By: Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Published by: Zondervan
ISBN 13# 978-0-310-24316-8
504 pages

Back Cover: Saul of Tarsus, the impassioned rabbi and persecutor of Christians, had a Damascus road experience that changed his life and helped shape the future of the world. As Paul, writer of some of the meatiest chunks of the New Testament and zealous missionary to the Gentiles, he became one of the most controversial figures in history.

Yet what do we know about the man, other than what's in the letters that have fashioned the Christian church for 2,000 years? Unless you are a theologian or historian, the answer probably is very little--until now. Walter Wangerin, the highly acclaimed scholar and writer, has breathed new life into this fiery, enigmatic, and passionate creature in what should be celebrated as a seriously good work of literature.

The novel, which combines expert knowledge and prophetic imagination, charts the first exhilarating and dangerous years of the church after the death of Christ. It is seen through the eyes of the witnesses--Priscilla, who meets Paul in Corinth; Barnabus, Timothy, and Titus, his companions; James and Simon Peter, the "pillar" of the first Christians; and Seneca, the great Roman writer, statesman, and adviser to Nero.

REVIEW:  Paul is a fictionalized account of the apostle’s life based on Scripture and other historical writings. Wangerin has such a talent for bringing to life the places, people and stories of long ago. His descriptions add context and bring even more imagery to the experiences Paul wrote about in the Bible. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character like Barnabas, Timothy, Luke or James and sometimes Paul. This clever technique gives the reader a well-rounded view of Paul – his appearance, his voice, his personality – at least the view of Paul the author imagines based on the few facts history gives us.

Wangerin’s research is apparent from details about the time period of the New Testament church. I have new insight into the controversies and challenges these people faced. There was such joy following the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when believers were sharing and worshipping in unity and fellowship, but too quickly there was disagreement and suspicion which led to division within the church. One of my favorite scenes in the book is a conversation between Paul and Barnabas “one-upping” each other about the new foods they’ve eaten as an exercise in the freedom found in Christ. I laughed out loud. I read the rest of that chapter with tears in my eyes as I “joined in” the worship meeting and listened to Simeon Niger talk about the day he carried Jesus’ cross along the Via Dolorosa.

Being familiar with Paul’s life, you may think there is no element of surprise in the book, but Wangerin does not include every account from Paul’s writings (despite being over 500 pages!). It is fun to turn the page and see whose viewpoint the next chapter will be and which experience will be told. Read this book and you will have a renewed appreciation and affection for Paul and his mission.

By The Page Turner


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