The Temple Scroll was one of numerous documents describing the life of saintly societies of priests whose daily routines and religious practices embodied an ideal of holiness. It was written by members of an ancient monastic sect living in the Judean desert. The idea of writing those documents was originally suggested to the leader of this sect sometime during the sixth century by a Byzantine woman named Eudocia. The story of this ancient document, and of the search for it in modern times, unfolds through its interaction with the story of a love affair involving a young Jewish woman from Jerusalem's Orthodox community, Naomi, and a British officer, Captain Gareth O'Reilly, who serves in Palestine during the period of British rule in this country, in the years immediately preceding World War II.
Naomi, who wishes to avoid an arranged marriage, leaves her family and hides for some time in some monasteries in Jerusalem. In this way, both Naomi and Gareth become acquainted with the story of the Temple Scroll, given the fact that this ancient document figures as the focus of intense interest, not only by individuals from the scholarly, academic world, but also among members of the religious, monastic establishment in Jerusalem. Among those involved in the search for the scroll is a clandestine religious clan whose members – all inmates of monasteries in Jerusalem – entertain heretic ideas derived from certain ancient Gnostic traditions and engage in certain forms of ritual, as well as in illegal trade in ancient and forged documents. A series of killings, apparently related to the search for the scroll, and to illegal dealings with ancient documents more generally, is investigated by the British police in Jerusalem. One of the victims of these killings is a Jewish scholar closely related to Jerusalem's Orthodox community who happens to be involved in the search for Naomi on behalf of this community. Fearing that he may be suspected of being implicated in this murder case, Gareth O'Reilly deserts his unit in the British military police and the two lovers leave Jerusalem and embark on a journey in an attempt to reach the northern border and flee from Palestine into French-dominated Lebanon. By some coincidence, this journey takes them in the footsteps of the Temple Scroll. Toward the end of their journey, while hiding in a monastery in the northern city of Haifa, Naomi learns the truth about the fate of this ancient document.
Oskar Marrano was educated in a number of European and American universities and held, until a few years ago, an academic position in the area of ancient Philosophy. He obtained his doctorate in the history of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, with a dissertation on Plotinus, and later published a number of articles on Neo-Platonism and on certain aspects of Stoic philosophy. He also published translations of some ancient philosophical texts. He recently abandoned his academic career in order to dedicate himself to his literary occupations.
A descendant of Spanish Jews who settled down in Greece some two or three generations after the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, he grew up in London where his family moved some time before the Second World War. Twice during his time as a young student, he spent long periods in Jerusalem. Later, he came back to this city as a mature scholar and spent there long periods as an academic researcher and lecturer. During these periods he developed a particular fascination with this city and its history. The focus of this fascination has been the role of this city as a center of world religions and, in particular, as the birthplace of Christianity. Marrano's literary work is an attempt to provide an artistic articulation of this passion.