Tag Archives: Scripture

Dom Crossan and Paul the apostle

John Dominic CrossanFormer Catholic priest John Dominic Crossan is a co-founder and highly visible spokesman for the Jesus Seminar, a progressive group of New Testament scholars active in the last twenty years seeking to identify “the historical Jesus”.

Recently, he has turned his attention to Paul the apostle.  A few years ago, he co-authored, with Marcus Borg, an excellent book entitled The First Paul (2009), which I reviewed in three separate posts.  Here’s a link to the three posts in reverse order.  The central thesis of the book is that the thirteen New Testament books traditionally ascribed to the pen of Paul the apostle may be broken into three groupings: a) the radical and authentic Paul who was a social visionary vis a vis the existing culture—an opponent of slavery and proponent of a strong role for women, b) the conservative Paul, three books that may have been written by Paul but probably weren’t and which evinced a retreat from his radical social views, and c) the reactionary Paul, the so-called pastoral epistles consisting of 1st & 2nd Timothy and Titus, which were definitely not written by Paul and indeed were written to correct Paul’s radicalism, to re-establish the Roman social order of slavery and patriarchy.

Crossan is again writing about these themes in a highly public forum, the Huffington Post.  His article is not only on the religious section of the Huffpost, but appears on the main page under the banner The Search for the Historical Paul: Which Letters Did He Really Write?  As I write this,  there are over 200 comments to Crossan’s Huffpost article, and like many public cyberspace forums, the “trolls” dominate.  Many are anti-Christian, and a few are conservative Christians who insist, even if the human authorship is not Paul, that the subsequent letters were “spirit-breathed” and thus all letters are consistent and true (the holy trinity of inerrant, infallible, and inspired).

Crossan’s article is brief and seems not to plough new ground but merely restates the conclusions voiced earlier in the collaboration with Borg.  Here is the central thesis of the Huffpost article:

The problem is that those post-Pauline or Pseudo-Pauline letters are primarily counter-Pauline and anti-Pauline. What happens across those three sets of letters is that the radical Paul of the authentic seven letters (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon) is slowly but steadily morphed into the conservative Paul of the probably inauthentic threesome (Ephesians Colossians, 2 Thessalonians) and finally into the reactionary Paul of those certainly inauthentic ones (1-2 Timothy, Titus).

Crossan’s article includes this recently rediscovered and cleaned up fresco of Paul dating to the 13th century. Paul and ten scrollsNote that Paul holds not one scroll and not thirteen scrolls but ten, signifying that the dubious authenticity of the pastoral epistles is not merely a recent understanding. Indeed, in 2nd century lists of authoritative books that served as precursors to the formalized New Testament canon, the pastoral epistles are generally not included.

By the time The First Paul was published in 2009, my own manuscript for A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the apostle was already completed and in the hands of the publisher.  Thus, my research did not include The First Paul, but my conclusions were similar–but I had a special authorial problem.  In a novel about the life of Paul, how could I suggest that six books traditionally attributed to him were not actually his?  Written after his death, such books were not part of his story in a strict sense.  Additionally, how could I make the point that he held radical views regarding slavery and women to rebut the traditional stereotype of Paul derived from the NT letters to Timothy and Titus?

My solution was two-fold.  First, the novel included the circumstances and the writing and the delivery of the seven “authentic” letters.  The six “inauthentic” letters were not mentioned at all, an implicit but indirect statement that they were not part of Paul’s story.  Second, Timothy and Titus were important characters in the novel, protégés of Paul.  In a purely fictional device, I placed offensive words about women quoted from the NT book of Timothy in the mouth of Timothy the character and offensive words about slavery from the NT book of Titus in the mouth of Titus the character.  In both instances, the novel offers a strong rebuke from the lips of Paul.

A book review from New Zealand

It’s a small world we live in.  The latest scholarly review of A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the apostle, comes from the opposite side of the globe—Dunedin, New Zealand.  Dean of Studies at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Dr. Jason Goroncy, offers his review which praises the attempt to reimagine theology through art.  The following is an excerpt, but you can read the entire review at Dr. Goroncy’s blog, Per Crucem ad Lucem.

[T]he communication of divine truth demands the work of the very imagination it is determined to sanctify. So Jonathan Edwards: ‘Unless you use imagination, unless you take a truth and you image it – which of course is art – you don’t know what it means’. Or, citing John Henry Newman:

The ways in which we ‘see’ the world, its story and its destiny; the ways in which we ‘see’ what human beings are, and what they’re for, and how they are related to each other and the world around them; these things are shaped and structured by the stories that we tell, the cities we inhabit, the buildings in which we live, and work, and play; by how we handle – through drama, art and song – the things that give us pain and bring us joy. What does the world look like? What do we look like? What does God look like?

This is precisely why I welcomed reading Obie Holmen’s A Wretched Man: A Novel of Paul the Apostle. Holmen seeks to … situate Paul in his geographical, social, historical and psychological landscape, and gift us with a creative way of hearing afresh the letters that make up the bulk of the New Testament.

According to Holmen, prior to his fire-side conversion-encounter with Yeshua (Jesus), ‘Paulos (Paul), the defender of orthodoxy, had acquired a proud identity and a status; self-righteousness became the dressing for his wounds, masking his inner torment’ (p. 75). Indeed, ‘the wretched man wandered the streets of Tarsos, lost and alone, accursed and condemned’ (p. 54). Thereafter, Holmen paints Paulos as one who is seeking to carve out the implications – for Torah, for Jewish privilege, for our understanding of God, etc. – of this radical encounter with Yeshua. The entire story takes place, markedly, against Paul’s own conflict – the ‘inner torment’ – between his inherited (and then reconstituted) theology and his homosexuality, the latter manifest in his relationship with Gentile friend Arsenios. Augustine once suggested, to the shock of some of his fellow bishops, that St Paul may have been ‘greatly tainted by sexual desires’. In his portrait of the gay Apostle Paul, Holmen exploits this suggestion beyond what the old bishop of Hippo may have had in mind, and some readers may well lay the book down because of such. But such action would, in my view, represent a premature judgement.

… Holmen is a gifted writer, and his well-researched yarn is certain to encourage readers to read the Bible in a new light, with a deepened awareness of the groundedness of its message, with a new appreciation of the real humanity of its figures, and – I suspect most importantly for the author – a renewed wonderment of the magic of divine grace.

A Wretched Man graphic

Wretched Man emblemI happened upon an old  piece of art based upon Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 7, the same  passages that serve as the epigraph to my novel and the inspiration for the title.  The drawing belongs to Hermannus Hugo’s Pia Desideria (1624).

Here is the epigraph to my novel:

I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Flattering reviews

Two new reviews of my novel, A Wretched Man, came in over the weekend.  Both offered 5 star ratings.  Here are snippets and links.

Leola Harris, aka “Tea”, offered this from “I Love to Read”:

a stupendous novel about Paul, The Apostle …The book is beautifully written full of descriptions of the Holy Land’s landscape and Agriculture … made me read further, stop reading, begin reading and so on throughout the book. My mind was being cleared for new knowledge vs. old knowledge …I questioned and examined myself … I questioned, I discovered, I began to see with a better lighting … birthed in me a desire to know more.

Jess, a student in New York, writes at Spine Creases.  After first posting a teaser comment on Goodreads, calling the book “A phenomenal novel”, Jess wrote the following:

It is well-researched; Holmen clearly has a solid background in early Christianity and religious history. It is also well-written … I felt that I had a more personalized understanding of who Paul was … [Holmen] presents Paul as human. Paul is as subject to human desires, human complexities, and human experiences as the rest of us. The best kind of book, in my opinion, is one that prompts you to think more, to pursue more knowledge. This book definitely incited that curiosity in me. (emphasis added)

I found this book to actually be quite a good accompaniment to my studies of Jesus as a social revolutionary, upsetting the status quo. I felt like I gleaned a new understanding of the early Judeo-Christian world, which is pretty astounding after having taken four years of academic religion classes.

Thanks to the reviewers for their generous comments.

Book Review: The Bible and Homosexual Practice by Robert Gagnon

Author Robert Gagnon has parlayed his best selling 2001 treatise into a role as theological spokesman par excellence on behalf of the conservative camps within the various mainline Christian denominations concerning LGBT issues.  With bona fide scholarly credentials behind his conservative argumentation (B.A. degree from Dartmouth College, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary), he provides the intellectual cover for those who oppose gay clergy and gay marriage within Christian denominations.  What is more, due to his popularity, he has become a virtual cottage industry, and his website promotes his videos, audio tapes, articles, books, upcoming speaking engagements and recommended talking points.

He provides the scholarly support for those promoting a sola scriptura, word alone, “Bible trumps science, reason, and experience”, attitude toward ethical discernment of sexuality issues.  In this, there is extreme irony because his baseline argument is not biblical at all; instead, his views are based on natural law and science (anatomy)—we’ll consider this in detail below.  That’s not to say he doesn’t discuss the oft-quoted biblical passages with great erudition.  Indeed, even those who disagree with his conclusions can learn from his discussion of ancient same gender sexual practices and cultural attitudes.

Gagnon recognizes the difficulty in promoting the oft used and misused “clobber passages” as warrant for conservative Christian policies vis a vis committed same gender partners.  Yet, he is not willing to let go of the traditional arguments either, often expressing a “yes, but” response to consensus scholarship that would dismiss or diminish the relevance of such clobber passages for the current debate over committed partners.  Yes, the Sodom story of Genesis is about hospitality and not homosexuality Gagnon acknowledges, but

what makes this instance of inhospitality so dastardly, what make the name “Sodom” a byword for inhumanity to visiting outsiders in later Jewish and Christian circles, is the specific form in which the inhospitality manifests itself: homosexual rape. p 76

So, while acknowledging that the Sodom story “is not an ‘ideal’ text to guide contemporary sexual ethics” (p 71), Gagnon doesn’t quite surrender it either.  In this manner, he doesn’t directly abandon current scholarship, yet he retains enough wriggle room for his conservative followers to continue to misuse the biblical “clobber passages.”

As mentioned above, Gagnon’s own thesis does not rely on the traditional clobber passages of the Sodom story, or on the Levitical holiness code, or on the Pauline writings of Romans 1 or the vice lists of 1 Cor 6 and 1 Timothy.  Gagnon acknowledges the weaknesses of each of these with  “yes, but” argumentation.

Instead, Gagnon proposes a theory of “complementarity”, which is little more than a warmed-over restatement of ancient  procreation arguments.  Hear Gagnon’s words, which he couches as the “contrary to nature” arguments of the ancients:

Procreation is God’s clue, given in nature, that the male penis and female vagina/womb are complementary organs.  No other sexuality results in new life.  Therefore the only acceptable form of sexual intercourse is between a man and a woman … sexual passion for its own sake [is] little more than unbridled lust void of societal responsibility. p 164

The second main reason why same-sex intercourse was rejected as “contrary to nature” extends from reproductive capability to the anatomical fittedness of the male penis and the female vagina. p 169

Listen now to Gagnon’s “yes, but” argument:

[Yes] Each of the two main arguments contains elements that contemporary assessments of sexuality would find unacceptable … [but] Nevertheless, the core of both arguments remain persuasive in a contemporary context, containing as they do a recognition of the fundamental biological complementarity of men and women, a divine and natural stamp of maleness and femaleness that is blurred by same-sex intercourse.  Apart from Scripture [emphasis mine], the clearest indications of God’s design for human sexuality come from the anatomical fit and functional capacity of male and female sex organs.

Because male genitalia “fits’ female genitalia, we can infer that this reflects God’s creative design.  And since Genesis 1 & 2 are about creation, we can read this theory of complementarity into the text.  Voila!  A biblical argument against same gender sexual activity of any and all kinds!  With a scholarly slight of hand, Gagnon has transformed anatomy into biblical doctrine.  In the end, the erudite Biblical scholar and exegete is reduced to gussying up the simplistic anatomical notions of the ancients in modern garb and by a series of inferences passing them off as biblical truth.

Paul the apostle: a view from down under

Ian Elmer I happened upon a Catholic forum from Australia (Catholica—a global conversation) that appears to have pretty heady theological discussions.  The post I found was written by Ian Elmer, and I note a lengthy list of contributions by this Pauline scholar. 

The lengthy article summarized Paul’s personal history with a view toward understanding the source of his insight, especially since he was not an original follower of Jesus and only became so after the crucifixion.  To what extent did Paul learn from conversations with or instruction from the first disciples?  Paul denied any such influence, but was his denial colored by his later dispute with the Jerusalem leadership?  What was revealed to Paul on the road to Damascus?  In continuing revelation?  From his theological reflections in the decades following the crucifixion but before he wrote his letters?  Was Paul’s experience different in kind from other disciple’s Christophanies?  Theophanies in general?  Epiphanies? Meditations?  Contemplation?  General life experiences?

[Paul’s Galatians letter] is leaving out some very important aspects of his former life that have clearly shaped his understanding of his initial experience on the road to Damascus. Still, this does highlight the whole process of revelation and inspiration. Whatever the nature of Paul’s revelatory experience, he took a considerably long time for him to fully comprehend the import of the message for his new-found Christian faith, as well as its impact on his life.

To pursue this thought further, Paul’s later understanding of his Damascus Road experience came only as a result of a series of conflicts at Jerusalem, Antioch and then in Galatia. By the time of writing Galatians Paul had been both marginalised from the mainstream “church” and forced to embark on an independent mission — for which he was being criticised by the Galatian opponents.

Paul’s only recourse was to attribute both his gospel and his commission to his initial revelatory experience on the road to Damascus. This was not strictly a “lie”, but there is certainly a degree of expedient selectivity in the telling. Was it justified? Or is this simply an excellent example of God’s inspiration at work in the everyday experiences of one’s workaday life? How often do we find God amidst conflict and debate? Is it not in the midst of such debates that our understanding of God’s “call” can be clarified?

I commend the whole article which highlights the controversies between Paul and the Jerusalem establishment, which is also the conflict that drives the plotline of my novel,  A Wretched Man.

Saint and sinner: Paul as human being

Paul is the protagonist of my novel, which is to say, he is the main character.  He is neither hero nor villain but thoroughly human with flaws and foibles like the rest of us.  He fights externally with James and the Jerusalem establishment and internally with his own perceived sinfulness.  He can rise to the heroic in his defense of the outsider as a child of God, but he also descends to the despotic in cursing those who disagree with “his gospel”.

In the past couple of days, I have come across a pair of blog posts that touch upon themes raised in the novel.  Gavin at Otagosh blog writes the following:

The Paul of Galatians famously comes across as an egotistical ranter. He simply doesn’t handle theological diversity well! It’s his way or the highway, no matter that senior figures in the early Christian movement (Peter, James) have quite a different take on things than he does.

Is Paul defending the “gospel of Christ”? We’ve got to concede that if he was, his opponents (fellow Christians) thought they were doing that too. No, he’s defending the gospel of Paul: “the gospel that was proclaimed by me.” Go through just chapter one of Galatians and notice all the ‘me’ and ‘I’ statements. It’s an eye-opening exercise.

Galatians is about a territorial dispute, and Paul is marking his territory. So does he mean to lay down a curse or not? It seems a no-brainer. It doesn’t much matter whether you want to understand accursed as hell-bound or excommunicated, it amounts to the same thing.

Here is a list of derogatory names used by Paul in his writings to label his enemies: “peddlers of God’s word”, “false apostles”, “deceitful workers”, “false brothers”, “dogs”, and “evil workers”.  The victims of Pauline name-calling were not pagans, emperor worshipers, or mystery cultists; they were fellow followers of the man from Nazareth whose sin was disagreement with Paul’s interpretation of the Christ.

Mothermary44 The second blog post was entitled, Who was Yeshua bar Maryam?  The blogger, who goes by the name of Mothermary44, raises the question of the historical Jesus and wonders whether Pauline speculation set the Christian course away from the historical Jesus toward a mythical, divine “God in a man-suit”.

Paul knew virtually nothing about Yeshua bar Maryam, the real-life wandering teacher, healer, and sage, when he began proclaiming the gospel. The real, historical man simply wasn’t important to Paul — not compared to the divine being whose glory had stricken him blind. (Acts 9)

All my life, I wondered why the pre-resurrection Jesus — humble, loving, forgiving, funny, “a glutton and a drunkard” (Luke 7:34) — was so different from the humorless and judgmental post-resurrection Jesus Christ, Only-Begotten Son of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, God in a man-suit. Finally, it came to me: the difference was Paul of Tarsus. Who knew nothing about the real Yeshua bar Maryam when he began proclaiming the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.

The novel is not quite so “in your face”, but portrays the ongoing struggle between James and Paul on several levels including James’  charge,

Who do you think you are, coming here with your Greek tongue, claiming to be a Pharisee, claiming to be a follower of my brother?  You weren’t there!

You never heard him speak, you never mingled with the crowds, and you didn’t witness the stinking Romans murder him on the cross.

You’re like an uninvited stranger at a burial boasting that you knew the dead man well.  How dare you share my grief!  How dare you!

My novel tracks my own wonderings about Paul’s Damascus road experience and about the boundary-breaking apostle to the Gentiles who graced us with stirring words of inclusion—“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”—but whose pride also resulted in hyperbole and condemnation of his fellows. 

For good and ill, Paul’s legacy continues in the church of the 21st century.

Latest Review of “A Wretched Man” published

The Historical Novel Society is highly respected in the field of historical fiction.  They offer an online presence and also publish two prestigious print magazines, The Historical Novels Review (quarterly), and Solander (twice yearly).  Thus, I am delighted to report that they have offered a very favorable review of my work,  A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the Apostle.

Here is their review, verbatim:

In A Wretched Man, Holmen remains faithful to the historical origins of Christianity in the first century C.E. while weaving an intriguing tale of discord between James and Paul—a discord paralleled by Paul’s own internal conflict with his “unclean” inclinations. The suggestion of homosexuality as the thorn in Paul’s flesh is skillfully incorporated into the tale without being overwhelming.

James, the younger brother of Jesus, has assumed the burdens of his brother, first while he is away teaching and then when he is crucified. He must care for their mother Mary and younger brothers as well as provide leadership to Jesus’ followers. When Paul approaches James with his account of conversion while on the road to Damascus, James is furious. How can Paul claim to know what Jesus wants when Paul never knew Jesus, never walked with him, and certainly was not there when he died!

As a devout Jewish Christian, James insists on the keeping of Torah and the circumcision of Gentile converts. He and the Nazarenes await the return of Jesus and the kingdom of God on earth. Paul, on the other hand, ministers to the Gentiles and travels spreading the good news to all who will listen. He preaches that all Jews and Gentiles are welcome apart from Torah. He comes to believe that the kingdom of God is spiritual not physical. These are two very different interpretations and neither is willing to yield.

The author notes are very helpful for those unfamiliar with early Christian history as are the maps of the Holy Land. A well-written historical fiction novel. Recommended. — Debra Spidal

Why Paul?

Monkey See Bookstore front

Next week, I will speak at the Northfield bookstore, Monkey See, Monkey Read with more public appearances to follow.  I will read an early chapter from the novel, but first I will offer a few comments about my journey of writing, which I publish here.

The most frequent question I hear is “Why Paul? Why did you choose to write about Paul?”

Why bother with a man nearly 2000 years dead with a reputation as an anti-Semite, apologist for slavery, misogynist, and a gay-bashing homophobe? Paul was not one of Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never met the man from Nazareth. The early followers of Jesus, including his own family, probably regarded the man from Tarsus as an outsider, a usurper, a pretend Pharisee, a “Hellenist”–Hebrew by blood but Greek by language and culture: a man on the margins. For awhile, the working title of the novel was The Jewish Gentile.

But wait, was this not also the man who wrote of Christian egalitarianism, of boundary breaking inclusivity, and whose good news of a gracious God inspired Augustine in the fourth century, Luther in the sixteenth, Barth a mere century ago, and whose message of love unconditional continues to stir our hearts? “Why Paul?” Because he is a puzzling enigma, that’s part of my answer.

Jesus himself authored no writings. Nor did any of those who followed him in the Galilee or during his fateful pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It fell to Paul the outsider, who first opposed the movement, to become its reporter, memorialist, essayist, interpreter, and promoter. At one time, over half the books of the New Testament were attributed to his hand, and this is also part of my answer: “Why Paul?”–because he is the most important man, outside of Jesus of Nazareth, in Christian history.  For good or ill, even the secularist must acknowledge his profound influence on western civilization’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

An enigma who shaped history. Most fiction authors must create colorful characters. This novel’s protagonist comes ready-made with knotty complications and buffeted by conflict from all sides. It has been my task to allow the complex, critical, controversial man from Tarsus to bloom before the reader’s eyes.

But, there’s more to it. There are more personal reasons for choosing Paul.

I have heard accomplished authors explain, “I write because I read.” If one relishes the imagining that is essential to entering the dream world of the novelist, it is a natural development to create one’s own captivating characters, alluring scenes and settings, an alternate reality that speaks to one’s inner truths–fictive and mythical though they may be. Thus, for many writers, the statement, “I write because I read” is an appropriate and accurate answer.

But, it is not my answer.

Mid-twentieth century American novelist Thomas Wolfe said, “The artist is religious man.” I write because I wonder. That’s my answer. I wonder about the “higher power” of the twelfth step group, and I wonder why I have spent more than half my three score years, and counting, as a clean and sober man. “There but for the grace of God, go I,” it is said, and I wonder. I wonder about the mysterious God revealed to Job in the whirlwind, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” With William James, I wonder about the nature of religious experience; what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus? I wonder about the God revealed in the words of Holy Writ. What truths are unveiled there, but also what untruths? As citizens of the twenty-first century, how are we to interpret of the writings of Paul, a man with keen insight into a gracious God, but who also condoned slavery and counseled women to be silent in church? And then there is our issue, a twenty-first century issue that roils our pews and our politics, the issue of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters. How can we make sense of the harsh “clobber passages” penned by Paul?

As with all novelists, I have created a fictive world of the imagination to which I invite my readers. Trudge the dusty alleyways of Jerusalem as James, Jesus’ own brother and the leader of the Jewish Jesus movement, escorts Paul, the young upstart who claimed a vision on the road to Damascus. Pick sides a dozen years later when Paul and James debate circumcision and the traditional requirements of Torah before the assembly of apostles. Wander the ancient Roman highways with the lonely but defiant apostle to the Gentiles, looking ahead toward Rome and back over a nervous shoulder toward suspicious Jerusalem. The novel will introduce you to many whose names you know, lifted from the pages of Scripture. Sail across the Great Sea as the apostle returns after completing his missionary journeys for a final confrontation with James, his nemesis. Will the now-aged leaders, and their Jewish and Gentile followers, finally reconcile?

Because I wonder, I write. And so, as I invite you to imagine yourself into Paul’s journey, I am also inviting all to tag along on my journey too. Come, wonder with me.

Welcome to my new blog

Some of you may be followers of my other blog, Spirit of a Liberal, a blog of progressive, religious themes.  That blog will continue, and this new blog will not relate to the often political discussions that take place over there; instead, this blog will focus on A Wretched Man novel, writing and publishing issues, and other literary themes.  To those regular followers, welcome.  To new folks here for the first time, welcome to you also.  All prior posts appearing here appeared first on Spirit of a Liberal.

Last week, I did some “shoe leather” marketing for the novel.  That is, I hit the streets, visiting a couple of the private liberal arts colleges of Minnesota.  I visited with a few professors of New Testament, and I am encouraged that my novel may become part of their assigned reading list for their fall term classes.  The novel is also stocked and available through their campus bookstores.

I also spent nearly an hour on the phone with my publicist.  Even though the novel was released early in March, the publicist is just gearing up for intensive marketing efforts.  One of the items discussed was our frustration that Amazon.com can’t keep the book in stock because of their policy of ordering limited quantities at the outset.  In the first month, Amazon’s website has said “out of stock, more on the way” most of the time.  I think they have ordered and reordered nearly half a dozen times.  While it’s nice to know there’s a demand out there, it would be better if Amazon would start ordering the book in greater quantities. 

By the way, for those of you who have already purchased the book, I would greatly appreciate a few kind words and a rating on Amazon.com and/or Barnes and Noble.  Tagging the book is also very helpful, especially when your tags are the same as others such as “christianity”, “apostle paul”, “biblical fiction”, “christian biographies-memoirs”, “christian fiction”, “historical biography”, “historical fiction”, “paul the apostle”,  and “religion”.  Sorry for the blatant self-promotion.