Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Review: Sign of the Cross

Conspiracy theory novels abound. Peruse any bookshop or search online, and novels which will finally reveal a long-held secret are everywhere. With one of his novels in the cinemas at present (Angels and Demons), you could argue that it is the Dan Brown effect. In both of Brown's novels, a secret has been contained for many years (being suppressed by the Church) and is now being revealed.

Chris Kuzneski offers another unique take on the life of Jesus Christ, and proposes another conspiracy in the form of his novel, Sign of the Cross. The story is fast moving, jumping across the globe, following many different protagonists as they follow various trails before finally converging to discover the secret of Jesus' crucifixion.

From a brutal crucifixion on the lake shore in front of Hamlet's castle in Denmark, Nick Dial of Interpol is plunged into a worldwide chase on the trail of the serial murderers. At the same time, two archeologists are digging under a town in Italy, before coming under attack from unknown combatants. Meanwhile, we're also introduced to Jonathon Payne and David Jones, who (I think), are the main characters in the book, private investigators who are caught up in the whole deal through shady operatives of intelligence agencies.

I'll not give away the plot, but it all centres on a plot by a Roman Emperor to fake the crucifixion and fool the Jews into hailing Jesus as the Messiah, all to benefit the Empire and restore the Empire's glory by uniting it around the Emperor. Expect some twists along the way, in another Dan Brown-esque manner.

Some interesting discussions are shared between the protagonists along the way, covering the nature of religion, belief and faith, and the historical evidence for the life of the Lord Jesus. One such topic is on whether we can know what really happened at the cross.

Toulon says, "I guess that depends on your perspective. If you're a Christian, the biblical version is the way it really happened, right down to he last detail. I mean, the Bible is the word of God." Dial responds by asking what if you're not a Christian and Toulon says that all religions have a different perspective on what happened, so that we can't really know for sure.

"All we can do is sort through the evidence, read what our ancestors wrote, and try to reach our own conclusions, which are invariably tainted by our upbringing... simply put, if your parents taught you to believe in Christ, you're probably going to keep believing in Christ. I mean, that's what faith is all about, isn't it?"

The story seems to suggest that Chrstianity was a state-invented religion, and all for the purpose of control:

"Tiberius started Christianity for one reason only: to gain control. He knew all about the unrest in Judea and figured the best way to placate the Jews was to give them the Messiah that had been prophesied. Then, once the Jews started to believe in Christ, he was going to take their Messiah away, which would allow him to grab control of this new religion."

An interesting conspiracy, but not ultimately one which is realistic. Even had Tiberius the Emperor hand-picked Jesus Christ, how could he have ensured the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies (such as where Jesus would be born, the manner of his birth, his flight into Egypt as a refugee, to name just three of the thousands...)?

Perhaps the most interesting element of the story is found in the epilogue, but I definitely can't mention it in case you find yourself reading the book! All in all, the book was a fast paced tale, with plenty happening, although at times there was almost too much happening, and too many 'main' characters to keep up with. Not a bad read, if you like this type of religio-conspiracy thriller.

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