Robin Griffith-Jones, The Master of the Temple
At only 128 pages this isn't a book that takes too long to read, but for all its small size — and price to match — it packs a powerful punch.
I read The Da Vinci Code some time ago and have to say I agree with Griffith-Jones' assessment: Dan Brown deserves every ounce of his success with the book, it's a gripping yarn that raises lots of questions; and — despite the number of Christians that are up in arms about it — if Christianity is true we've got nothing to fear from those questions. What's needed is some way to separate the facts from the fiction, and that's precisely what Griffith-Jones gives us here.
Griffith-Jones has good reason to know his subject: he is "The Master of the Temple", the priest responsible for The Temple Church, London, right at the centre of some of the important action in The Da Vinci Code. His official title is "The Reverend and Valiant Master" and this book expands upon a talk he presents each week to "Da Vinci trail" tourists, answering questions about the Knights Templar, Opus Dei, the Priory of Sion — and, of course, about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
In view of the plethora of Christian responses to The Da Vinci Code it's hardly surprising that he's found himself being asked, "Why another? Why bother? Is the novel really that important?" He turns the question on its head: it's not about the book, it's about the book's readers and the questions they ask — and they are important and deserve a considered response.
This typifies his approach throughout the book: rather than attack or condemn Brown for raising the questions, he gets behind the questions to the underlying issues, delving into history with him to unearth what can be known. It is, as Griffith-Jones puts it, "a journey back through time: through 2,000 dramatic years of Christian history." (foreword, p.xii)
Dan Brown isn't a historian, he's a story teller, and it's fast-paced story telling that drops endless hints but never fully explores the avenues opened before shooting off in another direction. Whether Brown is a master of his art in the way that Da Vinci was is a question for the serious literary critics to answer, but if you, like me, have found yourself frustrated by Dan Brown's tendency to take the lid off the can but never quite empty it out to see what's at the bottom, this is the book for you as Griffith-Jones does precisely that.
The book finishes with a helpful section of notes on further reading for anyone who wants to dig deeper still.
As for me: next stop the movie!
Part 2: 'Fact' - or Fiction? The Priory of Sian and Opus Dei
Part 3: Leonardo: The Last Supper
Part 4: The Knights Templar
Part 5: Jesus: Man, God or Gnostic Saviour?
Phil Groom, May 2006
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.SCM-Canterbury Press | Comments? Feedback? | Order from www.christianbookshops.org