1. What inspired you to write your book?
In the last 20 years, nonfiction works concerning the origin of Christianity—some by experts, some not so scholarly— have experienced a significant upsurge. I developed a taste for this information and devoured these books one after the other. But though I found this material fascinating and at times shocking, I knew most people would not be as apt to pry open these often massive tomes of historical knowledge.
I wrote Mythos Christos to share what I learned about ancient mythology and its influence on the roots of Christianity that the majority of readers are unlikely to come upon. The difference is I put it in a format far more appealing and digestible to reach a broader sweep of readers—fiction. Who doesn’t like a good story?
My novel is difficult to pigeonhole, as it slashes across several genres: historical fiction, suspense, thriller, archaeological adventure, and conspiracy. There are even elements of mystery, complete with an Athenian gumshoe hot on the trail of miscreants.
2. What is it about?
The year 391: Roman Emperor Theodosius issues a decree that only one religion would hence be recognized—Christianity. Pagan worship will no longer be tolerated. Even to move one’s lips to a false idol is deemed a criminal offense. At the behest of Alexandria, Egypt’s archbishop, the Christian mob swarms the city, gleefully destroying all things pagan.
When the Neoplatonist philosopher and teacher Hypatia of Alexandria witnesses the razing of the Serapeum, a seven-century-old temple to the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis, along with its annex library, she wonders if the Great Library of Alexandria will suffer a similar fate.
Hypatia takes measures to preserve selected scrolls and codices from any subsequent purges, especially what the Church considered forbidden knowledge—certain telling documents concerning the hidden origins of Christianity. In order to prevent the uninitiated from discovering her trove of manuscripts, she sets up a series of burials governed by actual linguistic and geometrical riddles which must be solved to gain access. Only a philaletheion, a truth-seeker steeped in Platonist mysticism and Pythagorean mathematics, could hope to solve her sequence of puzzles.
21st century: A young American Rhodes Scholar and student of paleography, Lex Thomasson, is asked to join a team of Vatican archivists to help them advance through what they came to realize was Hypatia’s long dormant treasure hunt. Utilizing a cipher known as gematria, Lex demonstrates his unique talents by unlocking the secrets along the trail.
Soon, however, Lex becomes suspicious of the group’s motives and flees, only to find them and a hired cabal of assassins converging on the final cache. The archaeological adventure continues from Alexandria to Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, and finally Heliopolis, Egypt.
Mythos Christos is really two tales in one, and the scene alternates between the timelines. The reader will be intrigued to learn some curious mathematical relationships that exist in the very names of the Greek gods and, weirdly, even within some of the Gospel narratives themselves!
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book?
I’d like the reader to come away with the understanding that though myths and legends may encapsulate certain insights about human nature and the psyche, most of them—even those which eventually became world religions—were originally infused with metaphor and never meant to be taken as literal truth.
To quote Hypatia: “Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing.”
4. What advice do you have for writers?
Write what you know for which you have a deep and abiding passion. For me it became an obsession, a burning secret which warmed me during the long years of creating this controversial story.
5. Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
Due in large part to the digital revolution, the publishing world is undergoing sweeping changes. While indie publishers and eBooks are steadily on the rise, brick and mortar establishments are on the decline. Despite this, the end of the paperback is nowhere in sight. Too many readers still love to hold the physical copy in their hands and deeply inhale the fresh new, or moldering old, scent of books.
6. What challenges did you have in writing your book?
As half of my novel takes place in ancient Alexandria, Egypt, it can be categorized as historical fiction. As such, I had to research the historical and cultural milieu to portray it with precision. I also had to steep myself in ancient mythology, Neoplatonist mysticism, astro-theology, Pythagorean geometry, and even alchemy. This took many years.
Then I had to find ancient linguistic and mathematical riddles, and create new ones, and install them into the text as the treasure hunt moved along— an endeavor far more challenging than writing a standard novel.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
While the separation between church and state is ever threatened by literalist believers, my book will help to increase awareness by way of an example of such folly—the oppressive theocracy Hypatia railed against in ancient Alexandria.
Have you ever heard of a novel that questions the historical existence of Christ? I haven’t either, even after an exhaustive search. In this way it is unique. The story itself is an adventure, featuring a rich variety of fictional characters and actual historical figures.
As Mythos Christos challenges preconceived spiritual notions and invites debate, it has already been selected as reading material for at least one book club so far.
About Edwin Herbert: He is president of his local freethought society, has been a regular op-ed newspaper columnist on topics concerning science, skepticism and the mythical roots of various religions. He has a busy optometric practice in Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife in their empty nest. Mythos Christos is his debut novel. For more information, please see: www.MythosChristos.com.
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