When Theo Griepenkerl happens upon the fifth Gospel in a war-torn Iraqi museum, he can't believe his luck. Driven by greed and a lust for fame, he capitalises on his find by publishing it. His book is a sensation. But he can hardly imagine the incendiary consequences his discovery will have for Christians, Arabs, homicidal maniacs and Amazon customers alike.
The Fire Gospel is a brilliant piece of storytelling, dazzlingly outrageous and utterly gripping.
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About the Author
MICHEL FABER has written seven other books, including the highly acclaimed The Crimson Petal and the White, The Fahrenheit Twins and the Whitbread-shortlisted novel Under the Skin. The Apple , based on characters in The Crimson Petal and the White , was published in 2006. He has also written two novellas, The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps (2001) and The Courage Consort (2002), and has won several short-story awards, including the Neil Gunn, Ian St James and Macallan. Born in Holland, brought up in Australia, he now lives in the UK.
Hometown:A remote cottage in Ross-shire, Scottish Highlands
Date of Birth:April 13, 1960
Place of Birth:The Hague, Netherlands
Read an Excerpt
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book,
If any man shall add unto these things,
God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.
John, aka Iohannes, ‘of Patmos’, i.e. of unknown origin but resident on Patmos at time of writing, circa 95 or 96 AD, or possibly 68 or 69 AD, or possibly some other time, from an unnamed document later known as The Apocalypse, aka Revelation, reprinted in The Bible (1611), translated purportedly by Thomas Ravis, George Abbot, Richard Eedes, Giles Tomson, Sir Henry Savile, John Peryn, Ralph Ravens and John Harmar, but substantially based on The Bible (1526) translated by William Tyndale [uncredited].
The museum curator swung open another antique door and, as if on cue, a lion’s head fell off its body. A big stone lion’s head, carved centuries ago: smack on the floor. Splinters of ceramic tile jumped up from the impact. The head rolled over and came to rest near the left paw, open-mouthed, front fangs smashed off, angry eyes staring up past the stump of its own neck to the ornate ceiling above.
‘Unbelievable,’ said Theo, feeling that some expression of awe was called for.
‘No, not so unbelievable,’ said the museum curator, glumly. ‘The looters tried also to take that lion’s head. They tried for a long time, with axes, crowbars, even guns. One of them shot the lion’s neck and received a wound in the leg from the bouncing bullet. His friends only laughed. Then they moved on to the next thing.’
Theo walked into the denuded chamber, eyes lowered to the floor, as though he was humbled by the mighty sorrow of Allah in this desecrated sanctum, or at least admiring the exquisite ornamental tiles. In truth, he was on the lookout for traces of blood. There had been killing in this room, as well as the mishap with the looters’ ricochet. But the place had been swept and mopped since then. Not very fastidiously, but enough. Here and there, a tiny glint of broken glass, a crumb of pottery, a wisp of fabric.
The curator, too, had been injured in the fracas. He had an untidy white bandage wrapped around his head, like a nappy, with a pinkish blush of imperfectly contained blood in the centre. It was a ridiculous mismatch with his dark-grey double-breasted suit, rich brown skin and expensive shoes. Why sport such a World War One napkin, when he could surely have got himself patched up with a few stitches and discreet Steri-Strips?
Making an exhibition of himself, Theo thought — knowing he was being outrageously unsympathetic. This guy was a bona fide victim, no doubt about that. But there was a fine line between victims of tragic circumstance and born losers. Born losers were irritating as hell: shuffling around with their hang-dog expressions and untidy bandages. They attracted trouble and it didn’t matter whether there was a war on or not, they would end up with their halo of undeserved suffering. Theo suspected that the curator was one of these characters. The grand injustice of war and the bloodied bandage on his head had accorded him the status of martyr and he was playing his role as best he could. The melancholy fatalism that newspaper journalists liked to describe as ‘quiet dignity’ radiated from him with every word and gesture.
I didn’t trash your fucking country, thought Theo, and was ashamed of thinking it, but it was true. He was a linguist and research fellow from the Toronto Institute of Classical Studies, not some redneck Yankee soldier. In any case, it had been Iraqis who looted this museum, not Americans.
‘Here we had manuscripts from the Ottoman empire,’ said the curator, in a dolorous, soft-spoken monotone. ‘We had scrolls from the Abbasid dynasty. We had an edition of the Qur’an, from 1787, inscribed by Catherine the Great.’
‘Terribly sad,’ said Theo.
‘We had a clay tablet from Uruk, one of the most important cities in Mesopotamia, with a text in cuneiform that was not even yet deciphered.’
‘Tragic,’ said Theo. Please don’t tell me how important Uruk was; I’m not stupid, he thought. And why did the curator insist on speaking English, anyway, when Theo had greeted him in perfectly good Arabic on the phone? It was as if the guy wanted to emphasise his humiliation in the face of the post-invasion catastrophe.
‘We had wedding contracts from the seventh century BC,’ lamented the curator, raising his head, so that the bandage rumpled up against his collar. ‘From the time of Sennacherib.’
‘Awful,’ said Theo. He had an uneasy feeling that if he didn’t take charge of the conversation soon, the curator would be compelled to remind him that Iraq was the cradle of civilisation, that it had once been a peaceful melting pot of learning and tolerance when most other nations were still in their brutish infancy, blah blah blah. All of which was true, but Theo was in no mood to hear it coming from the doleful little man with the nappy on his head. ‘But listen, Mr Muhibb, if it doesn’t sound too . . . ah . . . brusque, maybe we should focus on what’s still here. I mean, that’s why I’m here, after all.’
‘They took everything, everything,’ bewailed the curator, wringing his hands. ‘There is nothing here remaining that a looter would deem worth to carry away.’
Theo sighed. He was accustomed to these protestations. They were like talismanic chants for the benefit of any eavesdroppers who might be planning additional raids. In order for a visitor to find out what treasures had been saved, what exhibits had been squirrelled away in a basement somewhere, or stashed pre-emptively in the museum staff’s own homes, it was necessary to win the curator’s trust, which would require hours of conversation and dinner and wine, and then the truth would emerge, artefact by artefact, and finally Theo could re-state the Institute’s generous offer. Theo didn’t know if he had the patience to go through with the rigmarole. For a start, he was trying to slim down, and a big, multi-course Arabic dinner would undo his efforts to lose his gut. Also, his inclination to forge convivial bonds with his fellow men was not exactly fervent at this juncture. His girlfriend had just told him, forty-five minutes ago, by mobile phone, that she needed some space to sort out her priorities. Her chief priority, he suspected, was a ruggedly handsome wildlife photographer called Robert.
‘I’ll be back in Toronto on Friday,’ he’d said, broiling in the Mosul traffic on the way to the museum.
‘I need some space now,’ she’d said.
‘Well, uh . . . I don’t understand how I’m preventing you from getting it,’ he’d said. ‘I mean, I’m here, and you’re there, alone. At least, I think you’re–’
‘I need you to understand that when you get back, things may not be the same.’
‘So . . . why the suspense? Why not tell me now?’ Go on, he’d thought. Tell me you don’t want an overweight academic when you can have a musclebound photographer who stalks fucking antelopes.
‘I have nothing to tell you. I just need some space, that’s all.’
‘Well . . . uh . . .’ (he’d sneezed, an allergic reaction to the diesel exhaust polluting the humid air) ‘be my fucking guest.’
Now, following the curator through the looted museum, Theo had an urge to grab him by the lapels of his suit and shout into his face. Do you want the money or don’t you? It’s very simple. We display your treasures in our Institute for five years, in exchange for a nice big restoration package. At the end of the five years, Iraq is peaceful again, you’ve got a repaired museum, and you get your stuff back. Deal or no deal?
‘Excuse me,’ said the curator, and motioned for them to stand still and listen. Faintly, a knocking could be heard from the front end of the building. (The doorbell had ceased to function; the PA system had been ripped out of the walls, leaving wires dangling down from the top corners of each room.)
‘Excuse me,’ repeated the curator. ‘Please wait here a moment.’ And he hurried to answer the summons.
Theo sat down on a polished wooden cabinet which had been toppled on its side and gutted of its drawers and index cards. He looked around the room; it was empty except for the jagged remains of a glass display case, a few wood shavings, and, in the far corner, an impossibly heavy Assyrian winged bull whose pedestal smelled of piss and disinfectant. He heard the museum’s massive outside door opening and shutting. He wished he could light up a cigarette while he waited. It seemed absurd that in a place which had recently been gutted by thieves and yahoos, he should feel constrained not to befoul the air with a puff of tobacco smoke.
Suddenly, all the windows in the building exploded. There were three or four tremendous bangs, the first of which buffeted him like a hurricane gust. An impression of fierce heat and light came through from the outside world. Theo blinked. His spectacles had saved him from being blinded. His lap was sprinkled with tiny fragments of broken glass; they fell out of his hair when he looked down.
He stood up, and had the presence of mind to resist the urge to dust himself off with his naked palms. He tried to shake like a dog. Discovered that he was shaking already.
He moved towards the exit, then thought better of it. There were shouts out there, and more loud bangs. The curator and his absurd bandage were probably splattered all over the street, plastered to the walls and vehicles like upflung mud or fresh graffiti. Theo wished he’d been a little warmer to him, not quite so guarded. It seemed sinful to have considered somebody a pain in the ass two minutes before they got killed. But that was the trouble: in a fucked-up country, you could never predict which people would live forever to annoy the hell out of you and which ones were, in fact, giving you some of their last precious minutes on earth. And in a fucked-up country, it is simply not feasible to be generous to everyone. You end up dead yourself, or eaten alive by human parasites.
The sound outside was definitely gunfire. Iraq, at this moment in history, was full of excitable people who did not know or care where Toronto was on the world map, and who, if faced unexpectedly with a young Canadian male, might have difficulty imagining what to do with him other than shoot him in the chest. Theo hurried to the stairs at the centre of the building. There were, he recalled, toilets in the basement. He would hide in the toilets, or maybe in a storeroom, until everything was quiet.
He was halfway down the spiral stairs when he noticed that a wall-mounted, heavily pregnant bas-relief goddess he’d admired on his first trip down had been damaged in the blasts. Her belly — unexpectedly hollow — had been cracked open like an egg. He looked down at the floor of the basement where the shards of stone had fallen.
In amongst the shards, loosely swaddled in cloth, lay nine scrolls of papyrus.
‘The 25 Cool Jazz Classics CD is yours, I think,’ she said.
He looked at her across the cardboard box of possessions he was holding to his chest.
‘No, it’s yours,’ he said.
‘I’ve never even heard it. Not once.’
‘I don’t dispute that,’ he said. They were standing in the hallway of the flat they’d shared for four years and eight months. The bookcase, now that his books had been removed from it, was very sparsely stocked indeed: long stretches of creamy blank pine with the odd self-help paperback snoozing in a corner. ‘But still it’s not my CD. I bought it for you.’
‘Right: you bought it, not me.’
‘It was a Christmas gift,’ he said, keeping his voice level. ‘I thought it might lead you to an appreciation of jazz, if I started you off on the soft stuff that most people can get into.’
‘I don’t need “soft stuff”,’ she said. ‘Or condescension.’
He put the box down at his feet, returned to the much-depleted CD cabinet, where her choice of music stared up at him with all its corporate rock insouciance. There were empty spaces next to her Bryan Adams and REO Speedwagon where his John Adams and Steve Reich had been; it was hard to believe they could have nestled side by side for half a decade without some sort of combustion. Theo removed 25 Cool Jazz Classics from the alphabetical arrangement he’d maintained since he and Meredith first moved in together. (V for ‘various’, rather than J for ‘jazz’: he recalled his hesitation over that decision as intimately as he recalled making love to her for the first time.) The CD was still sealed in Cellophane.
‘You haven’t even asked me how I got all these cuts on my face,’ he said.
‘Shaving?’ she said.
‘They’re on my nose and forehead, too. Some of them should probably have had stitches.’
She sighed indulgently. ‘OK, so tell me.’
‘I was in a museum in Mosul when a bomb went off in the street outside. All the windows got blown in. I was showered with broken glass.’
She took a sip from the coffee mug she was holding. Her small wrist was white and her grip was too intense.
‘We shouldn’t be in Iraq,’ she said.
‘Well, yes, that’s the considered opinion of many folks,’ he remarked wryly. ‘Including the people who blew up the politician’s limousine, right outside the museum where I was. I heard on the news later that the politician’s wife got . . . ah . . . distributed in lots of different directions. They found her head in the museum’s reception area. It smashed through the window like a cannonball and bounced off the wall.’
Meredith was unimpressed by his little display of sublimated joy in the dismemberment of a female.
‘I mean we shouldn’t be there at all, none of us, for any reason,’ she said. ‘Not to fight, not to fix things up, not to offer money, not to talk, not to build, not to get oil, not to do news reports or make documentaries. We should just leave them to it. They were a hopeless rotten bunch of crazy people before we got there and we’ve made them more hopeless and rotten and crazy, and we should just get the hell out and let them do whatever they’re gonna do and not even look at them again for a hundred years.’
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had very high expecttions for the Fire Gospel and it met about half of my expectations. The beginning is gripping and promises high, dangerous adventure. Sadly, the adventure it provides is fairly mundane and not really dangerous ... until the end ... well almost the end. The end end was rather disappointing. What I loved about this book was: the humour - dark, smart, witty, made me chuckle; the exploration of human nature and possible human responses to facts that challenge deeply ingrained beliefs. What I didn't like about this book was: Theo - he had no redeeming qualities as far as I was concerned; the lack of real legal and political consequences for Theo's act of greed and thievery; the ending. Because the likes and dislikes balance for me, I gave the book three stars. It's an OK read and it is short so it doesn't take long to get through. Apparently it is one of a group of books by a variety of authors that explore myths in contemporary times - I won't go out of my way to find the rest of the series but I might pick another one up if I run into it by accident.
The Fire Gospel works as a novella; but surely it would also have worked as something meatier too. The story concerns an academic who, whilst visiting Iraq, stumbles across papyrus scrolls written by a man who was actually present at the crucifixion. The documents call into question the godly nature of Christ.Theo, the academic, secures a publishing deal for the scrolls, along with his account of how he found them - though this was included in his book to pad out the 30-odd pages of Aramaic and make something more publishable. We then follow, in a short series of tableaus, the events that Theo lives through as a consequence of his decision to publish.The questions Faber raises are enjoyably contemplated, such as what happens to the faithful when their faith is legitimately question, but I think I would have preferred something more all-encompassing - more of the order of 'Bonfire of the Vanities' for religion.
`The Fire Gospel¿ tells the intriguing story of events following Theo¿s discovery of Malchus¿ Gospel in war-torn Iraq. Little does he know what he¿s letting himself in for when he publishes this controversial `Fifth Gospel¿ and how it will affect his life. Michel Faber leads us through Theo¿s journey from academia to surviving as a famous author. I found the subject matter of this book interesting and thought provoking. However, the story seemed to jump rather abruptly at certain points, missing out sections of narrative that I felt could have improved the book as a whole. I also found it hard to empathise with the characters. Worth persisting with if you are interested in the possibility of alternate gospels, and also enjoy reading fiction.
I enjoyed this satire and particularly the section on Theo's Amazon reviews. I could imagine in real life authors compulsively and perhaps almost furtively scrolling through customer write-ups and being alternately dismayed, heartened and perplexed.It was a nice take on Da Vinci type books and the book trade and good to see Michael Faber writing something in a completely different genre to usual.It did tail off towards the end but otherwise a good read.
The Fire Gospel is a retelling of the myth of Prometheus. An arrogant Aramaic scholar named Theo Griepenkerl finds a first-century Christian text that tells of Jesus' ignominous death and leaves modern Christians in shock and turmoil. Theo finds himself widely hated and persecuted for spreading such a demoralizing and dangerous text.I liked this book a lot, and I wish that it would've been longer and more thoughtful. It comes in at just over 200 pages, and it's action-packed enough that not much attention gets paid to the issues that the book really raises. The Promethean arrogance is two-fold: in biblical scholarship for reducing a sacred text to something to be picked apart and doubted, and in the fundamentalist backlash for being unyielding to uncomfortable truths. A lot could have been done with this premise that wasn't done, and if Faber had given it the space and length it deserved, this could have been a great book and not just a really good one.
Before I get to my review, I have a question: is the author's name pronounced "Mee-Shell Fay-Bar"? Or maybe "Meh-shell Fah-Bear"?I ask because most of The Fire Gospel is about a cultured and intellectual Canadian author being subject to the primitive enunciations of American readers at various book signings around the country. Of a woman in Baltimore who had just explained that getting into the Inner Harbor's Barnes and Noble in her wheelchair was too difficult: "She pronounced the final syllable with a definite 'kult' emphasis, the way lower-class Americans often do.Who are you calling a lower-class American, Mr. Faybur? Two pages later: "'I guess I'm not used to guns, he said. "'This is Maryland,' she said. 'Everybody's got one here."As a former resident of the Great Blue State of Maryland, I find that diffiKULT to believe. There are at least 4 other examples (page 153, 163, 173 and a passage about Americans pronouncing herbal as "erbil" that I forgot to flag), and all coming from a writer who uses "kerb" to describe the edge of a sidewalk. Now the story: the arrogant and self-absorbed author stole the 9 Aaramaic scrolls that make up the new Gospel from the already-looted museum in Iraq just as Promethus stole fire from the gods. And they both gave their incendiary loot to humans, and paid dearly for it. Faber is not a writer of dystopias or science fiction, so he doesn't really flesh out the impact his new gospel actually had on the world, though you can tell from a long segment where the author reads reviews of his book on Amazon that a lot of people are heartbroken and pissed off. The Gospel Faber creates is a very potent one, dovetailing with what I've heard about the new book "Jesus, Interrupted" by Bart D. Ehrman. The Gospel of Malchus suggests that that Jesus was a man - mortal and finite, but a powerful leader who inspired deep love and sacrifice from early Christians. The fact that he is not divine, did not rise from the dead, did not perform miracles, seems to suck the wind out of Christian faith even though it doesn't contradict a single one of Christ's teachings. People can't be good, turn the other cheek, or care for the sickest and poorest among them if they can't believe that Jesus walked on water. If His teachings don't have supernatural heft, it just sinks to the level of earnest advice, I suppose. It's just a great idea to explore - do we need a supernatural Jesus to compel is to follow His teachings? Do we need the capital H to believe everything he stood for was right?And the other point - that Theo, the author, actually is a narcissistic snob who couldn't care less about the meaning of the scrolls, just that he needs to make a buck on them before someone else does - is actually very important to the story. If you really cared about the well-being of the world, you wouldn't dump this shocking news on people without a lot of care and thought. Prometheus just handed out the fire to people - giving them the capacity for tremendous growth and tremendous damage. There's actually a whiff of contempt and carelessness in turning the world upside down like that, which is something I never thought about until I read this book. I'd put this third in the Canongate Myth series - behind Jeanette Winterson's extraordinary myth of Atlas and Hercules, and Margaret Atwood's retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope's perspective. And if I sound cranky in this review, it's mostly just that Faber turned in a 213-page book instead of a 900-pager that could have kept me happy for DAYS.
Woe Prometheus who brought the puny, cold, shivering humans fire to warm themselves, stolen from the gods, by no means intended for the non-divine fleshed mortals. Woe Theo Griepenkerl who brings a lost Gospel to the hordes of Christianity, a very human document recounting the last days of Jesus, as told by Malchus, not touched by the mythic alterations and connections of the later accepted Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Sealed away, revealed by an Iraqi bomb and a happenstance of place and opportunity, Mr. Griepenkerl discovers in the belly of a two thousand year-old goddess statue (symbolism much?) an Aramaic scroll, preserved from oxygen and eyes, offering the witnessed account of Jesus' very human, very messy, death. In a fit of scholarly euphoria (and egregious ethical behavior), Theo snatches the scroll, smuggles it to Canada, translates the Aramaic, marvels at the whigny and torrid writing, pursues publishing, engages the junkets and book tour, gets threatened and harassed and other nasty things, all while delivering, without even a slight pondering as to the religious ramifications of the text he has discovered, an incendiary Fifth Gospel, soon to be heralded and maligned as the Fire Gospel. Theo is funny, in an I'm-laughing-and-rolling-my-eyes-AT-him-not-with-him sort of way; he is a character that allows you to feel a slight touch of pity since he is rather a loser, while also inclining you to slap him about the head since he is indeed quite a loser. On the book world end, I enjoyed the very familiar scenes of book store readings and signings, the badgering of publishers and bilking of authors, the wry attempt to wring something of literary quality from pap. This could be a fun and escapist read, yet Faber still offers that thread of mythic touchstone that I have come to cherish from this series - the modern day Promethean fire trapped within the binding of a book. Faber's epilogue contains a germ of what the whole Canongate Myth series is truly about: when he states on the final page 213, 'we speak of things that cannot be spoken. We seek to store understandings in our gross flesh...we try our best to tell a story,' he underscores what each contemporary author is striving toward with their accounts of mythic story. It is a beautiful and inspiring thing, this attempt to store the ineffable qualities within ourselves and our stories.
The character at the centre of this novel (Theo Griepenkerl) is arrogant, short-sighted and unlikeable - but this is entirely deliberate. After making the stunning discovery of a fifth gospel, apparently published before any of the other gospels in the New Testament, Theo's sole concern is how to wrench money and fame from his discovery. His thoughtlessness in releasing such a controversial document upon the world is rewarded by action from certain increasingly angry and determined citizens who have various reasons to hate the message the gospel sends - that Jesus was more human than transcendental.The writer of the gospel, Malchus, is equally unlikeable, due to his dull reflections and obsession with bodily functions. Again, this is deliberate and suits the nature of the character perfectly. If you're someone who likes to identify and engage with characters then this is not the story for you.Where the novella excels is in two areas: satirising the publishing and reviewing industries, then stirring up ideas and discussions, including how texts can affect us and how people respond when their certainties are challenged. It is worth reading for the eminently recognisable internet reviews alone ('I haven't read this yet, but I think...') Faber also seems to take a shot at the very human habit of focusing on meaningless trivia even when placed in the most unusual and dangerous situations.It is cleverly written but not beautifully described. Action develops logically, albeit shockingly, but the text is narrated in such a way that drama itself is minimised, perhaps to emphasise the ideas over the content. Overall, this is a thought-provoking text, an ideal book to kick off a serious discussion, but not an enthralling read. This new addition to the Canongate Myths series will suit those who like stories to ignite debate, as this undoubtedly will.
I'm pretty sure I probably missed the point of this book, but I enjoyed it anyway, taking it on face value. It's a very short story of someone who finds scrolls giving a first hand account of Jesus, including the crucification, which change how Christianity would be viewed. Very Dan Brown? No, not really. The main problem is that this book is very short. Everything is set up nicely, and then it ends. Would love to see this fleshed out as a full length novel.
The book has a lot of very funny satire. But before you conclude that the book is just a satire, nothing more, please consider its last paragraph: "And that is our misfortune, brothers and sisters: we think of things that cannot be spoken. We seek to store understanding in our gross flesh that gross flesh cannot contain, like a madman who would snatch a moonbeam and put it in his purse. We try our best to tell a story, so that others might be led towards Jesus, but Jesus is not a story. He is the end of all stories." That doesn't sound like satire to me; it sounds like a serious grasping at transcendence. The Gospel of Malchus is the flesh of the book. (Spoilers coming.) Faber has reconstructed Jesus' crucifixion, stripping out the Resurrection and almost everything else a modern agnostic finds hard to believe. He adds horrible details of what constituted a Roman crucifixion. I kept on saying to myself, "Yeah, what happened that day was probably something like that." Malchus sees ugly facts -- very ugly, with nothing supernatural --and yet somehow comes away with faith. The book presents most modern-day Christians as worshiping an idol that organized religion has created. But not all. Not for example the (fictitious) Amazon reviewer who tells Christians not to fear the book, though like much else in the book, you may have to read it twice to see what she is actually saying. The book richly rewards thoughtful reading. For example, the ending recalls Jesus's death and resurrection. The main character is pointedly named Theo: he gets wounded in the side by a bullet; Jesus was stabbed in the side by a spear. Theo almost collides with a pole, a pole shaped like a crucifix. He was pulled "down into a place where time ceased to matter ... he lay there, resigned to an eternity more, and another eternity after that ... dead people came to visit him..." But Theo comes back from Hell. Like Jesus. Malchus dramatizes the possibility of faith and fact coexisting. Debunk all the myths and superstition plastered over Christianity. The fact remains that the earliest Christians created a faith that spread rapidly and far. Faber's Malchus is a fiction, of course, but the earliest Christians knew the raw facts of the crucifixion, facts that could not have had any element of the supernatural, because the supernatural is impossible. They nonetheless came away with a faith that enabled them to endure torture and death. There was and is something there the modern skeptical mind cannot comprehend. Faber is pointing to it.
This was a disappointment. I struggled to understand or relate somehow to the main character and he was just empty. The plot was weakly driven by discovery of two thousand year old scrolls written by a contemporary of Jesus. By the time I reach the end I knew I had wasted my time. Sorry - but lame on all levels.