HarperPaperbacks, New York
April 1996 (pb)
The Lost Testament is another of the seemingly endless stream of thrillers based on the premise that further discoveries of or further translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls will cast new light on the life and times of Christ. Alan Gold’s contribution to this sub-genre is definitely meant for beach reading; it is not in the same league as Piers Paul Read’s On the Third Day, or Lionel Davidson’s The Menorah Men, or Richard ben Sapir’s The Body. These latter novels are likely to make the reader sit back and ponder, “Well, what if this were to happen?”
Gold’s nearly 600-page potboiler (about twice as long as it needed to be!) does present an interesting premise. What if Christ were a member of the historically proven Essene sect and what if he left a Last Will and Testament among the scrolls of Qumran that defined his understanding of his beliefs and ministry? What might the possibility of the existence of such a document mean to the Roman Catholic Church, as well as other Christian denominations? What impact might it have on Judaism? These are beguiling questions that Gold addresses with a sledgehammer. To say that the author populates his world with one-dimensional characters would be an overstatement! His portrayals of international Bible scholar and Jewish apostate Michael Farber, the inevitably beautiful Israeli archaeologist Judith Abramovich are fairly stereotypical, but seem incredibly deep and multi-faceted characters compared to the characterization of American evangelical Jimmy Wilson, a deranged wife-beating anti-Semite who almost literally sprays spittle every time he opens his mouth. He, of course, wants the Last Testament to use as a marketing tool for his multi-million dollar ministry. Thrown into the plot are a variety of Neanderthal-like thugs (my apologies to Neanderthals) who surround Jimmy, as well as Roman Catholic priests, some of whom resemble priggish version of Francis of Assisi and others of whom make the evil Cardinal in The Three Musketeers look positively benign.
But as I said at the outset, this is a beach book and it can be enjoyed as a fast-paced but mindless adventure romp. And if it gets waterlogged or accidentally eaten by sand crabs, you probably won’t mind—you will not likely wish to make it a permanent part of your personal library!