Paul, Apostle of Christ is a work of fiction. About actual people who existed long ago. Set to be released after the anticipated motion picture. Quite the tall order for author Angela Hunt to create a compelling, convincing novel you won’t want to put down. What better way, I thought, to measure the merit of the book than reading it through the eyes of a suspicious skeptic and heart of a convicted Christian?
How well does the storyline stack up as an accurate reflection of the Bible and what history tells us about Rome under Emperor Nero? About three-mile high I would say. If you question it at all, the Interview with the Author and References sections at the back of the book should replace all doubt with answers. But you won’t have to. Like an intricate stain-glass window that displays a unified image letting in the light, the fragments of fiction come together with what we know for sure to complete a viewpoint that opens the eyes of our understanding. And casts things more clearly.
With details acting like the filler soldering the picture together, the skeptic eye and Christian heart get a closer look at the conditions in first century Rome. And a revealing snapshot of the minds and hearts of the real-life and imagined characters. It offers a front-row seat to what Rome was like back then. The point of view of the Romans, particularly those with power, comes into sharper focus. We get to see how the Pharisees became so law-obsessed and the nasty jealousy that drove the desire to rid themselves of Jesus. We gain deeper insight into Saul’s zeal for the Law and source of persecution for Christians. And his remorse over the harm he had done.
Paul’s blinding encounter with Christ and missionary journey take on a whole new dimension. Words, like laser-sharp 3D glasses, whisk us straight to Paul’s side, sharing his experience in the dunk, dusky, stinky prison. We are moved by his friendship with Luke, the physician and writer of Acts, where the inspiration for the book and movie stems from. We come face to face with the brutal persecution and the faith and love of early Christians such as Aquila and Priscilla. People who “had a strange affection for widows and ugly orphans.” Hunt adds credibilty with authentic vocabulary from that era. Scripture was also brilliantly and seamlessly interwoven, the Word of God hemmed in context and meaning.
The novel takes you on a journey into the past where you could smell, feel, taste and envision every word she brought to the page. A journey that moves from what happened then to what happens in your heart throughout the book.
While taking in an insider’s view of what Paul and the early Christians faced, went through, and thought about, their place in history and HIStory, we can’t help but be fascinated by the magnitude of their faith and love; grace and forgiveness. The way of The Way. Their willingness to joyfully die for their devotion to Christ begs you to ask “How could the resurrection not be true?”
Publius about Paul: “My point is this: you do not make a man your leader because he trips and falls in the road and then travels around a bit and says some things. There must be more to this story…and we have only to find out.”
The author’s unfolding of the “more to this story” is what makes Paul, Apostle of Christ effective and relevant for the suspicious skeptic and convicted Christian . She laid out so many things to think about, remember, and be challenged by. Things like the finding strength to do what’s right and shedding the light of goodness onto oppressive evil darkness; how to serve, love, forgive. That there is a time for prayer and a time to act in faith. From captivating beginning to powerful ending, the “more” is what grabs your heart and attention. And leaves a lasting impression.