||Jan 1 2003
In the ruins of ancient Ephesus, an estranged young archaeologist discovers a first century scroll containing the personal story of Aquila and Priscilla, close associations of the Apostle Paul.
As she translates the ancient document and share the trials and triumps of the early church, she is forced to re-examine her own past.
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Peculiar People - a novel of the early church
Broad in scope and meticulously researched, "Peculiar People" covers the period from AD 28 to AD 78, giving the reader a vivid picture of the early years of the church and the Roman Empire. "Peculiar People" will entertain, educate, and inspire readers.
[Note: Aquila and Prisca have relocated to Ephesus after the Great Fire of Rome. The Apostle John, escaping the Jewish Revolt of AD 70, has also come to the Asian capital.]
Prisca was instantly captivated by the Apostle. Aquila had told her he was a large man, but he had understated the description—John was huge and Prisca was struck by the impression of a massive bear and, like an ursine omnivore, he seemed both overwhelmingly terrifying and endearingly lovable. Despite the fact that his engaging smile returned as he approached them, she found her heart pounding.
“Aquila!” he boomed. “How wonderful to see you! And this must be the beautiful Prisca and two of your charming daughters.” Aquila was astounded—there was no way, he thought, John could see the sixteen year old boy who had, for a single day, sat at the Apostle’s feet in his now fifty year old body. Was John gifted with omniscience?
“Well,” John said as Aquila stood and stared, “are you going to properly introduce us or not?”
“Uh...certainly. This is Phoebe, our youngest daughter, and Leah, our oldest. And you are quite right,” he added, putting an arm around Prisca, “this is my wife.”
Without warning, John stepped forward and surrounded Prisca with his arms, pulling her close in a warm hug. John was taller even then Peter and much more massively built, although some of his powerful muscles had slackened somewhat as he approached his seventieth year. Had he the inclination, Prisca realized, he could crush her in seconds, but instead his embrace overpowered her with a feeling of incredible peace—it was like being hugged by God Himself, and as his arms loosened and he began to pull away, she instinctively clutched at him.
He squeezed again almost imperceptibly and leaned down to kiss the top of her head, then released her. Inexplicable tears filled her eyes, and she looked down, embarrassed by the surge of emotion she felt. In her mind, an image of Sarah when she was seven or eight, tightly clutching her mother after being awakened by a violent thunderstorm, sprang unbidden into her mind, and she sank to her knees, weeping uncontrollably.
Aquila and Phoebe watched silently, amazed by the silent exchange. John squatted down beside Prisca and stroked her hair gently as Leah, also weeping, rushed to them and threw her arms around John. John turned to her and cupped her cheek with his huge hand. “It is good to weep for those who go before us,” he whispered to her. “Even though you know that your sister is with God, you long to see her smiling face and hear her sweet voice.”
Phoebe squeezed closer to Aquila, clutching his hand. He reached down and picked her up, holding her tightly as they watched Prisca and Leah release their pent-up sorrow.
“I worried,” Prisca sobbed, “that grieving showed a lack of faith in God’s promises.”
“Nonsense,” John replied softly. “Our Lord said, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ It is important to mourn and to remember your love for your daughter—that love is a part of you, and if you bury it, you have less to give. For love has a miraculous quality—the more you give it away, the more you have to give.”
Aquila’s lip trembled from a bittersweet mix of sorrow, joy, and gratitude. For six months, both Prisca and Leah had avoided speaking of Sarah, and Aquila could sense the beginning of healing in John’s loving words and comforting touch. He did not understand how John knew about Sarah, much less how he knew of Prisca and Leah’s pain, but he now saw why John was often referred to as “the Apostle whom Jesus loved.”
A must read for anyone
"Peculiar People" is in reality three books, any one of which could be a best seller. One concerns the life and the spiritual conversion of Theresa "Tess" Swift, an archeologist. Another details the lives of Aquila and Prisca, first century converts to Christianity. The third book is a combination of the two. It is 585 pages of historical fact and religious belief entwined with a fictionalized heroine.
Tess, who is estranged from her husband and her family, discovers an ancient scroll while working at an archaeological dig for the National Geographic. Instead of turning over her spectacular find to the association, she hides it, thinking that its potential value could be her answer to financial independence for the rest of her life.
She spirits the scroll out of Turkey into Italy, where she starts to decipher the parchment in a squalid flat in Rome. She discovers that the document recounts the lives of Aquila and his wife Prisca. Aquila had been present in Jerusalem during the crucifixion of Jesus and became an ardent convert to the Christian faith. Prisca was the daughter of a wealthy Jewish merchant, who, because of duplicity and amazing bad fortune ends up a slave to a vicious Roman master. Aquila had known and loved Prisca before disaster befell her and her family, and is reunited with her after she escapes her vile master.
Aquila baptizes Prisca and the rest of their story revolves around their travels throughout the ancient world, spreading the word of their new God and meeting and working with the likes of St. Peter, St. Paul, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. As Tess works her way through the translation, she experiences a change of character so dramatic that it almost explodes in the conclusion of the novel.
This is a very well written story of early Christianity that is revealing, inspiring and entertaining. Richard Soule does a remarkable job in weaving this fascinating tapestry of life and legend. A must read for anyone.
--(A May 2003 www.bookreview.com Book of the Month)
Crime Does Pay
SoAmazing Review: Bravo! Richard Soule in his major first novel, Peculiar People, hit a home run. A meticulously researched historical fiction brings to life Aquila and Prisca of the Bible, the husband and wife team who were confidants of the Apostle Paul, fellow tentmakers and leaders of the early churches in both Ephesus and Rome. You will be captivated by Soule's storytelling skills, and intrigued by the fascinating historical insights and significant spiritual lessons found in this book.
Richard Soule has written a masterpiece in the biblical fiction genre. Standing at 567 pages, not including the extra reading aids, this novel takes a decidedly in-depth look at the early church primarily through the eyes of Aquila and Prisca, tentmakers, friends of Mark, Peter, and Paul, founders of the churches in Rome, Corinth and Ephesus and a remarkable couple to boot—at least as portrayed by Soule.
The modern-day story that frames this ancient tale is also compelling. Theresa Priscilla or Tess for short, is an archaeologist with a troubled marriage who stoops to stealing a scroll from a Holy Land dig in hopes of selling it on the antiquities market for big bucks. When she recognizes some names in the scroll from her nominal childhood attendance at Sunday School, she is initially hopeful that she may have found a document to debunk Christianity once and for all.
Both Tess’s and Prisca’s stories unfold with great attention to detail, historical accuracy, and compelling characters. Soule presents a balanced view of Christianity between the supernatural as depicted at Pentecost and various healings and the rational as depicted through fulfilled prophecies and consistent eye-witness accounts.
In the classic past-influences-present plot structure, Tess is moved by the story of her ancient namesake to make some dramatic changes in her own life. Readers will be moved, too, by Tess’s story and by the retelling of the exciting beginnings of the Christian church.
The reading of "Peculiar People" is enhanced by many aids, including a detailed list of historical events, a list of characters, a bibliography, and a list of Biblical passages quoted in the text. The addition of a map of the ancient world with details of the cities of Rome, Corinth and Ephesus would have completed the reading experience. On the other hand, if many readers end up reaching for their Bibles because "Peculiar People’s" compelling portrait makes them want to read the original, then they can just use the maps in their Bibles!
--(Heather Hunt, ThisChristianLife.com)
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