Lately I’ve been spending quite a lot of time in Eckhard Schnabel’s incredible trio of books, Early Christian Mission (2 volumes) and Paul the Missionary. Those volumes are loaded with historic and cultural information about Paul’s missionary travels through ancient Roman cities and towns. On top of this, I have been reading several articles by Bruce Winter and have come to discover more fully the important role the cultural context factors into Paul’s mission and writings. I ordered a few of his books this morning.
And that brings me to a different genre altogether.
And this is where I need you.
I want to read more about this first century Roman world of the New Testament. I want to live in the world for a season. What was it like to live in the major cities? How was life for a common laborer or a slave? What were the philosophical influences in the air? What epic tales were woven into the common cultural heritage? What were the prominent cultural captivities and how did pagan temple life intrude? What was life like for the early Christians?
Non-fiction books are valuable for their details, but I’m also looking for some good historical fiction (with a strong stress on the word historical). Lately I’ve tried a few non-Christian authors. Harry Sidebottom is a scholar of 1st century warfare and his fictional works are good on ancient culture and battle tactics, but they’re also unnecessarily violent. Books by Simon Scarrow are set in the 3rd century, and are also quite realistic from what I’ve read, but they’re even more gratuitous.
Of Christian books, I have ordered a few books that look promising. Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series looks good (3 volumes here, here, and here), although I suspect the series will have a strong romantic theme. I also plan to read Paul Maier’s, The Flames of Rome: A Novel. It’s an older work but Maier is a highly respected Lutheran scholar so I am hopeful. Have any of you read the books by Rivers or Maier?
So that’s a brief rundown of my thinking. I am searching for books about everyday life in the NT Roman world. Other technical non-fiction books would be great, but I’m especially searching for historical fiction recommendations.
Thanks for reading and sharing!