Hunter may well have used select bits from a wide variety of actual events to construct his plot, as it adds verisimilitude to the fiction.
From the descriptions available, I can see a certain animosity towards German higher critics (Professor Heimworth), Nationalist Muslims (The Hooded Ones, Abid [slave] of the Scar), and non canonical gospels (shreds of Nicodemus). While all these things would have been common knowledge to most citizens of the US, Canada and the U.K. in 1940, they all also had immediate affect upon members of the missionary Hogg family.
From ca. 1860 to 1894 when Hogg's son Hope W. Hogg left the mission field, German Higher Criticism was in it's heyday (e.g., Dutch Radicals and others were questioning the inspiration of scripture, a key tenet of evangelicals), Muslim nationalist Colonel Ahmed Orabi (aka Orabi Pasha, or Arabi Pasha) fans anti-Christian sentiment by means of a number of subterfuges to wrest control of Egypt from the British, French and Turks in 1882, which prompted western intervention to keep the Suez Canal open to shipments of oil, and the discovery of non-canonical gospel fragments in Fayoum (1885), Oxyrhynchus (e.g., P. Oxy 1 in 1897), and later finds in Egypt in the early decades of the 20th century.
I'll see if I can dig up an e-mail for Ian Hunter.
Newton Falls, Ohio USA
James H Hunter's books:
The Mystery Of Mar Saba, New York: Evangelical Publishers [f|1940]
Adrift: The Story Of Twenty Days On A Raft In The South Atlantic As Told To J. H. Hunter, New York: Evangelical Publishers 
The Great Deception, Toronto: Evangelical Publishers [n|1945]
Banners Of Blood, Toronto: Evangelical Publishers 
The Bow In The Cloud, New York: Evangelical Publishers [n|1948]
Thine Is The Kingdom, Toronto: Evangelical Publishers [n|1951]
Uncle Jim's Stories From Nature's Wonderland Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House [s|1953]
How Sleep the Brave! A novel of 17th century Scotland, New York: Evangelical Publishers [f|1955]
A Flame Of Fire: the Life and Work of R V Bingham, Africa: The Sudan Interior Mission, [b|1961]
] On Behalf Of Stephen C. Carlson
Sent: Friday, January 01, 2010 10:58 PM
Subject: Re: [XTalk] Smith's Letter of Clement & James Hunter's Mystery of Mar Saba
From my reading of Hunter's novel, I had the strong impression that the main inspiration for the Shred of Nicodemus and its discovery was Tischendorf's discovery of Codex Sinaiticus in a Greek monastery in the Sinai desert (which Simonides later claimed to have forged). The similarities extend beyond a similar discovery by a visiting Western scholar. For example, both the manuscript that contained the Shred of Nicodemus and Codex Sinaiticus also contained a copy of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.
Stephen C. Carlson
Ph.D. student, Religion, Duke University Author of The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark (Baylor, 2005)
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