The Last Gospel
1st century CE: the lame Claudius, not yet Emperor of Rome, travels to Galilee where he meets a charismatic young carpenter, Joshua of Nazareth, and is inspired by his philosophy of heaven on earth. Claudius records the carpenter’s words on a scroll that he takes back to Rome. Later, after the Nazarene is crucified, and after Claudius becomes emperor and then fakes his own death, he contrives an ingenuous plan to hide this secret gospel of Christ from those who would destroy it.
21st century: archaeologist Jack Howard and his team of researchers first learn of this last gospel when excavating Claudius’s secret library near Pompeii. Following the trail of clues Claudius has laid out, their quest takes them from Italy to London, California, and finally Jerusalem. All the while the mafia and elite Vatican henchmen are hot on their heels, willing to stop at nothing to prevent Christ’s true message from being discovered.
This novel suffers in comparison with The Da Vinci Code, which it so clearly emulates. Brown’s book, for all its flaws, inspired a wider debate on the mystery of Mary Magdalene and the divine feminine within Christianity. However Gibbins’s central theme that the historical Jesus would have been mortified by the ungodly deeds of power-mad churchmen through the ages seems rather obvious. Those who aren’t hungry for deeper revelations might enjoy the book as a fast-paced, escapist read.