Friday, March 22, 2013

Review of The Talpiot Find

Exercising Thought

Amos Lassen

To me a book that makes me think is a book worth reading and keeping. John Garvey’s book is a great example of that. It certainly made me think about the way I think and how I began to think a certain way. I think that is the result of being able to tie present and past together and by doing so in a unique manner—using an archaeological dig to do just that.

Marc is a graduate student and he really just wants to graduate. He does not appear to be overly ambitious and does not seem to want to succeed in his profession too quickly. He has been assigned to a dig in Jerusalem in the Talpiot area. If you know anything about Jerusalem, you know there are always digs going on and Talpiot is one of the major places for them. Many feel that Jesus spent his last few hours in Talpiot. Marc is near the supposed site of Jesus’ tomb and he is lackadaisical about any kind of find there. He doubts that they will find anything there. A year earlier a garbage pit from the 7th century bce was found there during the excavation of a well. Marc has been working around the well that dates back to the 12th century and all he has been able to find are pottery shards and bones of animals—just ordinary stuff. Suddenly he finds a human skeleton and when checked the bones date back to the 7th century bce and the diggers are faced with an interesting situation and want to know if the skeleton is the result of a murder.

Marc makes another find—clay tablets which also date back to the 7th century bce. On the tablets was something from the Torah written in an early form of Hebrew (so now I am truly hooked on the story since my field of study is Biblical Hebrew—not to be confused with the modern spoken language). I have seen many such finds and they have always been a major source of excitement. What the archaeologists have yet to figure out is if the tablets and the skeleton are at all related and if there was a murder. They have to ascertain if the location of the tables has anything to do with anything else or is the location coincidental. The tetragrammaton appears on the tablets and means that they should not have been so openly exposed and actually belong in a genizah (a special place in most synagogues where holy books that are worn are kept). The tablets that date back to the 7th century bce should not have been in a garbage pit and even more interesting, they were found next to a dead body.

It did not take long to learn that there is something in the tables that is very important and that there are those who are willing to kill to get them. It seems that there is a connection between the skeleton and the tablets and someone knows more than Marc and his colleagues.

This is the second of Garvey’s books with a setting having to do with the Biblical world and right away the two books spoke to me. I spent many years in Israel and was on the faculty of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem so quite naturally my interest was in the books. I understand that the book is based upon historical happenings. For me, reading this was almost like going home and Jerusalem is indeed a city that has both past and present visible in daily life. I remember being told that this Biblical person or that one stood where I was standing and maybe slept in that house over there. Combining history and mystery, Garvey gives us quite a read.

From Reviews by Amos Lassen

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Secrets of the body

Secreta Corporis, a novel by John Evan Garvey, was published for the Kindle on 22 February 2013.

Two Templar knights are ousted from the Order for sexual perversion but are then targeted because of their knowledge of an ancient artifact the Templars will use to control the papacy.

The story
A.D. 1193. To avoid an arranged marriage, Rolant joins the Templars and is quickly transferred from France to Jaffa, the coastal city in the Holy Land that is the main port of entry for medieval pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. At the citadel in Jaffa, Rolant, who is nineteen and only recently knighted, is paired with Audric, a more experienced knight, who cautiously introduces him to a secret brotherhood of Templars who commit “the sin which shall not be named” in the dense groves of tamarisk trees scattered among the dunes along the coast. The secret brotherhood considers their activity in the groves to be comparable to grappling or swordplay, but for Audric and Rolant, their activity takes on a different tone because love becomes an integral part of it.

One of the main tasks Templars perform in the Holy Land is escorting pilgrims to Jerusalem and other holy sites. While Rolant is among the Templars escorting a group of pilgrims to Bethlehem, they encounter Saracens digging a well just at the moment human bones are displaced by the digging. The Saracens abandon the well and the pilgrims want to see if the bones are those of a saint. While the pilgrims pray over the bones, Rolant notices an old clay tablet in a dirt pile. The text inscribed on the surface looks ancient, like no language he has ever seen. He takes the artifact back to Jaffa with him as a memento but must relinquish it because Templars are allowed no individual possessions.

When in Jerusalem, Audric has avoided sleeping in the unsanitary lodging of the pilgrims by staying with a married Saracen friend, Tariq. Audric and Rolant’s activity in the groves and with a Saracen in Jerusalem do not go unnoticed by a secret society within the Templars, Lucerna Corporis, whose mission is to purge the Order of vice. At the citadel in Jaffa, Templars who frequent the groves begin receiving cryptic threats in the form of alchemical symbols drawn in blood on their bedsheets. A couple of Templars are killed, and when Audric and Rolant learn they are the next to be killed, they secretly leave the Order. They stay first with Tariq and then find beds at a boarding house, but their first night there they are attacked by Templars in plainclothes. They return to Tariq’s home, and Rolant realizes that the tablet he found—which, he has learned, is theologically damaging, and now would be called a smoking gun—can be used effectively by the Templars to threaten the papacy with disclosure only if no one knows about it other than a few Templar leaders. The Templars then target Tariq’s family along with Rolant and Audric.

The novel is available now at the Kindle Store and soon will be available for the Nook and iPad and in paperback.

More information about the novel is available on this page.