Jerry B. Jenkins’s new novel is filled with adventure, drama, historic people and places, and even romance. Empire’s End tells the story of a man who single- handedly turned the Roman Empire on-end. It will be the heart-stopping story of the year! Only a few snapshots of Paul’s life are revealed in the Bible. In this fictional account, Jenkins tells of a devout Jewish scholar, who after only three years in the Arabian wilderness, emerges as the greatest Christian theologian in history. This novel explains how, after supervising the death of Jesus’s disciples, Paul would be moved to effectively conquer the Roman Empire with a message about a Jewish man named Jesus. You’ll be captured by the shocking “thorn in the flesh” that burdened Paul’s heart. Empire’s End will cause you to rethink whether Paul ever experienced the love of a woman or the embrace of a child.
I had a hard time getting into this book but I am glad that I stuck with it. It wasn’t that the story was slow; it was that I had to keep going to my Bible (which is great) and googling historical events of the era. There were several characters/ideas throughout the story that threw me and initially irritated me:
- At first I was completely baffled by the horse. The horse was described as a big black stallion, which made Saul higher in the saddle than the men in his command to instill respect for his position. The stallion is used as the means of facilitating the miraculous.
- We are then introduced to a romance in Paul’s life.
- We also see Paul thrown overboard from a ship (I will leave the details for you to read).
Taking the time to think and search through my concerns was one of the true benefits to this story. I learned so much about Paul and his missionary journeys. It also challenged my presuppositions. I came to the realization that there is much that we are not told in scripture, leaving the details of daily life unknown. If all of those details were laid down for us the Bible could never be read in multiple lifetimes.I believe that the author is taking literary license but is also trying to keep the story within the realm of possibility for the times and the details that we do have sketched out for us.
The Romans used horses during this time period so it is very likely that Saul rode a stallion.
Whether or not Paul had a romance is unknow but conceivable Here are a few Bible scriptures often used in the debate as to whether or not Paul had a wife:
- 1 Corinthians 9:5
- 1 Corinthians 7:1-7
- 1 Corinthians 7:8-9
- Galatians 1:14
Thrown overboard? Possibly but not mentioned in Scripture as far as I am aware.
Paul is made human in this story, my meaning being that we are shown pride, anger, and lack of patience, pride, and more pride. I know that I often tend to forget that those that we read about in the Bible that God does miraculous things through are just flawed humans like the rest of us. I took Paul off of the pedestal and placed him where he should be, reality. No human deserves exultation as that can only be given to God.I appreciated that Paul is shown both as the Godly man that he was and as the sinful man that he was. He was a man who learned (a true disciple), was faithful, and fully trusting when he did not know where the next step would take him.Some quotes from the story that I truly appreciated:
“If I had learned nothing else as a bondservant of Christ, besides the maddening intrusion of my old nature at the worst possible times, I knew that when He spoke, I was to respond.”
“The Lord had hard lessons to teach me, and not all came in threats on my life, being chased out of cities, or even feeling I had been the cause of the deaths of others, including the people at Yanbu and then Nicodemus. I yearned to be victorious for Christ, a conqueror—more than a conqueror. Not just because I had always been a competitor; I believe my heart was pure in this. As a bondservant of Jesus I longed for Him to instill within me the conviction that it was not I who lived, but Christ, so that anytime I proclaimed His truth, His gospel, His message, His story, no one could dispute or deny or reject it.”
Paul learned that “Success was not the goal; obedience was.”
While I am not in agreement with the author’s theology at all times it doesn’t matter. The differences that I hold are not salvific issues and have been debated since the death and resurrection of Christ. Greater minds than mine have debated them without resolution. Only God alone knows for sure. All that matters is that Jerry Jenkins knows and preaches Christ as the redeemer and author of our salvation.
This novel is a human portrayal of a man. Sin, flaws and all. A man that was used mightily by God to serve His will. I pray that I would serve so well.