Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is pleased to interview Michael J. Scott, who is here to talk about his new novel “The Lost Scrolls.”
Michael J. Scott specializes in action/adventure thrillers and suspense. His novels include “Jefferson’s Road: The Spirit of Resistance” and “Jefferson’s Road: Patriots and Tyrants” about an attempt to spark a second American Revolution by assassinating the President on Inauguration Day; “The Coppersmith,” about a serial killer stalking pastors in Upstate New York; “Spilled Milk” about a man who becomes a terrorist to rescue his children from a corrupt foster care system; and “Eye of Darkness,” a sword-and-sorcery fantasy about a mercenary ex-Sheriff and a girl outcast from her tribe who investigate serial kidnappings and murders. Michael lives outside of Rochester, New York with his wife and three children. Today, he is here to talk about his newest book, “The Lost Scrolls,” a Christian Adventure about finding the original, autograph manuscripts of the New Testament.
Tyler: Welcome, Michael. It’s a pleasure to have you here today. You’ve written lots of suspense and political thriller type books, but “The Lost Scrolls” is the first you’ve described as a Christian adventure. How would you say that this novel is different from your previous ones?
Michael: In one sense at least, it’s not. Every book I write comes from a Christian world view and expresses the truths of that world view. But the book is a “Christian” adventure in the sense that it deals specifically with themes regarding the historicity of the Gospel story.
Tyler: What made you decide to write a novel about the original manuscripts of the New Testament?
Michael: Two things inspired me. One was an idle conversation I had with some of my classmates back in Bible College about what it would be like if the original autographs of the New Testament were ever found. That idea stuck with me over twenty years. The second inspiration came from reading various archaeological suspense novels, most of which presented spurious and historically dubious claims that cast doubt on the truth of the New Testament. Recently, there’s been a spate of Gnostic literature making the rounds, rife with speculation about the Knights Templar and the meaning of the Holy Grail and other Middle Age myths, mingled with the recent rediscovery of third through sixth century Gnostic manuscripts, such as the Gospel of Thomas, in an attempt to deny the historicity of Jesus. I wanted to counter this trend in fiction by writing an archaeological suspense story that supports Christianity, rather than undermining it.
Tyler: Can you shed any light on those manuscripts? Are there really original manuscripts—are we talking about the gospels or epistles—and what kind of research did you do for the novel regarding the New Testament?
Michael: We can say with certainty there were original manuscripts (and in the case of “The Lost Scrolls,” we’re talking both Gospels and Epistles, but specifically focused on the Epistles of Paul), and we have some fragments of ancient manuscripts that are old enough to have been hand-copied from the originals. There was a recent fragment of Mark discovered that may be first century—the jury is still out. But the problem, even if we could date a manuscript to the first century with any degree of certainty, would be in identifying that particular manuscript as The Original. I suspect the only way to do that would be genetic testing, relying on, perhaps, the bones of St. Paul (buried in Rome) or St. Peter or something like that. There again, we’d have the problem, first of all, of access (The Vatican, for example has been quite resistant to the idea of disturbing Paul’s crypt, and understandably so). Even if we could find DNA, the most it would confirm is that the person whose DNA we tested had come into contact with the manuscript. It wouldn’t confirm authorship. But it would lend support toward that end.
Tyler: So, let’s get into the characters and plot. What sets the main characters, Jonathan and Isabel, on this quest to find the manuscripts?
Michael: Isabel’s brother, Dr. Steven Kaufman, is hired (secretly) by Jon’s university to verify a claim: the fabled (and quite fictional) “Domo Tou Bibliou,” which is Greek for “Home of the Book,” which the university believes has been accidentally uncovered by a construction company in Turkey. Steven breaks off contact with the University, which is why Jon is sent to find out what happened. The fact that Steven’s professional reputation is questionable at best is the stated motivation for sending Jon out there. Isabel herself is motivated out of a desire to see her brother’s reputation restored, as well as by the value of the claim.
Tyler: What about the manuscripts of the New Testament make them desirable to the killer?
Michael: The value of the manuscripts—if they could be verified as original (and the scroll found in the “Domo Tou Bibliou” makes that possible), would be inestimable. Collectors would pay millions for a mere page, let alone the entire collection.
Tyler: But would they make any difference in terms of the Christian faith? Would they help to confirm it?
Michael: Yes and no. The thing is, the New Testament is called into question like no other book in the world. We rely on less than a dozen manuscripts for documentary reliability for the works of Plato, Pliny, Tacitus, Euripedes, Caesar, around twenty for Tacitus and less than fifty for Aristotle. And all of these ancient documents are several hundred years removed from the time of their composition to the dating of the extant manuscripts currently available. And yet we call them reliable. The second best attested book in history is Homer’s Iliad, which relies on 643 manuscripts dating around five hundred years after Homer.
When it comes to the New Testament, however, there is no comparison. There are over five thousand manuscripts and more than twenty thousand manuscript fragments available to us, the oldest of which have been confirmed to date to the second century (and a few new ones that may well date to the first!)—old enough to have been hand-copied from the original autographs themselves. And yet, the New Testament is called into question for its authenticity and reliability.
Finding the autographs would make those questions more difficult, but given the lengths people will go to close their eyes to the truth, I have no doubt but that someone would find a way to ignore the evidence.
Tyler: Without giving away too much, what are some of the obstacles Jon and Isabel face in tracking down the killer and getting her brother’s reputation restored?
Michael: The biggest obstacle Izzy and Jon face is Jon himself. He doesn’t believe Stephen found the “Domo Tou Bibliou.” With that in mind, Jon is unprepared for the various mercenaries, assassin, and religious operatives who compete with him for the scroll. And Stephen, knowing full well what he was up against, “hid the scroll with style” (to borrow from the book). Jon has to piece together the puzzle and decipher the clues before he can locate the scroll—all while wrestling with whether or not it’s even real.
Tyler: Why do you think readers will find this novel interesting, and what makes the New Testament texts so fascinating to readers today?
Michael: I think people are naturally curious about ancient history—and there’s enough actual history in the novel to prompt exploration of both the claims for the New Testament as well as for some of the many historical sites that are visited in the novel. People want to know whether or not something that old that tells such a fantastic tale could possibly be true. That, and the action keep readers turning the page to find out what happens next.
Tyler: Besides the manuscripts themselves, you highlight several revered Christian sites in the novel. Will you tell us about some of those places and how they figure into the novel’s plot and their significance as Christian sites?
Michael: There are a few places that are both historically and currently significant—the Vatican Library comes to mind, but so does the peninsula of Mount Athos, which is under the control of the Eastern Orthodox communion. Mount Athos was quite fun to explore, because, generally speaking, we in the West are largely unfamiliar with the Eastern Churches—to the point where some people believe there are only two kinds of Christian—Roman Catholic or Protestant. They quite ignore both the Orthodox and the Coptic branches which predate Protestantism by several hundred years and which are quite independent (historically) of the Roman Church. Over twenty monasteries make the peninsula home, with more than 1,400 monks living either in the monasteries themselves, or privately in sketes (single person dwellings), such as the one Demetri Antonescu occupies.
And then there is the Qal at Simân, or Basilica of St. Simeon the Stylite. Simeon was an ascetic monk who climbed atop a pillar to get away from the crowds that often came to see him. He allegedly lived on one for over thirty-seven years, only climbing down when ordered to by his bishop out of concern that Simeon was staying atop the pillar out of pride. When he willingly began to descend, the bishop relented and let him stay up there. Ascetics such as Simeon were less about enduring hardship for the sake of hardship than they were about doing everything they could to focus on God. After Simeon’s death, a church was built around his pillar, and the remains of it still stand today.
Finally, we have the Sen Piyer Kilisesi, or Cave Church of St. Peter. Allegedly, the fisherman-apostle himself carved the cave where the church met. What is more likely is that Peter visited the cave and may have preached there. We know from Galatians 2:11 that Peter did indeed come to Antioch, and that during this occasion, Peter actually backed down to the circumcision group, with the result that Paul the Apostle confronted him before everyone. The Cave Church still stands, and services were even held there as late as 2009, but visiting the site is restricted due to unstable rock conditions.
Tyler: The book begins in Ankara, Turkey, and I just visited Turkey a few months ago, so I’m curious, Michael, whether you visited Turkey or what kind of research you did in that respect about Turkey and about the nationalities of the various bad guys?
Michael: The only countries I’ve ever been to, besides the U.S., are Canada and the Bahamas. I’d love to visit Turkey, or any of the Holy Land sites, but the opportunity hasn’t presented itself as of yet.
I had to find another way to get there. Toward that end, I relied heavily on Google Earth, Sacred-Destinations, 360cities, YouTube, Panoramio, and various travel sites on the Internet to get a “feel” for the place. The Esenboğa airport website was quite helpful in that regard as well. Lots of pictures.
But I still had one question that couldn’t be answered by the Internet: how the city smelled. I wanted to capture that sense as well, but I had no way to do it. Fortunately, I discovered that one of my family’s home-schooling associates had been a missionary in Ankara, and I was able to interview her briefly for the book. She was most helpful with this question.
The bad guys in the novel all come from various places—though ironically, none are actually Turks. The closest are the Kurdish mercenaries that Sean MacNeil hires. I chose them because I knew of the tensions between the Turkish government and the separatist Kurds, so they seemed an ideal scapegoat for the Turkish Gendarmerie—a bit of a red herring for the cops to chase. Beyond that, we’ve got Irish mercenaries, an infidel assassin from Pakistan, some questionable academics in Michigan and a wayward Catholic priest from Baltimore.
Tyler: Besides the Christian manuscripts, is there more to the Christian theme of the novel?
Michael: Yes. The theme of “The Lost Scrolls” is integrity—whether it’s the integrity of the Church as a whole in sending someone after the autographs, the integrity of the Bible as it relates to manuscript reliability, or the integrity of the central characters. Will Jonathan sell himself out to possess the scrolls, or to win love? Will Isabel trade love for security or wealth? Will Demetri turn his back on his conversion to obey his religious leaders?
Most importantly, what does man profit if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul (Matthew 16:26)? I hope, through this novel, to entice readers into asking these same questions. What is their integrity worth?
Tyler: What kind of feedback have you received so far on the book? Do you think people are “getting it” in terms of the response you were hoping for?
Michael: I think so. The reviews I’ve seen have been fairly positive, with the only objectives being raised over the action-elements. Given that I’ve written the book to compete with other archaeological suspense novels that are out there, I’m okay with that. I want my characters to think, act, and speak in realistic ways, and that means being honest about the fact that good people don’t always behave, and that even bad guys are made in God’s image.
Tyler: You mentioned several novels today that are almost anti-Christian or Gnostic in their viewpoints. Did you read these books, and what effect would you say they had on you in telling your story, or were you inspired by any other great writers of mysteries, thrillers, or adventure stories?
Michael: I did read some of the more well-known Gnostic thrillers out there, and while I find the theology they present to be parasitic and reprehensible, they are, nonetheless, well-told stories.
But I’m also a sucker for anything written by James Rollins—I think he probably leads the pack when it comes to archaeological suspense.
Tyler: Michael, I understand this is the first Jonathan Munro mystery in a proposed series. Can you give us any clue about what the next mystery will be about and when it will be available?
Michael: The next installment is called “The Elixir of Life.” It is an adventure tale that takes Jon deep into the heart of Medieval Europe and then on to Ephesus trying to rescue a colleague and friend who’s been kidnapped. The kidnappers are in pursuit of a fabled substance that can cure any disease and prolong life, and are themselves being pursued by agents of a far more dangerous and sinister nature. The story asks the question: what makes life worth living? In it, I weave several Middle Age myths together into a cohesive (and, I hope, plausible) whole with direct ties to the origins of Christianity.
Tyler: Thank you, Michael, for the privilege of interviewing you today. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information we can find there about “The Lost Scrolls”?
Michael: Thank you, Tyler. I can be found at MichaelJScott.wordpress.com, where I also give more background information on the places of “The Lost Scrolls,” a listing of some of the bibliographical evidences for the reliability of the New Testament, as well as information about the Egerton Papyrus, a second century manuscript discovered by the British Museum in 1934. Egerton is a genuine fifth gospel without any discernible Gnostic heresy in the pages that have survived. Most of the manuscript contains elements which are also found in the four Canonical gospels, but it also includes a miracle of Jesus not recorded elsewhere. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide for himself whether or not the story is genuine.
Archive for the ‘The Lost Scrolls’ Category
Another review for the Lost Scrolls via Blogcritics. This one has been posted on the Seattle Post Intelligence so far.
Earliest Gospel of Mark found?
Would be oldest fragment of New Testament known to exist
Published: 11 hours ago
by Joe Kovacs, executive news editor for WND, an award-winning journalist and author of the No. 1 best-selling book Shocked by the Bible: The Most Astonishing Facts You’ve Never Been Told.
A New Testament professor is setting the world of Bible scholarship on fire with his claim that newly discovered fragments of early Christian writings could include a first-century version of the Gospel of Mark, from the same century in which Jesus and the apostles lived.
Daniel B. Wallace of the Dallas Theological Seminary made the stunning announcement during a Feb. 1 debate with Bart Ehrman at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill on whether we have the wording of the original New Testament today.
“If this Mark fragment is confirmed as from the first century, what a thrill it will be to have a manuscript that is dated within the lifetime of many of the original followers of Jesus!” Wallace said. “Not only this, but this manuscript would have been written before the New Testament was completed.”
Wallace says seven New Testament fragments written on papyrus had recently been discovered – six of them probably from the second century and one of them probably from the first. He expects further details to be published “in about a year.”
“These manuscripts now increase our holdings as follows: we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts (all fragmentary, more or less) from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 40 percent of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts. But the most interesting thing is the first-century fragment.
“It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers. He said he was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century. If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist. Up until now, no one has discovered any first-century manuscripts of the New Testament. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament has been P52, a small fragment from John’s Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century. It was discovered in 1934.”
Wallace’s interest is focused on the portion from Mark’s Gospel.
“Before the discovery of this fragment, the oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was P45, from the early third century. This new fragment would predate that by 100 to 150 years.”
Craig A. Evans, professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, says the find may indeed be of very great importance.
“If authenticity and early date are confirmed, this fragment of the Gospel of Mark could be very significant and show how well preserved the text of the New Testament really is. We all await its publication,” Evans told the Christian Post.
“Any find that gets us a quarter-century or so closer to the time the original gospels were written would be highly significant, even sensational,” Andreas Kostenberger, senior professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological in Wake Forest, N.C., told Baptist Press.
“Of course, in part the significance of the discovery depends on the size of the fragment, not to mention the verification of the date. There have been previous reports of discoveries of early Mark or other gospel manuscripts that did not check out at closer scrutiny, so it is certainly appropriate to maintain scholarly caution until the full data are known and available to public scrutiny. For example, some scholars got burned when they prematurely accepted so-called ‘Secret Mark,’ which turned out to be a forgery.”
When asked about the trustworthiness of what Mark really wrote if we don’t possess an actual original copy of his manuscript, Kostenberger said, “The fact is that the earliest manuscripts of all or parts of Mark that we do have show remarkable consistency and stability. And none of the minor variations between different manuscripts affect any major doctrine of Christianity at all.
“Of course, there is no way to prove positively one way or another what might have happened during the period between the original writing of Mark and the first available copies. Knowing what we do know about the care with which ancient Jews as well as early Christians took to preserve the original wording of what they believed to be authoritative and sacred writings – in fact, the very words of God – inspires a high degree of confidence. First the apostles, and then those after them carefully guarded the reliability of the eyewitness testimony to Jesus contained in the four canonical gospels.”
Just like I maintained in the book: the manuscript authority for the New Testament is untouchable and impeachable!
You can pre-order a copy now from Amazon. The book is slated to come out in June.
All good things must come to an end, and finally, Eye of Darkness has done so! Woohoo! I have finished the book. 106,662 words and 55 chapters long. Now all that remains is to finish the map (and it’s a little different building one electronically than drawing it from hand) and drop it into the text. And a little editing, too, of course. Cover art needs a little TLC yet, too.
But it is relieving to be done, finally. I’ll wrap up these items in the next few days, and should be able to release it via Createspace, Amazon, and Smashwords shortly thereafter. Of course, the fun part will be learning how to incorporate images into e-books. Not something I’ve done before, but it’ll be a good experience.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to plunge ahead with Topheth rather than Tree of Liberty. Given that The Coppersmith is outselling both Jefferson’s Road books, it seems to make sense. I’ll still get TOL done before summer, I’m sure. Topheth already has 26k words or so and a pretty complete outline of where to go, so I should be able to ramp up the speed needed to finish it by the end of March. That’ll give me about three months to work on TOL before the end of June. Worst case scenario: TOL waits for a September release. Regardless, it’ll be cool to have these books and The Lost Scrolls coming out around the same time.
I’ve spent the last several days going through Eye of Darkness with a fine-toothed comb, clearing out some of my more problematic little “hobgoblins” and rewriting a few scenes that just didn’t click for me. And the good news is that I’m back on track with the novel, and rapidly closing in on the end. Whew!
In a way, this book has been a bit of a lesson in humility for me. I started it in April, and the goal was to churn it out as quickly as possible. Now, I suppose I could give myself the time off for NaNoWriMo (which I finally won this year for Spilled Milk), meaning I pretty much took off November and most of December. But that still means that it’s taken me about eight and a half months to write this book. Hardly the ten weeks I was hoping for.
It’s not that I can’t write fast (Spilled Milk only took seven weeks). It’s just that this story has turned out to be far more complicated than I’d originally thought. And bigger. About 25% bigger.
Oh, I almost forgot: I took a significant break from it to edit both The Lost Scrolls as well as The Elixir of Life (which I’m still working on). So maybe seven and a half months. About three times what I’d estimated. Stats like that, I should work for the Defense Dept.
Anyway, I’m going to stick with the plan and keep working on finishing books as quickly as possible. The sheer number I have to write has not lessened a bit. In fact, I just came up with two more Janelle Becker book ideas just yesterday: One is called No Honor. In it Janelle has to investigate a serial killer in Dearborn, Michigan who is disguising his kills as “honor killings” among the more fundamentalist Muslims there. The other book is untitled at the moment, but has Janelle infiltrating an environmentalist terror group that functions like a cult. That provides me with six Janelle Becker books. And if I want to get any of these written before I die, I’ve got to get cracking. Oy!
“The fact something has never been found does not mean it never existed.”
An edge-of-your seat page-turner that will lead you across Turkey, Syria, the U.S. and elsewhere in a cat-and-mouse search for a scroll revealing the location of the missing autographs (original manuscripts) of the New Testament. Finding them, and being able to date and compare them to other ancient copies already in existence, would prove the accuracy and authenticity of the New Testament. But there is another mystery to solve and protect – a strange artifact – a fifth gospel written in Greek on what has become known as the Egerton papyrus. The scroll holds the key to everything.
In this spy vs. spy meets James Bond meets Indiana Jones quest, Dr. Jonathan Munro is reluctantly dragged into the chase to find the scroll before a private collector, professors, monks, priests, mercenaries and police on several continents, each with their own motivation – money, fame, research, knowledge, the contentment of knowing the scrolls are with their rightful owner. Who that turns out to be will shock you.
We’re immediately hooked as we’re dropped into the midst of the race with a stabbing and a strange key. Jon’s ex-friend, archaeologist Dr. Stephen Kaufman, has been seriously injured in an attempted murder, and has sent Jon a clue and a message that he needs his help. Add Stephen’s sister (Jon’s ex-girlfriend) to the mix, and you have a recipe for adventure and issues of trust/mistrust that move the story forward at a frantic pace. Don’t rest or daydream during this one – you’ll miss key clues as you try to unravel the mystery yourself behind the location and meaning of the scroll.
Several stories intertwine in this mystery-suspense with holy and unholy alliances, twists and turns and unexpected outcomes. Intrigue grows as the story is told from several points of view, all mixed together, like viewing a movie through different cameras and angles. This makes perfect sense as the book could easily be made into a screenplay. It reads like one of those movies where you’ve bought the popcorn, but forget to eat it because you’re so wrapped up in the storyline and what’s happening in front of you.
Michael’s writing is brilliant. The facts are not handed to us on a platter. We are shown just enough evidence at the right time to link events that later make sense. And just when things seem to be calming down enough to take a breath, or rest your eyes, there is another shadow in the dark waiting to take you somewhere else. Your mind is never left idle. Characters and locations are drawn in vivid detail, and we are transported through the action without thinking much about it. We are simply “there.”
Jon Munro has devoted his life to providing evidence for the faith, even though he at times struggles with his own. It’s a refreshing honesty. And the fact he says science proves the Bible accurate, time and again, and has never been disproven, is a comfort to those seeking the Word of God as truth in their lives.
As an ancient history buff, and former translator, I was instantly drawn to the story and found it hard to put down. The Egerton papyrus really does exist, and it was interesting to think about the real-life quest that must have taken place to find and keep it. Michael has blended fact and fiction seamlessly. Well worth the read, this is fast-paced, non-stop action and intrigue at its best.
Janet Dimond is a freelance editor, proofreader, corporate and technical writer with over 25 years’ experience in writing and editing for various audiences. Several of her authors have won Word Guild awards. Some of Janet’s clients include Faith Today Magazine, Tyndale University College & Seminary, and Augsburg Fortress/Castle Quay Books. She believes the author’s voice should prevail, not hers, and can help take you from rough copy to published material. Easy to work with, Janet offers positive, concrete solutions at reasonable rates.
Please visit her website for additional services and information.
So there ya go! If you want to read the book (and who wouldn’t after a review like that!) you can pre-order a copy now from Amazon. The book is slated to come out in June (about three months earlier than we thought!).