Judea, 30 AD. The Prefect, Pontius Pilate, is trying desperately to maintain control over the most volatile province in the Roman Empire. Terrorists, or freedom fighters, are committed to the overthrow of Roman power by force. The knifemen known as Secarii are abroad on moonlit nights, slaughtering those they perceive as traitors sympathetic to the occupying power. And the Passover approaches: the time when Jewish national and religious feeling is at its height. What is the role of the man from Nazareth called Joshua bar-Josef, who preaches love, forgiveness of sin, and the imminent overthrow of all temporal power? Is he a force for rebellion or moderation?
We see the events of this perilous year through the eyes of four people: Simon Zelotes, a disciple of Joshua who believes that the coming Kingdom of Heaven may need a helping hand by violence: Mary of Magdala, a wealthy widow running a refuge for abused women, irrationally convinced that she murdered her vicious husband: Pilate himself, a cold, hard man not without some idea of truth and justice: and the enigmatical figure of the Centurion, a German outsider and religious sceptic, trying to reconcile his duty to Rome with that to the woman he loves, and his own ideas of right and wrong.
Though the characters and events of that year are long gone, the results are still playing out to this day.