Sunday, July 25, 2010
A Wretched Man by R W Holmen is a stupendous novel about Paul, The Apostle. Most of us are aware of Paul's Damascus Road change, his beatings, his letters to the churches and his friendships before and after conversion. My question became do I need to read a fictionalized picture of his life. My answer became yes rather quickly after I started reading the book. Without reading this book about Paul, The Apostle I had an idea of a man. In other words, I had an unfinished painting. R W Holmen paints a background for the painting I held in my mind. The book is beautifully written full of descriptions of the Holy Land's landscape and Agriculture. "He longed for....his parent's rooftop, the smell of fresh goat leather....the taste of ....fresh bread dipped in honey, the feel of goat's milk warming his throat, and the splashing melody of the river rapids."
Words written like this quote from the book made me see a place more clearly. Along with the pictures of the land R W Holmen drew the men and women who lived beside Paul: Caligula, Barnabas, Gamaliel, Roman soldiers, friends, family of Jesus and friends of Paul and ordinary people. "Cyrene was prominently located where Africa jutted into the Great Sea pointing toward Rome. Lucius and Agathe were darkskinned North Africans, nut-brown not black...Paulos had seldom seen dark-skinned persons, and he greeted the North Africans with eager curiosity."
I did know Paul worked as a tent maker. My mind never thought about the strength needed for such a job. After reading A Wretched Man, I gained an idea of the way Paul's hands must have looked. I feel his hands must have been callused, rough, strong and may be stubby. It had to be tedious and difficult to pull a needle through layers of leather tent material .
On friendship in A Wretched Man Paul's best friend is Arsenios, a Greek. Paul and Arsenios religions are totally different. How is it possible that two odd birds like these two men could have an enduring friendship? Over the years, I've heard arguments, debates, soft mumbles about whether Paul was married or not married. R W Holmen takes the ideas about this side of Paul's life and manages to come up with a whole new idea that had never entered my mind. This idea made me read further, stop reading, begin reading and so on throughout the book. My mind was being cleared for new knowledge vs. old knowledge. Leaving me the choice on how to look at the part of Paul's life I don't see in The Bible.
I questioned and examined myself. How staunchly do I believe what is not ever mentioned in The Holy Bible by God's inspired writers? If a thought is not in the Bible, how far do I go to force pieces of information to fit my comfort zone? Have I made Bible heroes and heroines without sin? Have I made Paul, Simon Peter and other men and women in The Bible walk without a care in the world. Do I see these people struggling with flaws and sins? If I get to meet God's most blessed servants one day on the other side or wherever will I fall apart learning the rest of their story? Will I feel shocked in a good way or a bad way? Will I feel offended?
These are only some of the questions I asked myself while reading R W Holmen's A Wretched Man. I questioned, I discovered, I began to see with a better lighting. For example, the life for Christians under Roman rule was very harsh. R W Holmen birthed in me a desire to know more about the Roman Empire because Christ and Paul lived with these people daily."Rebellion stalked the streets of Jerusalem.......Jews openly jeering Roman soldiers and pelting them with rotten tomatoes. The outnumbered troops....A massive army of two legions, thousands of armed infantrymen, marched on Jerusalem, Led by the Governor of Syria."
R W Holmen's A Wretched Man has left a deeper desire in me to restore the painting given to me. Taking this approach can only help me draw closer to my magnificent Creator, God and Lord. It will also make The Bible more exciting. As people say, "there is more gold to discover in them thar hills."
"The Sabbath service at the synagogue was a delicious blend of old and new: Hebrew traditions flavored with Iesou stories and songs." Yes, I think a love fest. One that I can joined every day.