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5 Stars Out Of 5
January 1, 2012
This thriller is an exciting story as the heroes move from Qumran to Jerusalem to Jordan to Rome. Jack Cane, both the son of a respected archaeologist and an archaeologist in his own right, discovers a scroll in Qumran that could destroy three religions if revealed. Yet, before its contents are fully known, it is stolen and Cane's mentor is murdered.
The missing scroll declares the presence of a second man claiming to be the Messiah - a man whose story may have become confused with that of Jesus Christ as found in the Scriptures. If true, the missing scroll would impact not only the Christian world, but also those who practice Judaism and Islam.
To recover the missing scroll, Cane must work with security forces from three very different cultures. Some wish to destroy the scroll, some want to see that it is published - both are willing to kill to reach their goal. To make matters worse, two women seem to be trying to get Cane's attention - but why?
Rooted in the tensions that define much of the 21st century, the story holds the reader's attention from start to finish. The author has included hints of history, geography, and archaeology - that provide a backdrop as his story develops. The evidence of a second messiah is not as damaging as one might think, as the newly elected Pope states in a very public forum toward the end of the book, "... this scroll, by revealing the existence of a false messiah, also confirms the reality of the true Jesus. We who walk in His footsteps need no such confirmation. We have willingly given our lives to the work of delivering His message."
One highlight of the book was the "Author's Note" found at the very end of the book. Here the author places the fiction that is The Second Messiah into perspective with the history of Qumran and the Catholic Church. The note leaves room for speculation and fantasy - could this story ever be true? The answer to that question lies firmly in the future.
This review is based on a free copy of the book supplied by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.
The premise to The Second Messiah is intriguing, and the plot includes several twists to keep readers interested. Overall, the book is fairly well-written. However, occasional switches in point of view within single scenes are distracting, and the dozens of minor characters are difficult to keep straight. Additionally, the action-driven story could have benefited from a trimming of descriptions, adjectives, and adverbs.
Despite these small problems with mechanics, The Second Messiah would have still been an enjoyable read, except for one thing: its questionable theology. By the final page, the story of The Second Messiah has questioned the validity of Scripture and cast doubt on both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible is seen as a book that "evolved" and had "lots of stuff" cut out of it. The Council of Nicaea is described as an event in which the emperor Constantine chose what would be in the Bible by throwing the documents in question down on a table and keeping the ones that stayed on the table. The entire plot of the story is based on a Vatican conspiracy to keep documents that question Christianity hidden. God's love is manifested as a mystic, spiritual presence which might have been God, or a ghost, or the wind, depending on the reader's perspective. By the end of the book, all that readers are left with is a vague spirituality, in which Christian love and outreach are the true fulfillment of Christ's second coming.
For these reasons, I am not able to recommend this book to other Christian readers.
Some years after the mammoth task of translating the Dead Sea Scrolls had begun and some of the controversial content had been realized, the Vatican and Israel have set aside their differences and agreed in a secret pact. What if the Scrolls contained incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was the Messiah? Such a find would rock Israel and the Muslim nations. On the other hand, what if there was evidence that Jesus was not the Messiah? It was agreed that archaeological digs would be closely monitored and material considered controversial would be withheld.
Such was the scroll that Jack's parents had found, revealing a second messiah, a man who assumed the identity of Jesus, casting doubt on the narrative of the Bible. But Jack's parents were killed in an automobile accident shortly after the find. The scroll was burned up in the vehicle, or was it?
Now, years later, Jack is also an archaeologist and his group has found a controversial scroll. But that night a scholar is killed and the scroll stolen. Jack is determined to find the stolen scroll. He is "convinced that religion, history, everything could be changed by the scroll's contents." (337)
At this same time a new Catholic Pope is chosen. He is a revolutionary. He refuses the gold-threaded gown and diamond encrusted papal hat. "In a world scourged by poverty, I should have no need of these expensive garments." (412) He wants to open the archives of the Vatican and make all known.
These two story lines converge. Those surrounding the Pope are unsure of he is the church's deliverer or its traitor. What is more important to the Catholic Church - truth or protecting itself? And will Jack find the scroll and the truth before someone kills him?
Meade has written a pretty good novel of intrigue revolving around archeology and the deadly fight surrounding ancient scrolls and their contents. Meade is an Irish author and this may explain his emphasis on the Catholic Church needing to come clean, so to speak.
Evangelical Christians will be sorely disappointed in the Pope's final speech: "I want us to go forth in peace, to pronounce the brotherhood of all men, without exception of country, creed, or race, and in the belief in one God." (474)
Also, Meade has been reading a different Bible than I do (perhaps a Catholic Bible). In his Author's Note he says, "As for the account of a second messiah, it has existed since the time of Jesus. Numerous references survive in Scripture..." (481) I am not familiar with any references so I have no idea what he is talking about here.
I received an egalley of this book from Simon and Schuster for the purpose of this review.