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Posted August 9, 2010: "A Wretched Man" was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It gave me some keen insight into the conversations and conflicts going on in the early church. The book also places all of these relationships into the context of the Roman empire and the whims of its rulers and governors. Now, as I read the letters in the New Testament, I appreciate their message a little more. I understand the struggles and joys of the man chosen by God to bring the message of salvation to the Gentiles, "apart from Torah". While it is a work of fiction, it is a compelling narrative. The broad strokes of culture and community, love and hate, anger and joy, human failing and triumph; they all ring true. Enjoy it for yourself.
Posted August 9, 2010: RW Holman has a gift I of which I am envious - using the work of current biblical scholars as context for a storyline about Paul's encounter with James and the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. Giving consistent first-place to recent biblical scholarship provides a helpful lens through which view to Paul's conversion experience and calling to the world beyond Jerusalem.
The author has worked well-known Pauline quotes into situations apart from their literal biblical location. This expands their meaning so when one returns to the scriptures they can be appreciated anew. This work is in the best Midrashic tradition, of which Paul was an accomplished practitioner.
Posted July 13, 2010: I have always been fascinated with the life of Jesus and that of his followers. The apostle Paul and James, the brother of Jesus, have different ideas about how God wants us to live our lives. The path the author walks down in this book is very different from others that I have read, which makes for a refreshing read. Four stars!
Posted June 30, 2010: As a New Age kind of guy who never cared to dig into the Bible, R. W. Holmen's book of Paul's struggle's and triumphs has pulled me in. I now want to read his famous letters of the new testament, most of which were written to persuade and convince the confused and distrustful. R. W.'s Paul was relentless in his drive to teach and persuade. And we hurried alongside him as he pushed from one city to the next. We wore his cloths, felt the hot sun on are skin and the cold ground against our bones. We sat with him at meals and ate dates and figs and, fish and bread. The most amazing story within his story is that Paul managed to survive and thrive in a world where bad luck guided many a man and woman's life. It was just an entertaining read. Thanks Mr. Holmen
Posted June 22, 2010: Kudos to Obie Holmen for a historical novel that refrains from viewing St. Paul primarily though the convenient lens of the Synoptic Gospels and/or The Acts of the Apostles. From beginning to end Holmen's Paul belongs to an era which occurred primarily between the death of Jesus and the destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem (ca 30-70 CE). This perspective refreshingly demythologizes Paul thereby allowing him to be conveyed in a manner which makes him believably real and one with whom the reader may readily share the bond of a common humanity. I was especially enchanted by Holmen's creative imagination in describing the formative Damascus road experience, Paul's encounters with his nemesis, James, and the efficacious strategy of establishing relationships through which embryonic congregations are eventually established. Best of all are the delightful subtleties employed by Holmen which, rather than speculative, are readily buttressed by contemporary Pauline research. Finally, I genuinely respect Holmen's consistent sensitivity in conveying the enigma of a self-loathing gay person who must learn to live with the attendant complexities of inner contradictions and treasured convictions. The Wretched Man is a keeper which will occupy a permanent place of commendation in many a personal library.
Posted June 22, 2010: I found this fictional account of the journeys (literal and figurative)of the apostle Paul to be wonderful reading. The story was extraordinarily well written and entertaining. I feel as if I met Paul, James, Peter and other of their contemporaries. The development of these characters was remarkable. Their human faliblities were demonstrated as they attempted, in their individual ways, to share their love of and belief in Christ. I found the author's interpretation of the "thorn in the side" of Paul to be plausible and insightful. Although I have always loved the letters of Paul, I sometimes found the man himself, as seen in his writing, to be irritating. After reading this novel I have a much greater appreciation of the man, his struggles, and his deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. I will pass this book on to my friends but I want it back!
Posted June 22, 2010: Believe it. Obie Holmen's book is an engaging, even a little romantic, look at the Apostle Paul. You don't even have to be a biblical expert to appreciate the story, the power struggles and the insight into the formative years of the Christian church. After reading this book, I have gained an appreciation for Paul. Holmen portrays him as far more vulnerable and human than some of Paul's own hubris would lead us to believe at first reading of his letters. At the same time, Paul passion and sincerity for Christ comes through unmarred. I thought this was a terrific book and one I've passed along to others.
Posted May 24, 2010: An outstanding look into the world of Paul. Holmen does a great job putting you in Paul's world. Unlike most "novelized" stories about the Bible you can feel the pain Paul experienced in his ministry, on many levels. His struggle with the "Orthodox" leaders in Jerusalem is brought out in a very moving manner. Regardless of you Biblical experience you will enjoy this book.
Posted May 17, 2010: As a novice in religious studies and even the bible, I found "A Wretched Man" interesting and educational. For me, the author brought clarification on the characters in the bible, an understanding of the times following the crucifixion, and just how difficult the times would have been for Paul. It was presented in an interesting manner that I found easy to follow. I found the author's descriptions of the times, events, and Paul's journey in spreading Christianity fascinating. Not only was it educational for me, best of of all, it was hard to put down! For the first time, I am able to discuss biblical characters and circumstances.
Posted May 6, 2010: "A Wretched Man - A Novel of Paul the Apostle" by R.W. Holmen is historical fiction at its best. The first century character of Saul, who became later known by his Greek name, Paulos or St. Paul, is the chief writer of most of the New Testament. Except for the gospels themselves, he gets the credit, or the blame, for most of the rest - whether he actually penned everything with his name on it or not. Next to Jesus himself, he is the key figure at the origin of Christianity. Yet, we know tantalizingly little about him. And, what was that "thorn in the flesh" he complains about? And, why does he consider himself "a wretched man"? Does it have anything to do with his self understanding - and why he never married? Read the book and consider what Holmen has to say. Holmen has done his homework about Paul. It shows in his exquisite characterizations of both Paul and his antagonist, James of Jerusalem. It shows as he leads us through Paul's long life with its incredible highs and lows. And, it shows as he masterfully tells the story of this brilliant wretched man. If you want a finely crafted tale about one of the foundational characters of Western civilization, then get this book. If you want a little literary masterpiece that puts you in the room, and on the long journeys right beside the key messengers of the Messiah that changed the whole world, then get this book. If you simply enjoy a good read - well, you get the idea! Get the book!
Readers are gushing!
"A stupendous novel"
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"Your novel was difficult to put down and brought to life a distant time and place with such humanity and liveliness"
"A truly significant work"