New books added to the Bible? That’s the premise of the book The Constantine Codex, a Christian fiction work by Paul L. Maier. The book was published May, 2011, and is available in a variety of forms, including Kindle.
Maier, the Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, has been praised for his many publications, which include both scholarly and popular works. The “Skeleton Series”, a trilogy of religious fiction, began with A Skeleton in God’s Closet, which became a #1 national bestseller in religious fiction. It was followed by the sequel More Than a Skeleton in 2003, and, recently, The Constantine Codex.
I recently finished reading The Constantine Codex, my first Christian fiction experience, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Each of the three books in the “Skeleton Series” stand on their own and can be read independent of the others. Because I enjoyed The Constantine Codex, I do plan on reading the others.
The book is labeled a theological thriller. If you’re wondering what that is, think Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark or Benjamin Franklin Gates in National Treasure. Amazon gives this summary of the book:
Harvard Professor Jonathan Weber is finally enjoying a season of peace when a shocking discovery thrusts him into the national spotlight once again. While touring monasteries in Greece, Jon and his wife Shannon—a seasoned archaeologist—uncover an ancient biblical manuscript containing the lost ending of Mark and an additional book of the Bible. If proven authentic, the codex could forever change the way the world views the holy Word of God. As Jon and Shannon work to validate their find, it soon becomes clear that there are powerful forces who don’t want the codex to go public. When it’s stolen en route to America, Jon and Shannon are swept into a deadly race to find the manuscript and confirm its authenticity before it’s lost forever.
The Constantine Codex combines my interests in ecclesiastical history, Biblical studies, and Islam with the thrill of a good “shoot ’em up”. There is much to learn and affirm in this work regarding various religions, archaeology, and church history, especially in regard to the origins of the Bible and various manuscripts. Maier does such a great job of including much of what is fact that you sometimes have to step back and realize that the over-arching story is fiction. It’s an easy read that you’ll find hard to put down.
Now, for the negative.
First, I thought the writing style was a bit contrived. One has to remember that Maier is a scholar first, and, then, a writer of popular fiction. Once you’re into book a chapter or so, you’ll notice it. It doesn’t get in the way, so much, as it is just simply noticed.
Second, Maier stereotypes Southern Baptists. A couple of the characters who interact with the main character, Dr. Jon Weber, are Southern Baptists. Maier portrays them as “hayseeds” who seem to stand in the way of progress more so than being progressive. It’s unfortunate, and maybe it’s Maier’s attempt at inserting levity into the story. Not sure. Nonetheless, it’s unfortunate whether deserved or not.
Lastly, I thought the relationship between Weber and his wife, Shannon, was a bit “syrupy”. I’m not sure what he’s more passionate about – his wife, or the Biblical manuscripts. Even Indiana Jones and Marion had some significant tension, and that was part of the resolution of tension in the end. But, Maier had none of this between the two main characters. It is, however, fiction!
I’ve read several reviews regarding The Constantine Codex. Most have been positive…a few slightly negative. Overall, though, I’d recommend this book, if for nothing else the elements of church history and Biblical studies. And, it makes for great discussion between friends and makes one ponder the question…
Could new books be added to the Bible?