The question of just how human Jesus Christ was is explored in a new book written by a member of the clergy who resides in Davenport.

Christopher Epting, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, also considers some other intriguing questions as he uses factual events and a bit of his imagination in "John Mark: A Gospel Novel."

The book is the story of the man who wrote the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament. Epting wrote the novel, he said, with the aim of making the Bible more accessible to readers.

"The Bible is like a foreign world to many people," said Epting, who served as bishop from 1988 to 2001. "This book is for seekers and also for people who are just interested. It can be read as a story in the eyes of faith or as a work of good literature."

Epting was inspired  to write a book after he took a 1995-96 sabbatical to the Middle East, including travels through Israel and Egypt. 

He uses literary license to imagine the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan and spells it out in a excerpt on the publisher's website:

"As the waters of the Jordan closed in over his face, he felt that part of him was dying and being buried forever. Forever left behind him, drowned in that green water. But as John brought him up through the river's surface, it was as it the waters above the firmament, as well as the waters below, were torn apart. It was as if that spirit which had once swept over the face of the primal waters now resided upon and within him. From deep within him, or from somewhere far away, he sensed a kinship, a oneness with the source of that spirit, the kind of convergence which says, 'You are part of all this. ... You are one with all this. ... You have a special role to play in all this. You are precious. You are mine.' "

Epting took classes at St. George's Anglican College in Jerusalem. One class, "the Palestine of Jesus," included visiting sites around the city  and the Sea of Galilee. The second was a class in which students traveled by Jeep into Egypt's Sinai Desert.

"I've been meditating on the Bible for a long time," said Epting, who has traveled the world and retired in Davenport. It was a few years ago when he began the project that utilizes a specific reading process.

First, the minister would read a passage in the Bible. Then he would re-reads it to specifically look for details. The third time he would read a passage, he added some imagination to it, as if he were a character in the passage.

"I've done it this way for years," said Epting, who formerly served at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Davenport.

He read all 16 chapters of Mark in that manner and came up with a rough draft of the book. Then the project was put aside because he remained active in his 40-year career.

When he retired to Davenport a few years ago, Epting took out the manuscript and got it in a form that he hoped would be accepted by a publisher, which turned out to be Red Moon Publications of Oklahoma City.

Epting was part of a book-signing event earlier this week at the Religious Supply Store in Davenport. He also expects to sell "John Mark" at diocesan conventions this fall in Iowa and Illinois.