Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bruce W. Longenecker 'The Lost Letters of Pergamum' (Baker, 2003)

This fictional book presents a series of letters between Luke and Antipas that have been discovered in Pergamum. Using this concept, we read of Antipas' first discovery of the claims of Christianity, as he reads through Luke's "monograph" (which we know as Luke's Gospel) and quizzes the author on it, as well as other things. In this way he comes into contact with some Christians (two very different groups, in fact) and ... well, I won't ruin the ending for you (though if you remember Rev 2:13, the very final ending won't be a great surprise!).

Negatives first:
  • I'm not sure that the concept is sufficient to keep the interest going. About half-way through I began to get a little tired of the whole correspondence idea. That said, knowing the ending, I was keen to see what BL did with it.
  • It is a little contrived to have bits missed out, and even estimated dates for the letters, when the whole thing's just a fiction anyway. Maybe I'm just being the fun police here, but the self-consciousness of that began to grate slightly.
  • I was mildly peeved that BL doesn't take the apostle John as author of Revelation - we are told that he had recently died (96) and this before Rev 2:13 could have been written. Not sure this adds to BL's book, and not sure I agree with BL!
  • There are some useful discussions of some of the themes within Luke.
  • There are some useful discussions of some biblical issues.
  • There is a reality about the NT world which I don't always have when reading the Bible.
  • The story is a challenging one, presenting some great Christian virtues in a very 'real' way so as to be just 'natural' in a way that they aren't - to me at any rate.
Towner's Thoughts:
  • Roo Standring has, I know, used this book with a n-Xn mate as a way into Christian things, and I think this might be a pretty good idea. Obviously there's no 'one size fits all' when it comes to choosing such books, but this might be one to add to your pile of 'books to give out to people who I get to the stage of being able to give a book to'.
  • This is a great way in to what life was like around 90 AD, partly because BL works out of Ben Witherington's New Testament History (in fact, BW is credited on the cover with BL). It is a great thing to be more familiar with the context(s) from and into which the NT was written.
  • I was worried that this felt more 'real' than the Bible. But then I do think that part of the success of, for example the DV Code is the format it is in. Might books like this be a way forward for us - like the Narnia series, for example?


Blogger Dave Williams said...

I loved it -and preferred it to The Shadow of the Galilean that I read alongside it. I found lost letters more authentic in feel and the idea of reading correspondence over someone's shoulder was really up my street

7:50 pm, October 18, 2006  
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