Len Bailey’s book, Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye, portrays Holmes and Watson traveling to biblical days to solve biblical “mysteries.”
The time travel is a fascinating aspect to the book, but the mysteries are “solved” simply by Holmes’ keen observation of Scripture. It’s the same premise I learned in Howard Hendricks’ class on Bible Study Methods. In that class, we even read a portion of Conan Doyle’s books where Holmes employs his powers of observation.
Once in this book, Watson asked how Holmes, a critic, could have such faith in the Bible. Holmes replied:
Faith has nothing to do with it, old boy. I’m just a better reader than you are.
The book is creative and entertaining, though sometimes it stretches the bounds of tolerance when Holmes offers Watson long paragraphs of historical background, sounding more like a Bible Dictionary than a detective.
Although each mystery rests on the keen observation of often-obscure passages, most of the conclusions offered are still debatable—answers that have been provided by scholars for centuries.
For example . . .
One “mystery” asked why David picked up five stones to kill Goliath. Obviously, David had confidence that God could do the job with one shot.
- Holmes’ answer is an age-old assumption that David planned also to kill off Goliath’s four brothers.
- It’s more likely that David knew little of the giant that day, and knowing at that time that he had four brothers is completely speculative. It would have served Holmes better to walk Watson to the British Museum and observe the size of a typical sling stone, such as were found in the battle at Lachish. Because the stones measured the size of a man’s fist, five stones was probably all David could carry. Although God certainly would kill the giant with one stone, David was being prudent rather than presumptuous. Remember, David also tried on Saul’s armor.
Another mystery asks why Jesus waited days before He came to heal/raise Lazarus. Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye suggests a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection as the reason—but the Bible actually tells us. It’s no mystery. A coordinating conjunction gives us the clue (John 11:5-6).
While Holmes’ conclusions are possible, they usually represent only one perspective. It would have been nice to hear Watson present the other “sides” and allow Holmes to systematically dismantle them.
Regardless of the fact that the mysteries’ solutions are debatable, the book is entertaining—especially for those who love Holmes stories—and it reminds us of the necessity of careful observation with regard to Bible study.
That alone makes Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye a good read.