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Ben Witherington III, A Week in the Life of Corinth (IVP, 2012).

IVP: “Ben Witherington III attempts to reenchant our reading of Paul in this creative reconstruction of ancient Corinth. Following a fictitious Corinthian man named Nicanor through an eventful week of business dealings and conflict, you will encounter life at various levels of Roman society–eventually meeting Paul himself and gaining entrance into the Christian community there. The result is an unforgettable introduction to life in a major center of the New Testament world. Numerous full-page text boxes expand on a variety of aspects of life and culture as we encounter them in the narrative.”

Bruce W. Longenecker, The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story from the New Testament World (Baker Academic, 2002).

Baker: “The Lost Letters of Pergamum introduces readers to the style of New Testament writings, the social and political world of Jesus and his first followers, and early Christian gatherings. Using the literary technique of correspondence through ancient letters, which comprise much of the New Testament, Longenecker mixes fact and fiction to paint an interesting and informative picture of the New Testament world and early Christianity.

“Transported two thousand years into the past, readers are introduced to Antipas, a Roman civic leader who has encountered the writings of the biblical author Luke. Luke’s history sparks Antipas’s interest, and they begin corresponding. As Antipas tells Luke of his reactions to the writing and of his meetings with local Christians, it becomes evident that he is changing his mind about them and Jesus. Finally, a gladiatorial contest in Pergamum forces difficult decisions on the local Christians and on Antipas.

“The Lost Letters of Pergamum provides readers with a delightful opportunity to step into the world of the New Testament.”

Paul L. Maier, Pontius Pilate: A Novel, 2d. ed. (Kregel, 1995).

Andy Naselli: “The book is outstanding! It is engagingly written from Pontius Pilate’s vantage point, starting with Pilate’s political life in Rome and appointment as prefect in Judea (AD 26) and continuing through the murder of Jesus (33 by Maier’s calculation, which is feasible though many scholars prefer 30), death of Tiberius (37), assassination of Caligula (41), and beginning of the reign of Claudius (41-54). The overall plot and every proper name used in the book is historically accurate, and Maier fills in this factual skeleton with colorful fictional details. It reconstructs many events described in the Gospels and Acts from the viewpoint of an educated, unbelieving Roman prefect.

“God used this book to engage our minds even more with the Greco-Roman and Jewish history of NT times in a way that has helped us understand the NT better. It also has deepened our understanding of why Paul calls the gospel offensive foolishness to non-Christians (1 Corinthians 1). Praise God for a historically rooted faith and historically reliable revelation.”

Paul L. Maier, The Flames of Rome: A Novel, 2d. ed (Kregel, 1995).

Andy Naselli: “A historical novel during the reign of Nero (AD 54-68). . . . [I]t is a fine tool to engage one’s mind with first-century Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian history in a way that is virtually impossible by reading only encyclopedia-type summaries of the day. . . . I would not be surprised if both of these books become required reading for NT classes I may teach in the future.”

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7 thoughts on “Historical Fiction on the New Testament World Written by Scholars”

  1. Anne Rice’s ‘Christ the Lord’ is fantastic as well. She sketches a year in the life of Jesus at age 7. It’s a moving portrait of his humanity that doesn’t diminish his divinity. The narrative is very descriptive, serving as an introduction to the thoughts, feelings, and movements swirling in 1st century Palestine.

  2. Sean says:

    Also check out “Worlds Apart” and “A Celt in Rome” by William Crockett.

  3. Casey Smith says:

    If Paul L. Maier is half the writer as he is cover-page artist, then his books look to be fantastic!

  4. Gordon says:

    My seminary professior just released a historical novel based on New Testament World.

    Here’s the Amazon summary of it:

    It’s a compelling tale of a woman’s determined search for her lost love, and a journey that leads her from the highlands of Britannia to the most sophisticated city in the Roman Empire. As the beautiful Neeve travels to Rome, her legionary husband heads in the opposite direction to the wilds of Dacia, his every step shadowed by a talented and relentless assassin. Crockett’s novel has characters that are wonderfully alive and wholly believable. It’s a story about trust and betrayal, love and death, courage and compassion. We find ourselves swept along to its inevitable, but victorious conclusion.

    It is fast past read and its completely historical accurate. He’s New Testament scholar so everything is accurate historically. I completely recommend it.

  5. Ken B. says:

    I have special memories of the semester when I, with a handful of friends who now serve in full time ministry had an undergrad class with Paul Maier, for which we read The Flames of Rome. I later read Pontius Pilate and A Skeleton in God’s Closet (archaeological thriller, not historical fiction). He does a great job of not only conveying the historical background and artifacts of the story, but also writes fiction in a way that draws the reader in – very readable. He retired from Western Michigan University this past fall at the age of 80, having served faithfully for several decades.

  6. Amy says:

    The Flames of Rome is unforgettable! I could not recommend it highly enough.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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