Thursday, September 22, 2011

The fiction unearthed

My email (4/9/2011) to the authors of The Bible Unearthed:

Dear Drs. Finkelstein and Silberman:

I know I can't be the only one who, after reading The Bible Unearthed, actually came up with a novel based on some of the information you present in it. In any case, I'm interested in knowing your reaction to the idea of broadening the discussion about the origins of the Bible by way of fiction. Bad idea? Or would it be good to reach an audience who wouldn't ordinarily read a nonfiction book on the subject? Or do you expect that broadening the audience would do nothing more than add to the number of people who already resist the ideas expressed in your book? My own hope is that, if greater numbers of people were to realize that neither Moses nor Muhammad had any special revelation and were just writing from what they understood at the time, the conflict over the modern state of Israel might ease somewhat, as might the conflict in the US between right and left over the fusion or separation of church and state; but that may be just my naivete. If you consider it inadvisable to popularize the discussion of the Bible’s origins any more than it already is, it would be interesting to know your reasons. If you thought that (given that the writing in my book is of high enough quality and the research thorough enough) broadening the discussion in this way would benefit the public, it would be very appreciated if you would consider giving your reasons in a foreword for the book.

I'm currently querying the book to literary agents and describing the book to them with the following paragraphs:

There's a short episode in II Kings in the Bible where an old scroll of the law is found during Temple renovations. I learned from reading The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman that scholars have speculated for quite a while that the scroll that was found was actually new, composed by the priests and scribes not long before its "discovery." So I thought, what if the rough draft of that scroll surfaced?

At the core of my debut novel, The Talpiot Find, is an archaeological dig in present-day Jerusalem uncovering ancient clay tablets that potentially will anger Jews, Christians and Muslims alike when the text they contain is made public. The novel weaves together two storylines. The story set in the 7th century BCE focuses on a slave manager at the Temple in Jerusalem who is given the task of disposing of clay tablets used to compose the rough draft of the scroll of the law that was later "found" during Temple renovations, but which were mistakenly taken to a potter and fired, preserving the edited text on them. Because of the secrecy surrounding the tablets and the scroll copied from them, the manager suspects that the Temple scribes plan to have him killed. In the present-day story, the archaeologists try to keep the tablets low-profile, but a provocative video about the tablets surfaces on YouTube. They then learn that one of the tablets, acquired in the 12th century, has been kept a secret through the centuries by a small, select group of rabbis. In order to contain this knowledge, special-ops agents contracted by Mossad detain a student from the dig team and threaten to kill him if the rabbis’ tablet is disclosed by the few people who know about it. Word count: 71,000.

Regarding my background, I spent my first 32 years as a super-Evangelical. (We even thought Jerry Falwell was a little on the liberal side.) I graduated from Bob Jones University with a B.S. in cinema and with extensive knowledge of conservative Bible doctrine and history. I’m now an agnostic, better educated and a bit older, but my knowledge of Scripture provides valuable perspective when I examine history and contemporary issues from a secular standpoint.

I haven't read any of Dan Brown's books, in case you're wondering; I wrote my book as literary fiction rather than as a thriller. My writing is influenced much more by Umberto Eco and John Updike than by popular authors.

Thanks very much.

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