I was offered a chance to read and review a novel written by Edwin Herbert. The write-up that his publicist sent was quite intriguing and something that was definitely up my alley: Vatican conspiracies, history, mystery, and adventure. Edwin Herbert is president of his local free thought society and has been a regular op-ed newspaper columnist on topics concerning science, skepticism, and the mythical roots of various religions. Mythos Christos is his debut novel. Meet me after the jump.
When the young American Rhodes Scholar and student of paleography, Lex Thomasson, is offered a once in a life time chance to go to Alexandria and help a group working with the Vatican to find documents belonging to Hypatia of Alexandria, the young man finds himself in a deadly treasure hunt. Are there secrets contained in Hypatia’s document that can bring Christianity to its knees? As Lex and his companions use a special gematria key to decipher each code left by the ingenious Hypatia, it soon becomes evident to Lex that the Vatican will never allow this historical find to be seen.
Mythos Christos is two stories in one. While Lex learns the real motive for the expedition, Hypatia strives to keep the true accounts of Jesus safe before the Roman Emperor can destroy the Alexandrian Library. Edwin Herbert’s novel reads like a spy novel with just the right touch of the Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones.
Interview With Edwin Herbert
Gilbert: Tell me a little bit about yourself and where you got the inspiration for Mythos Christos?
Edwin Herbert: As an optometrist in a busy practice, I originally had neither the time nor inclination to write a novel at all, much less one of such a controversial nature.
However, having studied both Greek mythology and the origins of Christianity for nearly 20 years, I found myself at a nexus of some fascinating information I felt should be spread far and wide, but in a more entertaining format more readers are willing to tackle: fiction.
I realized if I don’t write it, no one will. And who wouldn’t be intrigued by an archaeological treasure hunt set up in the early 400s by Hypatia of Alexandria, yet only now being played out?
Gilbert: Knowing that you drew from actual historical and religious accounts for this novel, what was the most surprising fact that you discovered while doing your research for the book?
Edwin Herbert: I guess I was most surprised to discover that certain scenes in the Gospel narrative were purposeful literary imitations of older myths. A striking example of one such lift demonstrates how the disciples James and John were based, at least in part, on the Gemini Twins.
The Twins, Castor and Pollux, went by the collective epithet Dioscuri—sons of Zeus, “the Thunderer.” Jove’s boys were also known to call fire down from the sky—referring to their father’s lightning bolts—and had been known in Greek myth to have destroyed entire villages with that power.
Compare these facts with the story of James and John in the Gospels. In Mark 3:17, Jesus gives them the collective label Boanerges—“Sons of Thunder.”
But the smoking gun is Luke 9:54. When Jesus is refused entry into a Samaritan village, the brothers ask, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?” Jesus rebukes them for their quick tempers, but it’s assumed they have this power. Really? These two backwater fishermen could order destruction from the sky? No wonder Jesus wanted them on his team!
Another startling revelation was how certain Gospel stories utilized gematria in ways that will astound the reader, but no spoilers here!
Gilbert: Your decision to use mathematical solutions to solve Hypatia’s secret code made the story seem more realistic. What made you go this route?
Edwin Herbert: As challenging as it can be to pen a stand-out novel these days, I had the added challenge of devising the means to introduce the ancient riddles my protagonist, Lex Thomasson, was tasked with solving as he progressed along the hunt. These puzzles involved Platonism, Pythagorean geometry, astro-theology, alchemy, and Greek mythology—and all this utilizing the ancient system of gematria as a cipher.
The ancient Greek number system made use of all 24 letters of their alphabet plus three further characters which were strictly numerical. This implied that every Greek word or name carried an equivalent numerical value by simply adding the value of each letter in the name, a method known as gematria—the key to most of the riddles in Mythos Christos. (For instance, the sun god Abraxas held a value of 365, then considered a solar number for obvious reasons.)
The Greek mystics found significance in these numbers and often named or altered the spelling of their gods’ names to reflect these “magic” numbers. Strangely, the values of Zeus, Apollo, and Hermes exhibit several curious relationships, which means their names must have been invented or altered only after gematria was originally put to use nearly 3,000 years ago.
A mathematician herself, Hypatia would have been savvy in the art of gematria.
Gilbert: Have you ever been to the places mentioned in your novel? If not, would you if it would help with your research?
Edwin Herbert: Years ago, authors might have felt obliged to visit the places about which they wrote for the sake of authenticity. These days, however, with the internet, Google Earth, Google street view, virtual tours, etc., an author can research almost any site in more detail than those who travel abroad could glean by actually being there.
That said, I still intend to physically tour Italy as a research expedition for my next novel. I wonder, can I write that off as a business expense?
Gilbert: What are you working on now?
Edwin Herbert: I am now writing a sequel to Mythos Christos, this time featuring the powerful Medici family of Renaissance Florence. Savonarola and the Bonfire of the Vanities will play a central role. It will entail another treasure hunt for Lex Thomasson (now an older, wiser professor), only this time involving the myth of Moses and the Exodus tale.
Stay tuned, my freethinking readers, more truth will soon be exposed!