Thursday, August 19, 2010
The Apostle Paul Kissed a Boy
If the title of this blog post offends you, then you will probably do well to avoid reading R.W. (Obie) Holmen's book A Wretched Man: A Novel of Paul the Apostle. If, on the other hand, you find the title of this post intriguing, then you will find a lot to like in this fictional portrayal of Paul, or I should say "Paulos." Holmen does not anglicize the names of his characters. Instead he gives them their proper Greek and Hebrew names. Paul is Paulos. James is Ya'akov. And so on.
Holmen gives flesh to his characters. They eat, drink (sometimes too much) and void waste. They feel love, anger, jealousy, joy and sorrow. They fight and make up. Or not. These Apostles are not Sunday School flannel-graph cut-outs, but complex, three-dimensional human beings. Paulos is portrayed as a "rigidly controlled gay man" (quoting from Bishop Spong whom Holmen cites in the book's epilogue) who by tireless effort and strength of personality brings his Gospel of God's grace apart from Torah to the Gentile world. His arguments with Ya'akov and difficult relationship with Cephas (Peter) are believably motivated.
It is clear that Holmen has done his homework. Everyday life in the first century Mediterranean world is evoked with detail and description. The author has also digested a great deal of current New Testament scholarship and woven it seamlessly into his narrative.
Most importantly, Holmen spins a good yarn.
No doubt some readers will take offense at Obie Holmen's speculative portrayal of the personalities who shaped the Christian faith. But if you, like me, are not offended by the idea that the Apostle Paul kissed a boy, then I can recommend A Wreteched Man. You're in for a good read.
Regular readers of this blog will already know that I am a fan of Obie Holmen's blog "Spirit of a Liberal." Observers of popular culture will recognize that the title and subtitle of this blog are lifted from Katy Perry's song "I Kissed a Girl."