HOLLYWOOD, CA – In his latest fictional non-fiction novel, Dan Brown has again crafted what will prove to be another record-breaking book and blockbuster movie combination. In his latest rewrite of history, The Pentecost Conspiracy, Brown again turns tradition on its ear. This time, action centers around a modern day discovery of ancient documents produced and preserved by the ultra-secret Societe´ Speculaire. These documents, found under bourbon barrels in a Kentucky Trappist monastery, contain almost verbatim narrative of the conversation held by discouraged followers of Jesus at the evening meeting known as Pentecost. The story’s excitement builds as the Kentucky monks attempt to contain the secrets about Pentecost from a shifty yet brilliant archeological sleuth.
Bit by bit, the Pentecost Conspiracy reveals that the evening collaboration long ago was in fact a strategy session to conceal the fact that Jesus was an ordinary man who was never really seen after his death. Central to the plan was the inclusion of multiple martyrdom accounts for each of the apostles to demonstrate that all would die rather than recant the “truth”. To make it hard to trace the facts, each of the conspiracists would travel to a different (in some cases several) distant point of the known world. At any cost, the apostles would strive to feign persecution to death in such a remarkably fantastic way that the story would both spread widely and also be somewhat doubted. The hidden ancient documents record Peter cleverly suggesting, “If we make the martyr stories seem made up, no one will believe they were made up.” As Thomas added “The quickest way to cause people to doubt is to make it seem like a ‘slam dunk’, a little quirkiness goes a long way.”
Dan Brown has done it again. Without spoiling the ending, Brown is powerfully effective at virtually obscuring his storyline by emphasizing ground-breaking, but factually non-factual, overturnings of foundational Christian beliefs. He is, as usual, most masterful at blurring fiction into fact whilst declaring the preponderance of fact as hyperbole. Oscar alert!
Satire aside…one of the often-heard criticisms against accounts of the resurrection of Jesus is that the eyewitness accounts are part of an elaborate but transparent conspiracy. The theory goes that the dejected following of Jesus were so desperate to keep his legacy alive they fabricated a story that he had risen from the dead. The group, as the story goes, first relocated the body of Jesus from his tomb to a never discovered grave, elicited dozens of false witnesses to testify in detail that they found the tomb empty, and enlisted the support of hundreds of various people over several weeks to report sighting and encounters with the resurrected Jesus. Most amazing, even in the face of persecution from both the Jewish and Roman authorities, none of these conspirators ever went back on their story to save themselves from hostility and the possibility of execution. They were not conspirators. They were witnesses of a risen Lord and Savior.
As Biola University Professor of Apologetics Dr. Sean MacDowell writes in his book The Fate of the Apostles, Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus, the apostles and other early believers were well aware of the ancient tradition that prophets could suffer, even die, for their faith. Jesus in fact told his followers they would be the victims of persecution. Secular history records that this in fact did happen on a scale that would have made everyone aware of the risk of continuing to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection accounts and persecution that followed the crucifixion were not a constructed conspiratorial rouse but were the outflowing of the heartfelt, Spirit-led conviction of the first Christians in spite of likely persecution. Undoubtedly some of the martyr accounts were later exaggerated by the over zealous or unscrupulous centuries later. This does not take away from the demonstrated conviction displayed by the Apostles as they preached the resurrection of Jesus. They demonstrated their faith in our risen Lord even as it threatened their own lives.
Guest Contributor: Fred Schlich