The Magdalene Scrolls by Barbara Wood
This is Barbara Wood’s debut novel, published in 1978. This is also the first of Barbara Woods’ books that I’ve read. I chose it for preview because of the story line. I do like those treasure hunt stories, the ones that promise a cataclysmic surprise. Sometimes they deliver and sometimes they don’t.
The story behind the Magdalene scrolls is a wondrous find that is sent to paleolinguist Professor Ben Messer. It’s very exciting stuff to be sent something dated to just 30 years after the death of Christ and Ben immerses himself in transcribing the scrolls. They turn out to be a last soul wrenching I-have-to-get-this-off-my-chest-before-I-die confession of David ben Jonah.
David and Ben’s lives become more and more intertwined as the translating progresses. Ben imagines himself living David’s life. David struggles with the same questions of faith as Ben. David witnesses the Roman persecution of the Jews, half of Ben’s family were victims of the Holocaust. David struggles with what it means to be a good, pious Jew while Ben disavowed the faith after moving across country to escape the reminders of his home.
We are teased through the entire story of a sin so great committed by David that he will never be forgiven for it, and David’s words from 2,000 years ago slowly seep into Ben’s consciousness until Ben no longer can control either David or himself. I stayed with the story because David’s story was interesting. Ben’s wasn’t so much, there was too much watching him descend without knowing why.