all of the major players except Jesus himself. He comes to know (sometimes in both the biblical and social sense) the harlot Mary of Samaria, the bandit Simon of Idumea (one of the two bandits crucified with Jesus), and Judas Iscariot. So, after Jesus' death and burial, Judas comes to Philo and begs him to take a deposition. Jesus, Judas claims, asked him to ""betray"" him: ""Someone must betray me. The story requires it. Now is the time."" And, because Judas actually loved Jesus more than the other disciples, he was chosen; for the same reason, he acquiesced. Callaghan tries hard to layer this New Testament variation with a duality of betrayal/loyalty, with musings on situational ethics: ""It struck me that in all those little stories Jesus was telling us, right action depended entirely on the situation. . . and so a man's life was like a river of adventures in freedom of choice and compassion."" But these thematic efforts are the weakest element here (the underlying message is alternately obvious or murky), while the novel draws its modest power instead from veteran Callaghan's vigorous, engaging narration--which rises to the fore in the big, visual set-pieces, Golgotha above all.