PUBLICATION DATE: AUGUST 2, 2011
wenty years ago on their way from the Qumran ruins, archeologists Robert and Margaret Cane along with a Bedum worker were killed in a terrible car accident. Robert’s son Jack and his friend Lela were the only survivors. Also lost in the accident was an ancient scroll whose contents would have been highly controversial. Twenty years later, history seems to be repeating itself. Hours after Jack unearths another scroll, similar to the one lost in the tragic car accident, Professor Green (the dig’s organizer and leader) is killed and the scroll stolen. Jack is the primary suspect, but it soon becomes evident that the professor’s murder is linked to a much larger conspiracy—a conspiracy that stretches across decades and to the highest level of the Vatican.
Meanwhile, the newly elected pope, John Becket, has made the unprecedented decision to open the secret archives to the public. Hailed by many as a positive step for the church and Christianity, the decision is not without its opponents. After all, what would it mean to Christianity to have its deepest darkest secrets revealed? But for John, the decision has the potential for more personal repercussions—for within the archives lies his own haunting past. With a complex storyline and interesting historical insight, The Second Messiah is an intriguing read, though it does have several issues that hamper the story’s overall enjoyment.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand I love the new pope and what he represents. I feel like Becket’s shrugging aside the material and ritualistic trappings of the pope to be an excellent example of how Jesus would like us to lead our lives. On the other hand, I feel like the Bible took a beating. I’m familiar with many controversies concerning how the Bible was assembled. However, there are also some solid guidelines for what was included or excluded. I wish this book would have examined both sides of the issue more equally.
The plot of The Second Messiah is quite complex and very intriguing. It’s an extremely tangled mess that involves a large cast of characters. At times the number of characters is a bit confusing, as many of them are priest or cardinals and keeping the role and name of each straight becomes a little burdensome. Nevertheless, the large conspiracy involving the Vatican is one of the more interesting and suspense driven aspects of the novel. Becket’s stance for truth combined with his Christ-like example creates a nice tension among the Vatican representatives and keeps the reader guessing as to how the issue with the archives will be resolved. Additionally, the historical aspect is revealed through church history and the time the characters spend in Rome. These are some of my favor scenes and I thoroughly enjoyed these glimpses into history and archeology.
The most disappointing aspect of this book is the revelation of the scroll’s contents. I don’t get it. To me the information isn’t earth shattering and it definitely isn’t worth killing over. I have yet to understand how the scroll could shake the foundation of the church or cause any sort of threat to Christianity. The scroll is supposed to be important enough to bring in Israel’s Mossad, but I can’t see that it poses a threat to Jewish tradition either. And again, certainly not to the extent that the characters go to in order to cover it up.
Israel and the church are not the only two parties interested in the scroll. There’s also Hassan Malik, the son of the driver who was killed along with Jack’s parents. I honestly do not understand his hatred for Jack. Even after his plans are revealed, I simply don’t understand them. They don’t make sense for the situation nor does his anger seem reasonable. It seems like a storyline that could have been removed with little damage to the remainder of the book.
At 479 pages, The Second Messiah is pretty long and unfortunately it feels long. It’s an enjoyable book and I like the plot and the conspiracy elements, but it moves at a fairly slow pace. Also, while there are bits and pieces of Christian themes throughout, it doesn’t truly come together until the closing pages. Meade does do an excellent job of making his spiritual points and he’s right on target in the closing. However, for a large portion of the book, I questioned whether this was Christian fiction or fiction with a Biblical backdrop. In the end though, the Christian elements do emerge and they are quite good. As a result, my overall impressions of The Second Messiah while mixed are mostly favorable.