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The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story from the New Testament World (2003)

av Bruce W. Longenecker

Andra författare: Ben Witherington (Redaktör)

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410444,737 (3.98)3
Written by a respected New Testament scholar, this fascinating novel of a Roman citizen's spiritual transformation gives a reliable glimpse into the world of the New Testament and the early church.

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This is an incredibly unique book that imagines a conversation between Luke (the writer of Luke-Acts) and Antipas, a member of the elite Roman upper-class and benefactor in Pergamum, who is mentioned only in passing in Revelation. It is a fictionalized story that "could have happened" within the 1st century and reveals much of the social understandings of the day, while struggling through the social/political ramifications of the story of Jesus of Nazareth. ( )
  derekhmiller | Jan 21, 2014 |
Very interesting and insightful thoughts on the society that made up the early church, and that which the early church faced. ( )
  swampygirl | Dec 9, 2013 |
A story from the New Testament World. Using the time honored form of a collection of letters, Longenecker provides, by means of an informative and delightful fiction, a remarkable clear and accurate picture of Christian existence in the Mediterranean word of the first century. One comes away form this book ---a 'historical novel' in the best sense --- both charmed and informed. It is a thoroughly delightful read, from which both beginners and experts will profit.
  oaklutheran | Aug 28, 2013 |
Dr. Bruce W. Longenecker, lecturer in New Testament Studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, has given students of the Bible a captivating glimpse into the historical and cultural setting of first century Christian life in his book, "The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story from the New Testament World." Dr. Longenecker’s narrative weaves history and fiction with the purpose of immersing the reader in “the dynamics of friendship, goodness, virtue, and honor in the ancient world of the Roman empire, in which Jesus and His first followers proclaimed the message of a different empire (‘the empire of God’) and enacted distinctive forms of friendship, goodness, virtue, and honor” (p.11).

The author is not content to merely entertain readers; he wants to enlighten them as well. Thus, he develops a compelling story-line derived from the mention in Revelation 2:13 of a man named Antipas. Longenecker builds a fictionalized account of Antipas, a loyal Roman citizen, imagining him to be in correspondence with the Gospel writer, Luke. The book is thus organized as a series of long-lost letters between Antipas and Luke that have been recently discovered. Longenecker expertly weaves historical and cultural facts from Ben Witherington’s book, New Testament History. The result is a story that succeeds in accurately teaching the reader about the world in which the first Christians lived, while also keeping the reader’s interest.

It is evident that Dr. Longenecker sought to make his book accessible to the layman as well as the scholar. He does not sacrifice historical accuracy for the sake of telling his fictionalized story, but neither does he give boring, detailed history lessons that would appeal only to the academic. His writing shows that he is both a skilled story-teller and historian. The reader is aided by the author’s inclusion in the book’s appendix a list of which material is historical and which is fictional. The placement of his supporting documentation in the appendix prevents the material from hindering the movement of the plot, allowing the reader to remain immersed in the story. The exchange of letters is an effective tool to move the plot forward. The author is to be commended for presenting his material in such an effective way. The reader quickly gets caught up in the story-line. One immediately appreciates the journey of Antipas as an inquisitive pagan open to learning about the Christian religion. It is easy to imagine that his journey was not unlike many others in real-life during the early days of the church. It is also not hard to imagine the real-life Luke building relationships with people as he pointed them to his Gospel for deeper insight into recent events that were shaping their society.

Many readers unfamiliar with first-century culture will perhaps be surprised at the role honor, shame, status, religion, and politics played in Roman society. The average Roman citizen believed in many gods, and saw religion as a way of warding off evil omens, earning divine favor, staying in the good graces of the emperor, and in no small way, a means of climbing the social ladder. Antipas is portrayed as a wealthy, loyal Roman subject engrossed in this way of life. Longenecker demonstrates how the early Christian church had to navigate these various influences in order to present the Gospel in word and deed. The author also shows how radical it was in that time to become a Christian, swearing allegiance to Christ as Lord and Savior. People would often suffer hardships personally, financially, vocationally, and politically when they became Christians. Antipas becomes aware of the dangers of becoming a Christian as he interacts with them in various ways. The reader can feel the tension in the plot building.

Longenecker is also effective in presenting how the early church broke social norms and classes through their common faith in Christ. This is made evident as Longenecker portrays the customs of Christian worship. In the story, Antipas is amazed that many Christians no longer relate to one another based on the ideas of honor or prestige or class. The norms of Christ’s empire had superseded those of the Roman Empire. The author is also careful to demonstrate, however, that not all professing Christians saw the need to break with pagan practices, or to give up the pursuit of status and honor. Longenecker does this by contrasting the differences between two house-churches, one true to Christ’s ideals, while the other seeks to incorporate Christianity into Roman paganism. The author correctly portrays the struggle the early church had, not only with outside forces, but also forces from within their own ranks.

The most moving part of the book is when the reader learns that Antipas’ life has radically changed from what he once held dear ---status, power, honor, prestige, to what truly matters; faith, humility, and a sacrificial love for others.

If there is a weakness to Dr. Longenecker’s book it is in the difficulty of seamlessly blending historical events with fiction. At times the words from Antipas seemed too rehearsed, polished, or knowledgeable. Sometimes the history lesson was too easily seen behind the dialogue on the lips of the characters. This is a minor complaint, however, and for the most part, the author has produced a well-written story.

Dr. Longenecker’s work should be commended to everyone who wants to know more about the events, places, beliefs, and people who shaped the first century Christian experience. In learning a historically accurate picture of the New Testament world the reader will be better equipped to interpret the New Testament in its historical context. Many New Testament stories will come to life as one realizes the setting behind them. The reader will also have a new appreciation for the courage and faithfulness of many early Christians who risked everything for Jesus Christ. Longenecker’s book will serve as a catalyst for a deeper commitment to Christ in any sincere believer. It will also confront the church’s tendency towards belief that our world is increasingly difficult to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While it may be true that our American society is more pagan than ever before, this story reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when faithfully preached and demonstrated in everyday-life can reach men and women no matter their background. ( )
  rpowe608 | Aug 13, 2009 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Longenecker, Bruce W.Författareprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Witherington, BenRedaktörmedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
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Written by a respected New Testament scholar, this fascinating novel of a Roman citizen's spiritual transformation gives a reliable glimpse into the world of the New Testament and the early church.

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