June 6, 2011

The Constantine Codex by Paul L. Maier

In this sequel to A Skeleton in God's Closet and More Than a Skeleton, Harvard professor Jonathan Weber and his archaeologist wife Shannon discover an incredible missing manuscript that could have a profound effect on Christianity.

If it sounds familiar, you've probably read something by Dan Brown or Steve Berry at some point. The major difference here is that while Dan Brown and pretty much everyone who has ever written in this genre has done so to discredit Christianity, Paul L. Maier does it to reaffirm Christianity. Another major difference is that Dan Brown and Steve Berry are hobbysists when it comes to History, and don't much care if their sources have any basis in fact. Nor do they care that their readers in ignorance do take it for fact, leading to generations of cocksure ignoramuses who think Christians are a bunch of cocksure ignoramuses. Paul L. Maier on the other hand is a professor of ancient History at Western Michigan University and not only presumably knows his stuff, but is conscientious about the effect his work will have on the intellectual well-being of the public at large.

The first couple of chapters got me excited about this Christian Dan Brown. There were ancient manuscripts, archeological digs, danger, and real monuments and real history behind it all. And best of all, none of it would lead to Paul being gay or or the resurrection being staged or Jesus really being an alien from another realm. But there Maier seemed to hit the apex of his excitement. It didn't quite go downhill from there, but the energy certainly disappeared.

So Jon and Shannon find an ancient manuscript, and an entire chapter is devoted to detailed descriptions of them photographing it for posterity. I kept waiting for them to be interrupted by a masked gunman or the ancient vellum to disintegrate or something, but it was all just anticipation on my part and scholarship on the part of the characters.

Then there's an exciting debate between Weber and a famous moderate Muslim in the Haga Sofia. But Weber And his debate partner are so diplomatic about the whole thing and so afraid to step on one another's toes that there was simply no excitement. It was an interesting discussion, and I did learn some things about Islam and even some things I didn't know about Christianity, but I had a hard time keeping my eyes open.

Then they must get the manuscript to the U.S. for testing, and finally something happens. The manuscript is stolen! A desperate search is unleashed spanning continents! Then the manuscript simply arrives in the mail. To make up for it, Jon gets poisoned and a traitor unveiled, but it's all more Ben Matlock than Robert Langdon.

The manuscript is eventually translated and released and everyone loves it. The end.

Maybe it was my fault for making comparisons, but this book was a real disappointment to me. Christian publishing desperately needs a Christian Dan Brown. There is a real void there, and I was so hoping Maier would fill it. A reader without my preconceptions may find this book more enjoyable than I did.

1 comment:

  1. It's difficult to believe that your reviewer and I read the same book. The Constantine Codex is filled with all the action anyone would want, and to demand non-stop action would rule out all thoughtful material, insights, philosophy, or even religion. See what Hollywood has done to us? Or perhaps the reviewer was having a bad day. Bizarre inventions to promote misinformation, as some authors do, does not make a novel more readable. Action, simply for the sake of "action" does not make a novel more exciting. This was a great read and I HIGHLY recommend it.


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