Gospel Thrillers: Conspiracy, Fiction, and the Vulnerable Bible

(1994) Daniel Easterman, The Judas Testament (Harper)

Daniel Easterman is one the of noms de plume of Belfast-born Islamicist Denis MacEoin (who also writes ghost stories under the name Jonathan Aycliffe). After a youthful conversion to Baha'i, Easterman studied Islamic religion and briefly taught as a lecturer at the University of Newcastle. MacEoin still publishes on Baha'i, Shi'i Islam, and Middle Eastern studies. MacEoin's ongoing affiliations with the neoconservative Gatestone Institute and Middle East Forum give a sense of his political leanings, which occasionally make their way into the thrillers written under the Easterman pseudonym.

Already by the time he resigned his academic post in the 1980s MacEoin was a successful author; The Judas Testament was his seventh Easterman novel, and many of his dozens of novels have been bestsellers. While the hero of The Judas Testament is also an Irish scholar (although notably part Jewish), it is difficult to say how much MacEoin influences Easterman. Like most of his novels, The Judas Testament has a healthy mix of political intrigue, spycraft, and international conspiracy at its heart. Although written in the 1990s, the novel manages to conjure Nazis, and their post-War European intellectual descendants, as the paradigmatic villains of the piece. 

Hero:  Jack Gould, a widowed half-Jewish Irish Semitics scholar who lost his daughter with his young wife
Villains: Stefan Rosewicz (and his various henchmen and associates), a mysterious collector of antiquities in the U.K. who turns out to be an ex-Nazi collaborator, father of Gould's dead wife, vicious anti-Semite, part of a Euro-fascist group called the Crux Orientalis, in league with conservative Catholic forces working to establish a Catholic-Nazi Holy Roman Empire
Gospel: An authentic Dead Sea Scroll, a first-person testament by Jesus revealing him to be a non-divine, very Jewish Essene leader; through various machinations it had ended up in a Soviet library uncovered as the USSR was collapsing

As a popular author of thrillers, MacEoin was reviewed in a wide array of English-language publications (see the reviews from the New York Times and the Times of London below). Kirkus Reviews favorably described the novel as "an irresistible mélange" of "conspiracies" and "paranoia," a view generally shared by reviewers in the 1990s and MacEoin's readers today.

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