Bruce Longenecker’s Lost Letters of Pergamum, The: A Story from the New Testament World is a historical fiction designed to allow the modern reader a glimpse of life in the early church. It is formatted as a collection of letters primarily between Luke (the physician and gospel-writer) and Antipas, a benefactor of Rome who eventually is persuaded by Luke’s narrative.
Most folks never read books on first century culture and customs–because frankly, they tend to be boring catalogs of information that don’t seem relevant. Longenecker teaches the history, politics, and culture of the first century by using them as the story surrounding the relationship of two men from different worlds.
This book would be well-suited for a Christian book group styled class. There are plenty of scripture references that help you apply the cultural concepts to your understanding of scripture, and as it tells the story of the conversion of Antipas, it has a great deal to say about the evangelistic process. The letters also reveal some great information about the different groups of Jesus’ day (Essenes, Pharisees, Samaritans, etc…) and some of the early heresies within the church.
All in all, this book was a great read. It kept my attention for one sitting…which is a rare, but good sign!