The Third Testament, by John Eklund is a fictional tale about Fred Sankt, a widowed professor at a Catholic college who begins to have recurring dreams which lead him to believe that God is calling him to write the next testament of the bible. As he embarks upon this task, he is faced with crisis in his personal life- he is served with a summons for a lawsuit which could wipe him out financially, and his beloved grown daughter is diagnosed with cancer. Throughout these challenges, Sankt clings to his faith and somewhat obsessively embarks upon the project of writing a third testament of the Bible, a volume written in the style of the scriptures which chronicles the experiences of Christianity over the 2000 years which have passed since the writing of the New Testament.
At first I was very skeptical and a little wary about the premise of this book, and the view on Catholic faith that it may present. After all, it seems to be human nature to attempt to rewrite the bible to suit our own views. I was pleasantly surprised by the book’s orthodox portrayal of Catholic beliefs and of church history. At the end of the novel, Ecklund includes a listing of the 19 books and chapter titles of Sanct’s notional Third Testament. The Third Testament written by Sanct in the novel begins where the New Testament leaves off, with the martyrs of the early church. It proceeds through the life and Assumption of Mary, the trials of the early church and the Church Fathers. It proceeds through the middle ages, with Saints Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis, the protestant reformation, the marian visions at Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima. It concludes with writings from Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II. In this testament, Ecklund provides a fairly comprehensive outline of the history and development of the Roman Catholic faith over the last 2 millenia.
But the story of the writing of the Third Testament serves only as a backdrop to the story of Fred Sankt, his daughter Ellen, and their friends Jerry and Joyce. The challenges of facing an unexpected and potentially devastating lawsuit simultaneously with accompanying his daughter through cancer treatments are vividly portrayed, as are the struggles of his friend Jerry to return to the faith of his childhood. The characters are well developed, and as you read along, you can’t help but become emotionally involved in the very real struggles of these people.
Pervading the book, there is a strong sense that God is guiding and caring for everyone, even when it seems he is absent. This is most clearly illustrated in the unnamed ‘old friend’ who appears in Fred’s recurring dreams. Although Ecklund never names this ‘old friend’ directly it appears to be either Fred’s guaridian angel or Jesus himself.
The real story here is not about some guy who writes a new version of the bible. It is about how Fred Sankt turns to his faith during times of great trial, and finds strength and comfort, despite facing a seemingly hopeless situation. This is a message that bears repeating over and over again.
John Eklund is a practicing Catholic who lives in Chicago with his wife, daughter and two dogs. You can find out more about John and order his book at thethirdtestamentnovel.com .