Also posted at Infuzemag.com
In Steve Berry’s The Alexandria Link, the real Abrahamic Covenant—that is, before it was altered by Jewish and Christian agenda-driven translators—is about to be unearthed. An international finance cartel, some power-hungry politicians, and a few hired assassins race to find the lost Library of Alexandria and seize its extant Hebrew manuscript that declares the original site of the Promised Land. He who holds the Covenant controls the political future of the Middle East.
Although The Alexandria Link is a stand alone novel, Berry’s character Cotton Malone, returns from The Templar Legacy. Malone, who Berry says thinks and acts a lot like him, is a middle-aged, government intelligence officer tired of the agency. Malone’s hysterical ex-wife shows up on his doorstep in Copenhagen, where he owns a rare book shop, announcing the kidnapping of their teenage son. She hands Malone a cryptic note of instructions: the kidnappers hope to force him to reveal the hiding place of George Haddad, a Palestinian Bible scholar, who they believe can lead them to the ancient library. The kidnappers attack Malone’s shop, engulfing it in flames to urge him into action—his angry ex-wife in tow.
Malone, while protecting his ex-wife and locating his kidnapped son, must keep Haddad’s location secret and reach the Library before the bad guys; but can Malone trust the tag-along mercenary who saved his life? Can he trust his government, his ex-agency or his ex-wife?
Berry’s themes of corrupt organized religion and power politics play out in this fast-paced, international suspense to find the ancient world’s greatest library. Destroyed before the seventh century, it held the Hebrew text believed to have been the source for the Septuagint, the first Greek translation that became the source for the Latin Vulgate.
The Catholic Church’s history, rife with corrupt priests in powerful positions, plays negative roles in his novels. But, Berry, a Catholic, says his aim is to entertain—not offend his religious readers; and Berry emphasizes that The Alexandria Link is fiction, not fact.
With that said, however, The Alexandria Link promises to be as controversial as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. In fact, Brown endorsed Berry’s book. And like The Da Vinci Code, The Alexandria Link won’t be appreciated by readers offended by controversial treatment of Biblical subjects.
While The Da Vinci Code speculates on the romantic relationship (groundless) between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, The Alexandria Link is based on revisionist history that is hostile to Israel in the age-old Palestinian-Israeli land squabble.Berry credits Kamal Salibi’s book, The Bible Came from Arabia, for the idea to write The Alexandria Link.
Revisionists like Salibi, a Lebanese historian, claim that Jews and Christians intended to cement Israel’s Biblical and historical claim to Arab lands, and tampered with Scripture while translating it. Haddad, Berry’s fictional Bible scholar says, “What if the Old Testament, as we know it, is not, and never was, the Old Testament from its original time? Now, that could change many things.”
Haddad, along with Salibi, believes that Israel’s Biblical history occurred someplace other than Palestine: “Archeologists have dug in the Holy Land with a vengeance all to prove the Bible as historical fact—not one shred of physical evidence has been unearthed that confirms the Old Testament—nothing found to prove it—an evidentiary void,” says Haddad.
Berry supplies a “writer’s note” to separate fact from fiction in The Alexandria Link, and this is where my criticism lies. Berry acknowledges that the “idea that the land promised by God in the Abrahamic covenant lies in a region far removed” from modern-day Palestine is controversial. But, Berry agrees with Salibi that archaeology could “easily prove or dismiss” the premise
Yet, he fails to mention the myriad archaeology—the Dead Sea Scrolls, the discovery of King David’s palace, and the walls of the First Temple, to name a few—that refute Salibi’s and Haddad’s claims. Hershell Shanks, editor of "Biblical Archaeology Review," describes the Dead Sea Scrolls found in caves near Jerusalem in 1947: "The oldest Hebrew texts were two manuscripts from the 10th or possibly the early 11th century known as the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex” The Qumran texts date a thousand years earlier, before Biblical texts were standardized.
The Qumran Texts are Biblical texts, written between 250 BC and 68 AD, when the Romans destroyed the settlement.The caves held 800 texts written more than 2000 years ago, which included all the Old Testament books except for Esther, and confirmed the Septuagint translation as reliable. So, when Haddad underscores his point to Malone by saying, “The oldest surviving Hebrew Bible [was] produced nearly 2000 years after the original text from who knows what?” Perhaps he should consult the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Haddad also questions the lack of physical evidence to support the Old Testament. He says, “Archaeologists have found not one shred of physical evidence” to confirm the Old Testament as fact. But, apparently he hasn’t heard that since 2005 archaeologists have found King David’s palace, which dates to the 10th century BC, near the walls of the Old City or that a First Temple wall has been uncovered in Jerusalem’s City of David.
The Alexandria Link is a well-written, suspenseful high-speed chase—good guys versus bad with guns blazing—to seize control, ultimately, of Israel’s future. Berry’s interesting characters and research of locales in Denmark, Portugal and D.C. add dimension and credibility to the novel. However, as Berry notes, “the final story is a blend of fact and fiction.” The Alexandria Link is excellent fiction. But, in order to draw the line between historical of fact and Berry’s fiction, readers will need to rely on their own research, rather than depend on Berry’s.