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Reviewed by Heather R.
Eye Witness by
"...a rollicking romp through Biblical archaeology."
The first book in this fully-illustrated adventure stars forensic archaeologist Dr. Terence Harper, “The Bone Man”. When the skeptical Harper is summoned to Israel by his former best buddy to help authenticate a newly discovered artifact, he knows it must be something big. He doesn’t have to wait long to find out just how big.
As soon as he and his assistant arrive from the airport, they are led deep into the archaeology labs of the Israel Ministry of Antiquities and shown a 1st century AD document containing an eyewitness account of the activities of a Galilean named Jesus. Purportedly authored by a high-ranking member of the Sanhedrin, the report was commissioned by the Jewish governing body as a record of Jesus’s blasphemous claims to be the Messiah.
Wow! I love this kind of story! I’m a long-time subscriber to Biblical Archaeology Review and believe without a doubt that Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best Indiana Jones movie. Indeed, the opening pages of Harper’s all-night translation session in the ultra-violet lit labs of the Ministry of Antiquities are thrilling and eerie.
From the darkened lab we time travel back to the bright sunshine of 1st century A.D. Jerusalem and relive the story as set down in the account being translated by Harper. In general, the story and artwork are accurate according to currently accepted Biblical and archaeological standards. Laid out in visual fashion, however, the familiar gospel story takes on new life.
Luedke follows the interpretation that Judas was a Zealot who believed he was acting as God’s instrument when he made his deal to turn Jesus in to the Sanhedrin. This is all kosher as one possible interpretation, but I’m uncomfortable with the last confrontation Luedke creates between Judas and Jesus in which Judas kneels at the foot of Jesus’s cross and asks “Why me?” Jesus replies, “You are what you are. My friend.” This exchange takes the interpretation too far outside the Bible’s parameters for me - though it doesn’t change Jesus’s character as revealed in his compassionate prayer to “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Another extrabiblical scene, however, does change a key figure’s character too much for my comfort level. Luedke adds to the Garden of Gethsemane sequence a visit from Mary, Jesus’s mother, who gives him the courage to face his fate. As if she knows what’s coming. I disagree with this portrayal. Mary is the natural and earthly mother of God, but she is not His spiritual or heavenly mother. On the contrary, several times in the gospel accounts, Mary in her humanity does not know or understand her firstborn’s mission.
Nevertheless as the story returns to modern-day Israel, the pace picks up –– as does reader frustration when high-powered government officials decide this document shouldn’t be made public. Remember the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark?
The last few pages of Luedke’s story read like a thriller as Harper and his assistant try to outwit the officials. Tragedy and mystery follow until the last frame drops a whingdinger of a cliffhanger, which sets up the second book in the Eye Witness series Acts of the Spirit.
Overall this graphic novel is a visual and verbal feast. However, I think the story’s framing method of modern-day-back-to-1st-century-back-to-modern-day slows the story down. Switching back and forth between present day and translated story might keep things moving.
I also think there are too many “manuscript” pages that include only the translated text. These long pages in small type with no illustrations make this graphic novel read more like a traditional novel, and the intended audience of young people may just skip over them. On the other hand, the manuscript clips that are distributed over illustrated action pages work much better.
One way to accomplish this as a story idea is to not have such an intact, well-preserved manuscript. If archaeologists were to find a document that had even half the details recorded in this one, it would be a monumental find. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls are in bits and pieces yet they’ve still had a huge impact on Biblical studies.
These comments aside, Eye Witness: A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth is a rollicking romp through Biblical archaeology that will appeal to young and old alike.
Heather R. Hunt is a business editor in Connecticut. For fun she reads, writes, cheers on the Red Sox, and enjoys tennis and cycling. She also co-leads a local tea party and enjoys holding government officials and media outlets accountable. Check out her blogs, The View from Stonewater and Connecticut for Sarah Palin.