(...)I know many are offended by the knocks against Christianity, but I don't know if anyone's pointed out that the book is asking us to believe contradictory things. Maybe there was a Goddess religion that Judeo-Christianity forcibly stamped out, maybe Mary Magdalene married Jesus and bore his child, and maybe their descendants today are protected by a secret organization that could destroy the Church by revealing the truth. But how could these all be true at the same time? If Jesus was just an ordinary mortal, then there's nothing special either about his "bloodline" or about a woman whose fame comes from her association with him. So why would a pro-Goddess group venerate Mary Magdalene any more than of any other first-century woman? And if Mary M's relationship to Jesus is part of this group's proof that Christianity is false, how will revealing that Christianity is false increase people's reverence for Mary M? She'd go down with the ship, wouldn't she? This secret "Priory of Sion" has had 2,000 years to think about it, has been led by some of history's greatest minds, and they haven't figured this out?
Also, how is the Priory's picture of Jesus an improvement over the one that the traditional Church has allegedly foisted on us? Which is more inspiring -- the humble preacher who cared for the poor, said "the last shall be first" and promised the meek they'd inherit the earth, or someone whose "royal blood" helped carry forward an ancient dynasty? How is Jesus the Aristocrat better than Jesus the Peasant? If the Priory goes up against the Church on that one, the Church is going to win easily. For all its faults, organized Christianity did help spread the idea that a person's value has nothing to with the family, class, nation or race he or she was born into. Do the protagonists of this novel support an effort to undo that, to go back to the age of royalty? If they don't, the book fails to make that clear.
There are other problems too -- like the notion that a serious scholar would embrace historical-critical analysis of the canonical gospels (the effort to find the legends and theological purposes behind them), then turn around and uncritically accept the non-canonical and Gnostic writings as if they were reports of historical fact. Or that he believes that the Dead Sea Scrolls discuss Jesus, which they don't. Sloppiness like this affects the story insofar as it makes our professor/hero look like an idiot, which is plainly not the author's intention. Still, despite its weaknesses and in view of the generally low standards for thrillers, I give the book three stars because it does at least play with ideas to some degree, and because the last 50 pages turned out to be better than I'd expected.