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Maier launches retirement with third book in popular fiction series

by Cheryl Roland

June 30, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Dr. Paul Maier, Seibert Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, WMU.
Dr. Paul Maier
KALAMAZOO--After more than 50 years as a faculty member at Western Michigan University, Dr. Paul Maier retired recently--not to rest and unwind, but to plunge headlong into life as a best-selling novelist whose latest book is a Christian thriller that takes on the debate between Christianity and Islam.

"The Constantine Codex," is the third in historian Maier's popular series of novels that follow the exploits of fictional hero Dr. Jonathan Weber. The protagonist and Harvard-based archaeologist first surfaced in the 1994 book "A Skeleton in God's Closet." That book became a national No. 1 bestseller in the category of religious fiction. A 2003 sequel, "More Than a Skeleton," established Weber as a hero with a following. And that following has made the release of the third book in the series a highly anticipated literary event.

Available from Tyndale in both hard- and soft-cover format, "Codex" takes Weber on a search for the lost ending of the Gospel of Mark and a discovery "more sensational than the Dead Sea Scrolls." Along the way, readers are privy to rigorous debate between Weber and a moderate Islamic leader.

Photo of bookcover from Paul Maier's The Constantine Codex.
"Just a few pages into it and I was hooked."
Hank Hanegraaff
The publisher's promotional materials are succinct.

"Think 'DaVinci Code,' only this one has a better plot," says Tyndale's news release.

Like the previous books, "Codex" features Maier's trademark technique of using fiction for his main characters, but always painting a background based on solid facts and canonical history to examine the challenges that could and do face Christianity.

The major plotline in "Codex" deals with a little-known historical episode in the life of Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. He instructed his biographer, Eusebius of Caesarea--known as "the father of church history"-- to have 50 elegantly written copies of the Bible prepared for use in the early church with its pages bound together into a codex, the world's first book format. Not one of these has been discovered to date. In Maier's plot, that situation changes when his hero's wife discovers one of those books. This codex-- the earliest Bible in book form--contains 67 books rather than the usual 66. How Christianity reacts to this discovery and its new elements to the New Testament becomes the centerpiece of the novel.

Readers with advance copies of the work offered high praise for "Codex." Hank Hanegraaff, for example, "The Bible Answer Man," extolled Maier's ability to blend fact and fiction.

"Just a few pages into it and I was hooked," Hanegraaff wrote. "Maier is that rare combination of masterful storyteller and historian.  (It's) a brilliant use of the power of story to excite and educate. Bravo!"

Maier is The Russell H. Seibert Professor Emeritus of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, the third vice president of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod and a widely published author of both scholarly and popular works. In addition to the "Skeleton" series, his other novels include two historical documentaries:  "Pontius Pilate" and "The Flames of Rome."

His nonfiction works include "In the Fullness of Time," a book that correlates sacred with secular evidence from the ancient world impinging on Jesus and early Christianity; "Josephus--The Essential Works," a new translation/commentary on the writings of the first-century Jewish historian; and "Eusebius--The Church History," a similar book on the first Christian historian.

More than 4 million copies of Maier's books are now in print in 20 languages, and negotiations already are under way for the international publishing rights to "Codex." In addition, Maier is the author of nearly 300 scholarly articles and reviews in professional journals.

Maier lectures widely, appears frequently in national radio, television and newspaper interviews and has received numerous awards. He has also penned seven children's books and hosted six video series dealing with Jesus, St. Paul, the early church and current Christianity.

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