Saturday, June 20, 2009

Paul: A Novel

If I were to teach a course on Paul, besides one or two scholarly texts, I would assign Walter Wangerin Jr.'s Paul: a Novel. Sometimes its hard to appreciate Paul, the human being, while trying to explain his sometimes dense theology or trace the movements of his missionary journeys. But in Wangerin's novel, the apostle and the many characters we read about in his letters and Acts come alive in this fine read.

Here's a few words from the opening prologue set in Corinth as Prisca encounters Paul for the first time.

"THERE WAS A VOICE in the morning. There came a Voice through the wet air, like a long flag lifted on the wind: Eucharistoumen, it was saying, and to theo pantote peri panton humon . . .

There was this single Voice which, though it came up from the city, dwelt here, in the ear, like the needle end of a distant thread, saying: Mneian poioumenoi epi ton proseuchon hemon . . .

That Voice - the bare sound of it even before the words made sense to me-pricked my hearing and drew me out of the house and down to the city."

What Prisca is hearing is Paul in the market place dictating to Timothy the words that will become part of the first letter to the Thessalonians. She goes on to describe the one from whom the Voice emanates:

"Here was no one of any bodily advantage. Here was a small man sitting cross-legged on the stone floor of the colonnade, leatherwork spread around him, his tools and materials close to hand, is head a monument for hugeness now bowed over his fingers as if too heavy for his stalk of a neck, and patched of blood marking two parts on the crown of it. His fingers were flying"

If you're up to a few novels this summer, let me suggest you put this one on your list.

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