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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Paul lives

Wangerin's novel reaveals the apostle

Walter Wangerin, whose column ran on page 6 of this magazine from January 1988 until last month, welcomed readers with his uniquely gifted and prophetic voice. When he announced he was ending the column, he said it was to spend more time on large writing projects. If newfound hours make it possible for Wangerin to write more books like his latest, Paul: A Novel (Zondervan; order from Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, 800-328-4648; www.augsburgfortress.org), we will all come to understand his decision.

This is, quite simply, Wangerin's best book to date — and that's saying a lot considering his prolific output. In addition to tremendous suspense (even though we know what's going to happen!), this book reveals the author's deep theological, historical and cultural knowledge.
This is, quite simply, Wangerin's best book to date — and that's saying a lot considering his prolific output. In addition to tremendous suspense (even though we know what's going to happen!), this book reveals the author's deep theological, historical and cultural knowledge.

Paul is a stunningly realistic and complex portrait of the apostle and his times — all told in the words of his companions and such other players as the Roman philosopher Seneca. As they build a dramatic and detailed portrait of Paul, with all his flaws, even the most minor also reveal themselves as marvelous characters in their own right. Readers meet the aged Jude the Damascene who guides Paul on the road to Damascus — and then puts Paul astride his gentle donkey when he becomes blinded and dazed.

Jude, and others, also demonstrate the many subtle shadings of Jewish and new-Christian belief at the time. Never have I seen a better portrayal of the anguish and ambivalence many Christ-followers felt about how to regard their Jewish heritage.

I'll read this book again to soak up more sights, sounds, smells and tactile evocations of the ancient marketplaces, worship sites, humble dwellings and dusty roads where Paul's drama plays out.

We will miss your words in The Lutheran, Walt, but we will meet and greet you in your other writing.


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