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To Finish the Course: The Apostle Paul and the Early Christians in the Roman World
This historical novel spans the reigns of the Roman Caesars Tiberius through Nero. It tells the story of the fledgling early church and how they were impacted by Roman law and rule. The apostle Paul traveled extensively throughout that world, visiting metropolitan cities, fearlessly taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ straight into the heart of pagan worship. He suffered hunger, stoning, prison, flogging, beating, being shipwrecked three times, and being in constant danger of bandits. Yet throughout all of these reverses, he courageously and fearlessly defended his message and his God-given calling. Interwoven throughout the pages of this story are two Roman soldiers, Marcos and Gaius, who walk the Jerusalem wall, observing from their Roman viewpoint all that is going on in the Jewish world. They observe the persecutions led by Saul and, later, the puzzling change in his life. Eventually, because of the impact a changed Paul has upon their lives, they come to know his Christ. This very real and human Paul, along with the electrifying, heart-stopping world in which he and the early church lived, is sure to keep the reader on edge, wondering what can happen next. Paul and this early church were willing to give everything, including their lives, for the truth of the good news that Christ had come to set up his kingdom in the heart of man.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 6 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 6.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Before Paul's conversion, he is Saul, a young member of the Sanhedrin and leading persecutor of Christ's followers in a setting of conflict-fueled, divided, Roman-controlled Jerusalem and beyond. After Paul's conversion, he must battle familiar forces as he struggles to spread the message of the early church in a volatile and contentious Roman Empire.

Prose/Style: This retelling of a Biblical tale does not benefit from the prose here, which does little to lend the story narrative momentum. It's often staccato and formal in tone, reading less like a novel than a work of nonfiction.

Originality: The story would be enhanced through a fresher perspective, perhaps a retelling that focused less on the well-known character of Paul and more on the side characters who add texture and intrigue to the story.

Character Development/Execution: The book harbors a compelling, but ultimately confusing cast of characters who don’t receive the full attention they deserve. Paul himself (an interesting and enigmatic New Testament leader of the early church) falls somewhat flat.

Date Submitted: June 30, 2021

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