This novel about the love life of Justin and Juliana brings the Christian church of AD 179-180 alive, and gives us a sense of what it felt like to live in the Roman Empire as a minority religion that was generally viewed with contempt. But, even more important, this book makes us dramatically aware of issues of New Testament textual criticism, such as why the end of the Gospel of Mark is missing in many manuscripts. The study of how the documents evolved that later became the "New Testament" is an esoteric scholarly arena into which few lay people would venture. But this novel makes it simple amidst the love life of Justin and Juliana, two scribes involved in copying Scripture, how the Gospels of Mark and John came to have exactly the wording they now have. Rodgers' novel might have the title, "How the Orthodox Text of the New Testament Was Defended Against Corruption." There is continual debate inside the hero's mind as to the necessity of preserving (i.e. copying onto a new scroll or parchment) the text of the Gospels exactly as it was originally written by the Evangelists, even though modification of the text would have made the Gospels more marketable to the audience of AD 179. This novel covers the same years as the movie "Gladiator."
"The Scribes," although written for lay people, is a response to a controversial but esoteric and dry scholarly book by Bart Ehrman, "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture." Ehrman claimed that scribes who copied the Gospels century after century altered the text so as to make it more "orthodox," thereby corrupting it. Rodgers' novel takes the opposite view: that many scribes were scrupulously accurate, and that every scribe in the Roman Empire read everyone else's work, with the end result that the Gospels as we now have them are precisely what was originally written by the Evangelists.