Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye

My first reaction to the recent book, Sherlock Holmes and The Needle's Eye: The World's Greatest Detective Tackles The Bible's Ultimate Mysteries by Len Bailey was, "I wish I had thought of that!" As a writer, amateur Sherlockian--and a pretty big fan of the Bible--I couldn't help being more than a little miffed that someone else had this idea, and executed it so well.

I got over my pique, however, and obtained and read it with great relish.

The "Needle's Eye" of the title refers to a time machine which allows Holmes and Watson (and, in one story, Mrs. Hudson!) to travel back in time to investigate ten Bible mysteries. I was impressed that Bailey mostly captured the flavor and style of the Conan-Doyle stories, and though I wouldn't call any of their investigations "ultimate" mysteries, they were nonetheless interesting and entertaining. The questions they tackle:

  • Why did Ahithophel hang himself?
  • What did Jesus write in the dirt in the episode of the woman caught in adultery?
  • Why did Jesus make the apparent error of citing Zechariah son of Berechiah as having been murdered between the temple and the altar, when the Bible the description fits Zechariah son of Jehoiada?
  • When the Bible says, after Jesus' temptation, that the Devil "left him until a more opportune time," what did it mean?
  • Why did Paul start his Macedonian ministry in Philippi?
  • Why did David choose five smooth stones to fight Goliath?
  • Why did Jesus delay when he heard his friend Lazarus was gravely ill?
  • Why is Jehoiachin's name included in Jesus' genealogy when the prophet had said his heirs would be cut off from the throne of David?
  • Why was Jesus said to have come "in the fulness of time"?
  • Why did the Israelites march around Jericho one time for six days, but seven times on the last day?

As can be expected, some were more convincing than others and some were highly speculative--especially for the world's first and greatest consulting detective. My personal favorites were the chapters on the raising of Lazarus and the woman caught in adultery (though neither fully carried my judgment). The chapter on David's five smooth stones was predictable, and the fact that several chapters departed not only from Watson's first-person narrative but also from his point-of-view was quite irksome to this fan of the Conan-Doyle oeuvre.

Still, The Needle's Eye is an admirable accomplishment--and one which also offers a helpful study guide as part of the package.

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