Item description for Lost Letters of Pergamum, The: A Story from the New Testament World by Bruce W. Longenecker & III Ben Witherington...
Overview "The Lost Letters of Pergamum" introduces readers to the style of New Testament writings and the social and political world of Jesus and his first followers. Using the literary technique of correspondence through ancient letters, Longenecker mixes fact and fiction to paint an interesting and informative picture of the New Testament world and early Christianity.
Publishers Description 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. While the account is fictional, the author is a respected biblical scholar who weaves into this fascinating scenario reliable historical information. Bruce Longenecker is able to mix fact and fiction and paint an interesting and valuable study of the New Testament world and early Christianity. Readers are invited to view Jesus and the early church from a fresh perspective, as his first followers are brought to life. More reliable than typical historical fiction and far more interesting than standard textbooks and reference books, "The Lost Letters of Pergamum" provides readers with a delightful opportunity to step into the world of the New Testament. Pastors, Bible study groups, and all thoughtful readers will enjoy this book, which one reviewer said he "couldn't put down."
Citations And Professional Reviews Lost Letters of Pergamum, The: A Story from the New Testament World by Bruce W. Longenecker & III Ben Witherington has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Booklist - 01/01/2003 page 845
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More About Bruce W. Longenecker & III Ben Witherington
Bruce W. Longenecker (PhD, University of Durham) is professor of religion and W. W. Melton Chair of Religion at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Thinking through Paul, The Cross before Constantine, and Philippians and Philemon in Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament.
Reviews - What do customers think about Lost Letters of Pergamum, The: A Story from the New Testament World?
Fascinating May 15, 2008
Longenecker certainly came up with a creative idea when he wrote this book. Two New Testament figures predominate - Luke the famous (at least in our day) physician and author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles exchanges correspondence with a lesser known NT individual Antipas (the faithful witness of Revelation Chapter 2).
The only perhaps more creative "what if and maybe so" story would be a 12 year-old Paul and Jesus (they were about the same age) discussing theology together in the temple together -perhaps at Gamaliel's feet.
Buy this - it is fascinating
Early Church Ethos Come Alive Sep 9, 2007
I found this book to be one of the best in terms of describing the communal ethos of the early church. It would be intellectually dishonest to regard this book as a broad academic study of early Christianity, for Longenecker does not claim such a purpose for his work. Rather it is a novel that richly captures the personalities and characters that made up part of the young church.
As to be expected from a New Testament scholar, Longenecker creatively uses the gospel of Luke as the hub around which the fictional story progresses. I would regard this book as worth reading if for no other reason than for the author's insight into Luke's gospel.
A Living Word Aug 23, 2007
These epistles bring to life the times of the New Testament and early Church like nothing else I've ever read. Longenecker has done intensive research into the history and culture of the period, and it is truly historical fiction with the emphasis on history. Had he not been upfront in the forward, he could have passed this off as a completely believable hoax, but for the lack of document provenance.
This is a story that will delight and engross. I learned so much more of First Century life, and the doings of the early Church. Longenecker writes in a style that seems to channel Luke, and fills every letter with nuances to truly repreresent the worldviews of the respective author-characters. We see, letter by letter, the slow change in Antipas, from a striver after attention and public honor, to a man of true honor. We see in Luke a man who truly sees the Gospel through Greek eyes.
I would heartedly recommend this work for anyone interested in the history of the period, or interested in seeing the New Testament come alive again.
Historical fiction of a different sort Sep 28, 2005
This is an innovative work both of historical fiction as well as biblical scholarship. The Lost Letters of Pergamum are in fact pure fiction, but the underlying truth is that there were far more letters going around the ancient world than we often realise. To think that Paul and the other apostles only wrote the handful we still have stretches credulity.
This is also an interesting and creative way of introducing biblical issues of interpretation. We take for granted the histories written based upon letters in the New Testament and other similar writings - actual history texts were few and far between, particularly when it comes to early Christianity. The few references in major historians of the time show how seemingly insignificant the original Christian community was in context of the time.
Longenecker begins in earnest with the idea that there has been a discovery of lost letters (akin to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls - indeed, the discovery of New Testament writings would be a major event). Antipas, who is mentioned in the book of the Revelation to John, died as a martyr in the city of Peramum, in Asia Minor, but not before being subject of a good volume of correspondence. Antipas is a correspondent with the gospel writer Luke, and also keeps his own sort of journal or record of events. These are laid out in an interesting development that shows the growth of faith, practice, and ultimate call to martyrdom, as was not uncommon in the early church.
Longenecker introduces interesting historical items in the course of the correspondence and journals. For example, one of the charges against Christians by the Romans was that they were atheists - while this may seem a strange thing to charge Christian believers with today, in fact what the Roman authorities meant by this was that the Christians didn't honour the Roman gods. While the Jews had a special dispensation to permit them not to worship Roman gods, this was not a general trend (and caused suspicion against the Jews, too). When the gods include the ruling elite of the empire, to refuse to worship them borders on treasonous activity.
Longenecker borrows from the scholarship of Ben Witherington III, prolific writer and New Testament scholar, to flesh out some of the details. There is an appendix at the end of the volume that organises the facts from the fictional aspects, so that the careful reader can be certain as to what was wholly created for this narrative, and what has a stronger basis in fact. Descriptions of urban life, rural life, economic situations, political figures and more are all drawn from historical documents and analyses.
This is a fascinating book, done in a style so as to enhance the appreciation of the reader of biblical texts for the kind of material that he or she is reading. This is good for the general reader as well as for study groups, youth groups, and classroom texts.
The NT world comes alive Sep 8, 2005
Bruce Longenecker's "The Lost Letters of Pergamum" takes as its premise the discovery of ancient letters buried for almost two millennia in the lost city of Pergamum. These letters contain correspondence between Antipas (the martyr mentioned in Revelation 2:13 from the city of Pergamum) and Calpurnius (resident of neighboring Ephesus and son of Theophilus). Through that correspondence Antipas is introduced to Calpurnius's friend and house guest Luke. Luke is, of course, the author of the Gospel of Luke as well as the Acts of the Apostles, both dedicated to the inquisitive Theophilus, and is happy to take up the correspondence with Antipas as well as present him with a copy of the Gospel.
The discovery of the letters and correspondence is, of course, pure fiction but the dialogue is intriguing, illuminating and also a unique manner of acquiring a basic understanding of Roman culture, society and the background for the New Testament world. The description of the gladiatorial contests is almost unbelievable given the carnage described and the bloodlust of the audience. One excerpt from Antipas' description to Luke of these contests will suffice to underscore this: "The slaves....many of their hands already amputated, were torn to bits one at a time by lions, bears, or panthers while chained to chariots or hanging from crucifixes" p. 66. All the while the crowd yelled for more. The reader will also learn about ancient practices such as house rules and the strata of Greco-Roman society in which in almost a caste-like manner people are hobbled in advancement simply due to their family ancestry. Antipas, in fact, marvels that during the gatherings of these house churches that societal hierarchies are discarded and prominent high-ranking socialites serve the peasants. Antipas, being a member of aristocracy/ruling class is privilege but as his faith awakes these seemingly important pedigrees begin to lessen in relevance.
This is a quick read but one that will profit one's understanding of the New Testament world tremendously. The book is divided into letter collections compromised of an average of two or three individual letters. These letter collections are brief (10 pages average) and can be read in one setting. I would recommend that you first read the corresponding passages in Luke's Gospel (the author lists the text under discussion). Then read the entire "Letter Collection" that discusses that passage, that way the content of the letters and the issues involved can more readily understood. The appendices give further useful information including a listing of the main characters. This is especially helpful to keep track of who's who. Take some time to read this book, you will be enlighten in your understand of the culture and times of which inhabit the New Testament world.