Friday, October 2, 2020

Michel Benoit - The Thirteenth Apostle

When his friend Andrei is mysteriously killed on a train on his way back from Rome, Father Nilo, a

Benedictine who teaches the Gospel of St John to novices, decides to conduct his own investigation. The dead priest possessed proof of the existence of a thirteenth apostle and an epistle stating that Jesus was nothing more than an inspired prophet, not the Son of God – two things that would spell great danger for the Church. Father Nil then discovers a previously unpublished account of the origins of Christianity. It tells of the Nazoreans – a community excluded from the official Church by Peter and Paul – who appear to have thrived until the 7th century, playing an important role in the birth of Islam. While he pushes ahead with his investigation, the Pope's advisors, rival factions and secret societies are trying, by any means, to lay their hands on the priest's findings. From the Mossad to Fatah, everyone seems to have a very good reason to keep the thirteenth apostle a secret…

Comment: I had this book in the shelf since 2008. There was a time I was quite fond of weird religious plots and I acquired a collection released by a magazine during 2008 of some books whose plots/themes would be centered around historical and/or religious issues. To finish the monthly reads of September, I decided to just grab one of that collection from the shelf.

In this book, the author - an expert on studies of the Bible or something similar - has created a fictional plot based on the idea that perhaps there was a 13th apostle among the group Jesus reunited during his famous last years. 

In current days, father Andrei has discovered proof that not only was there another apostle never identified but that he alone was interested in helping Jesus achieve what He intended and not the adoration of his followers, as some of the other apostles did. This is a secret that no one in the Church would want to be known and father Andrei is killed. However, he left some clues to his fellow priest friend, father Nilo, and he travels to Rome to find the necessary information to confirm the new discovery. But will the high forces of the Church allow him to succeed?

This novel can be divided into two main segments: the events during the time Jesus was alive which the author fictionalizes to suit his idea, and the current days action, where father Nilo acts like a super agent trying to uncover quite a secret. These events often happen in alternate chapters to allow the tension to build but, to be honest, I was a lot more interested in the historical/fictionalized ideas of what happened to Jesus and those close to them than I was in the contemporary action pace. I think the author has interesting ideas and I wish those could have been presented better. The "thriller" part of the novel wasn't too good, for me.

I'd say the problem is the author wanted to make this a religious thriller, so that requires tension, conflict, a goal to be reached and enemies trying to get the upper hand. I felt the enemies were made to look so black and white in their goals and so hypocritical in how they behaved that any genuine desire to not disturb the waters of what has been established for so long simply felt rushed and annoying. I mean, it didn't feel really credible that something not yet proved could be such a motif for such crimes but, at the same time, reality happens with less....

My favorite part was really the inferences made on how the events surrounding Jesus' death in the cross might have been told from a partial POV. Everyone knows the books in the Bible were written by men and they show someone's point of view in a certain moment, through a certain tone and with a certain intention. One can argue it might not be the only way to see things. It's obviously not possible to prove, but it's fun and thought provoking to simply consider the possibilities. I think this was well done but when these ideas are mixed with the fictional contemporary part of the story... I think, perhaps, someone could have advised the author on how the plot might be more fluid with some changes.

All in all, this an entertaining read, nothing truly amazing nor was it presented in the way I believe could have made it a more captivating story, but it was good enough to merit the time it took to do it.

Grade: 6/10

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