4 out of 4 stars
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I don’t read much historical fiction, but when I find a story that is based on the biblical narrative, I make an exception. In the Grip of God – Journey into Corinth by George Cargill follows the travels of the apostle Paul on a missionary journey. I love how this author filled out the story with historical research and artist’s license. The characters really come alive and the reader is able to see the progression of God’s leading on Paul.
The story starts with Paul’s arrival in Corinth. The author gives some background information on the city including an explanation of the prevailing religion of worshiping Aphrodite. The culture of the city is further portrayed when Paul is accosted by a prostitute and her handler who do not want to take no for an answer. The character of Paul is developed in this as well. We see him feeling anger, temptation, and guilt. He is portrayed as a real person, not an untouchable holy man.
The story follows Paul as he finds a job and meets fellow Christians who had fled persecution in Rome. The first new converts are from their household, followed by a dramatic healing and conversion of the very man who accosted Paul in town. The little church begins to grow in numbers and in the knowledge of God. At first, they continue to worship at the synagogue explaining that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish scripture. More converts join, but eventually, they are persecuted and expelled from the temple. Paul continues fearlessly to preach and teach at the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I was impressed with the author’s emphasis on Jesus’ teaching of equality in the church. Too many people believe that the Bible subjugates women and promotes slavery. This author brings just the opposite to light. The women of the early Christian church often took leadership roles and they, along with slaves, were treated with respect. Additionally, Paul breaks down the walls of racism as he eats and fellowships with Gentiles. His example is seen as radical counter-culturalism, but the other believers begin to follow his example.
I love how the author weaves biblical references into the story. Often in prayer or sermon, Paul will say something that later would become scripture. Also, there were some interesting historical facts included. For instance, I have always wondered how Jesus or the apostles were able to address large crowds and be heard without any sound system. At one point in this novel, it is revealed that large vessels of water were used to amplify sound. Also, throughout the crowd people called repeaters would be carrying the message. How ingenious.
I was a little surprised when the author set forth that Paul had an ex-wife who had divorced him when he proclaimed faith in Jesus. I had never read a theory of Paul being married. Equally jarring to me was the premise that Paul and Lydia were in love and chose not to pursue a relationship. I have not found support for this theory either though it is not impossible. It would be interesting to know what research the author had to support these particular plot lines.
George Cargill is a skilled author who uses vivid imagery and figurative language to make this well-known saint’s life come alive. For this reason, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. Anyone interested in the story of the early church and faith in Christ will find great value in this book.
In the Grip of God
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