If you've never read evangelical minister LaHaye's best-selling ''Left Behind'' series of Christian apocalyptic thrillers, you can get in on the ground floor of this vivid, fast-paced, and ludicrous fictional endeavor (with a new coauthor). Volume 1 introduces archaeology prof Michael Murphy, a hard-praying, happily married Indiana Jones who jets around the globe dodging bullets, wrestling lions, and converting an Arab sheik in his search for evidence that biblical events really happened. While seeking a bronze serpent purportedly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar circa 600 B.C., he is tailed by a goon called Talon who slits throats with an exceedingly sharp fingernail. Worse, Talon is orchestrating a vast heathen conspiracy to discredit evangelical Christians. Unless you're a true believer in the genre, read at your own risk.