It is unknown to many people, as well as being a well-known New Testament Scholar, movie critic and poet Ben Witherington is an accomplished writer of historical/mystery novels. A few years ago, after completing numerous works (including a commentary on every NT book), Ben and his wife Ann turned to writing historical/mystery novels. As a result the Art West adventure series was born.
Papias and the Mysterious Menorah is the third novel in the Art West series. On this occasion we find West once again travelling the globe in search of history only to find mystery! As Art prepares for the wedding of his close friend Grace Levine he is invited to join an archaeological dig in Hierapolis, Turkey. It becomes evident rather quickly that the dig has uncovered more than just the home of the historically illusive Bishop Papias! It doesn’t take Art long to work out he might have dug a little too deeply on this occasion! However, if he can survive a mysterious illness, murder attempts, blackmail and even a budding romance this could be the once in a lifetime find that Art needs to set himself up as a full time, fully funded archaeologist!
I really enjoyed the story line of the book; especially the historical context of the subject. Interwoven throughout the novel is a plethora (maybe a little too much at times) background history to the subject at hand. As one follows Art’s adventures in Turkey and the preparations for his dear friend’s wedding, the hospitality of his mother and the ups and downs of an up and coming NBA star, they are quickly drawn into a world of mystery and history!
I would feel comfortable handing this book to a friend who had little to no background in early Christian history as much as one who had studied the subject in depth. The book draws heavily on Ben’s own visits to the region and the work of New Testament Scholar Richard Bauckham (to whom the book is dedicated). Furthermore, I am sure Ben’s wife Ann is responsible for the feminie touches throughout the book (especially the romance). As I mentioned previously, on one or two occasions I felt the context explanations were a little forced in the dialogue but it was not overly annoying or bad. Ben’s style reminded me very much of another North Carolina native, Kathy Reich’s. Reichs, for those who do not know, is responsible for the bestselling ‘Bones’ novels and TV franchise. The dialogue is moved along at a steady pace and yet one does not feel hurried. Information is presented, for the most part, in an easy to follow manner.
If you like history and you like mystery then you will enjoy Papias and the Mysterious Menorah. It is published by Pickwick publications and is 262 pages in length. An enjoyable and informative read that leaves you wanting to actually find the home of the Bishop of Hierapolis!
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