Longenecker, Bruce W. (2003). The Lost Letters of Pergamum. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
The Lost Letters of Pergamum is a fictional narrative book compiled from several letters which were written between different prominent men of the 1st century. The letters making the story were discovered in the city of Pergamum as scrolls and later translated into English. Among the people who wrote them were Antipas a Roman businessman, Luke a Gentile physician and other individuals, both pagans and Christians.
Bruce Longenecker was a doctorate of Philosophy (PhD.) student at the University of Durham. He was able to outline what could have happened among the dwellers of Pergamum and the nearby cities during the first century. The writings were found to have been placed in a logical order by the author to represent suspenseful events which keep the reader of the book captivated. Longenecker displays his ability to turn the letters into a significant piece of literature and also reveals his true scholarly talents. He has been a lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland teaching New Testament Studies. The author creates interest to the reader to understand what took place in the story. He brings out the fine facts of the conversations and activities between the book characters such as in the seasonal gladiatorial contest, the Saints sickness and the functioning of the early church.
The narrative is set in the first century within Ephesus and Pergamum cities where communication among Christians and pagans is the primary focus. The first letter concerns the invite to the seasonal gladiatorial contest in Pergamum city. Philadelphia, Smyrna, and Pergamum were known as the major cities in training gladiators. Calpurinus after receiving the invitation to the event are not enthralled by the contests but yearn to represent his city, Ephesus. A new transition comes in when Homer requests literature from the library of Theopholus, which is considered the father of Calpurnius and introduced after Antipas requests. Antipas has been reading Alexandrian history, which made Calpurnius agree to his request. Calpurnius and Antipas meet later for the seasonal gladiatorial contest, but Calpurinuss niece passes making him leave Ephesus and head to Caesarea to join the family. This offers a chance for Luke who was a friend to Calpurinus and a close companion to his father Theopholuis start a conversation with Antipas using letters. In the process, Luke starts speaking with Antipas Jesus Christ, a man from Nazareth.
The Relationship between Luke and Antipas take the majority of the book as he introduces and writes to him about people called Christian. Christians individuals who worship the God of Israel through Jesus Christ. Luke explain to Antipas who Jesus Christ is, a Jewish messiah, and the human incarnation of the highest God. However, it is hard to accept such statement as the society viewed Christians as social outcasts who pronounced a different lord and Antipas as a significant social standing person did not want to associate them. He, however, admired the monograph of Luke and got interested in studying it although he was a pagan worshipper. Antipas conducted investigation and inquiry about Jesus and came to a conclusion that "Jesus seems a curious figure (64).
Antipas was mesmerized by Christians on how they could place their allegiance with the existence of many gods of Rome who were fervently worshiped. While the relationship between Luke and Antipas continued to grow, the later became stronger inquiries about Jesus, and his followers become. After attending Christian meetings, Antipas together with other leader and sponsor of the gladiatorial contest are fascinated by Christians as they were from diverse civic positions, ethnic backgrounds, and social statures. Although he had pagan roots, his first impression about Christians was positive although Rufinus was very skeptical and superstitious. Antipas continues with his inquiry on Jesus Christ and asks Luke various question relating to the study of Christ. He continued attending Christian meetings together with his servants and Rufinus who wholeheartedly disagreed with the teachings of this peasant man from Nazareth. Antipas is overwhelmed by the Christians love for one another, deep family bond and their hospitality.
Antipas travels to other cities seeking to learn more about Christians and becomes closely connected to them. He develops a close relationship with Nouna an orphaned girl, and after Nounas caregivers, is arrested by the magistrates and held for retribution, Antipas comes forward to redeem him from the death sentence for failing to recant the name of Christ as Lord. He makes an appeal on behalf of Demetrius and claims that he was the reason behind Demetriuss revolt against the citys magistrates. This occasion shows how lukes monologue read by Antipas changes his heart and his desire to offer his life for another Christian gladly. Antipas changes from being a pagan Roman businessman to a lover of Christ, even to the point of offering Demetrius his very own. The letter ends with the martyrdom of Antipas which happens at the amphitheater the same day the Pergamene gladiatorial games take place. Antipas is placed in the dead carcass of a bull, chained tightly, and mauled to death by the wild animals. Antonious, a Pergamum nobleman, said to Luke I saw no sorrow for the terrible events that had now befallen his friend Antipas; instead, the look on his [Rufinus] face seemed to say that justice had been done (178). After witnessing Antipas death.
Longenecker has done an excellent job by putting the letters in a logical development through the unfolding of the story from when Antipas receives a letter of invitation up to the letter from Antionius to Luke that shares the news of Antipass death. The story establishes and presents the historical information to the reader. The author has been able to noticeably gets his thesis through as he develops the main idea of the book by taking the reader back into history to understand the life and struggles experienced in the 1st century. The author is an expert in New Testament studies as he outlines early Christian efforts, historical context, and specific cultural settings. The reader can learn about the lives of prominent first-century men such as Antipas who is profoundly changed by the teaching of Jesus. The rich context and history of the 1st century have been illustrated beautifully using details giving the reader insightful ideas of that era. The story is exceptionally insightful to Bible student as it offers a new outlook on the New Testament. Laypersons, pastors, seminary student and professors can highly benefit from this book.
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