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A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem Paperback – August 22, 2017
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About the Author
Ben Witherington III (PhD, University of Durham) is Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. A prominent evangelical scholar, he is also on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Witherington has written over forty books, including The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. His other works include The Indelible Image, Women and the Genesis of Christianity, The Gospel Code, A Week in the Life of Corinth and commentaries on the entire New Testament. He also writes for many church and scholarly publications and is a frequent contributor to Patheos and Beliefnet. Witherington is an elected member of the prestigious Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, a society dedicated to New Testament studies. He is a John Wesley Fellow for Life, a research fellow at Cambridge University and a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Society of Biblical Literature, Society for the Study of the New Testament and the Institute for Biblical Research. He previously taught at institutions like Ashland Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, Duke Divinity School and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. An ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and a popular lecturer, Witherington has presented seminars for churches, colleges and biblical meetings around the world. He has led numerous study tours through the lands of the Bible and is known for bringing the text to life through incisive historical and cultural analysis. Along with many interviews on radio and television networks across the country, Witherington has been seen in programs such as 60 Minutes, 20/20, Dateline and the Peter Jennings ABC special Jesus and Paul―The Word and the Witness.
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A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem is a rich and thrilling display of historical fiction that blends a clear and faithful understanding of the ancient world with a sensible storyline that eclipses the historical gaps. Witherington knows the ancient world surrounding the fall of Jerusalem well and is able to captivate the attention of the reader to both instruct and entertain simultaneously. The readers acquainted with Witherington’s previous work A Week in the Life of Corinth will be familiar with his ability to execute this format with excellence.
The book itself is brief, but fascinating. Personally, I’m not much of a fan of fiction, even historical fiction. But, what Witherington has accomplished here will be surprising and exciting to many readers. In fact, I think at points readers may even need to remind themselves that the narrative is mostly educated conjecture and not factual accounts. It’s just that captivating. Not only does he provide an imaginative glance into one of the most significant events of the early Christian movement, but he also provides numerous illustrations and excerpts that allow the reader to connect the narrative to reality. Again, those familiar with A Week in the Life of Corinth (or even A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion by Gary M. Burge) will be accustomed to this feature, but I have to say A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem does a much better job of bridging these two worlds.
Providing a blend of entertainment and education, A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem by Ben Witherington III will be an excellent addition to any library. It could function well as an undergraduate-level supplemental textbook for a New Testament course. It allows readers of all backgrounds to venture as deep as they want and offers an up-to-date exploration of first century Jerusalem through the lenses of one of the most catastrophic events to reach the early church. It will give the reader much to ponder. To be honest, you might not think about the background of the New Testament in same again. It comes highly recommended.
The story begins in the smoke of Jerusalem. Though the story has fictional elements, some of the characters are actual characters from Scripture. They are older, of course, and look back on pleasant memories of the days of Christ that are already 35 years in the past. The story contained elements that I had never thought of, but that would make sense in that environment. Both the fear and the courage of the Jewish people affected are clearly displayed.
As you might imagine, the author must make some judgments on some things that are debated. His telling the story of Matthew wanting to write his gospel is a specific place where some of us might not agree. Still, this book takes material we often approach piecemeal and weaves it together in a story that makes it much more meaningful. The short blurbs, pictures, and maps dispersed throughout the text greatly enhance it.
There’s less of the horrors of Jerusalem’s destruction than I predicted, and the story ends more abruptly than most fiction works, but the book is still very interesting. I imagine it will be secondary reading in some Bible history classes, as well as a help to those doing individual Bible study. I’ve read that this book is one in a series of similar books being designed by IVP. It’s educational, not hard to read, and pleasant. I recommend it.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
The fictional parts were largely speculative. For example, as Levi (Matthew) flees Jerusalem, he meets other Christ followers, collects stories from Christ's life, then returns to Galilee to finally give up tax collecting and start work on his gospel. Mary, Martha, and Joanna flee to Pella, where Mary Magdalene has been living. Titus, Josephus, and some other people (some purely fictional) also have brief parts.
As the narrative unfolded, various historical and cultural elements were mentioned. The author provided sidebars that gave further information on these topics--things like slaves, taxes, villas, and coins. The author used modern wording and phrasing, so it's an easy read. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting book, though I liked "A Week in the Life of Corinth" better.
I received an ebook review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.