Another standard-issue Biblical melodrama--the paths of Judas, Mary Magdalene, and Christ converge on Calvary. Mary Magdalene, beautiful daughter of a wealthy Jerusalem merchant, is raped by a squad of Roman soldiers after she innocently helps a young Jewish radical escape their clutches. She joins the Zealots (improbably enough) and gets her revenge, but things are so hot for her in Jerusalem that she heads for Egypt, where she falls into despair and becomes a prostitute. In the meantime, Judas, a humble scrivener, is beaten by the Romans (because he hasn't paid his taxes). Wandering the desert, he meets Christ (marking time as an ascetic Essene) and ends up following Him when He begins to preach. They're joined by Mary (who has reformed her life, although she gets a little something going with Judas on the side), and the novel winds down to the usual denouement, with Judas (as neurotic as any present-day New Yorker) finally betraying Christ when he refuses to announce himself as the Messiah. Nash (East Wind, Rain, The Last Magic, Radiance, etc.) has turned rich source material into a rickety New Testament theme park that has all the faults found in his previous work (mainly verbosity and pretension) and very little of the kind of gripping soap-opera he's best at.