Before Jesus, the Jewish life was all about Torah. Torah must be observed above all else. Torah was law. With the death of Jesus, the Jewish faith was left in a political, as well as religious, wreck. One man, Paul, was given a vision on the road to Damascus. It was a vision from God that showed Paul what Jesus was attempting to accomplish while here on earth. After that night, Paul’s life was forever changed. He became the prime reporter, memorialist, essayist, interpreter, and promoter for the new faith that he believed Jesus had been trying to establish.
First off, remember this is a novel. There are no hard facts proving that what is contained in this book is what happened. I love the fact that the learned author took all of the facts that he did have and combined them into a novel of what may have happened. Given my own lessons in religion, they’re entirely plausible.
We start off the book with getting to know Paul as a person. It was interesting to me to see him humanized. Oftentimes it’s ‘Paul the apostle’ but you don’t really think about what he was like as an individual. You don’t stop to realize that he had hopes and dreams and desires just like the rest of us. For me, this really made the book. Whether any of the theories in the rest of the book are correct or not, it was wonderful for me to be able to take Paul out of the ‘fictional person’ category.
Another great aspect for me is that the book isn’t just about Paul. We also get to follow Jesus’ family and find out what became of them after his death. Although Jesus himself makes a very short appearance in the book, it’s his family that really drew me in. It made me really stop and think about what it must have been like for his family when everyone was calling him ‘the messiah’ when all along they’d just known him as their dreamer brother.
Regardless of your personal religious background, this book is absolutely breathtaking. The time period is so vividly painted that you can’t help but feel real imagery for what it was like then. Both the religious and political aspects of the time are brought to light. This is not a quick read to flip through in a day. I found myself contemplating each chapter after I finished it, just letting it really sink in.
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