Priscilla: The Life of an Early Christian is an exploration of early Christianity using an integration of fiction and fact, specifically centered on the biblical person, Priscilla. The book is written as an historical fiction account of her life looking back on various stages in early Christianity in Ephesus, Rome, and Corinth. We know from the Bible her importance and that she interacted with Paul and others. Ben Witherington III uses this information alongside a wealth of data about the early Christian world to construct an insightful look at early Christianity.
As a reader, I’ve enjoyed many of these works from InterVarsity Press bringing the early Christian world to life. This one is different from some of the other entries like A Week in the Life of Rome in that it focuses more on a specific biblical individual than on a broader look at early Christianity. In the process, though, Witherington highlights several of the early theological controversies in the church and uses Priscilla and those who knew her to answer some of these questions. For example, another biblical person who shows up is Junia (Romans 16:7), who Witherington points out is likely the same woman as Joanna (Luke 8:3) due to the way names translated between languages (97). Junia, Witherington notes, would have truly been an apostle, because in the Pauline usage, unless qualified, the term did indeed mean ones commissioned by the risen Christ himself (98).
These introductions to broader theological controversies within their first century context are important for readers looking to learn more about theology. At times, they feel a little bit contrived (eg, would there really need to be such detailed explanations about how Hebrew names translated into Latin or Greek for those who were familiar with the languages?) but the importance of the topics raised cannot be understated.
Readers are introduced to a great number of details about life in the first century, as well. Arranged marriages, the importance of places like Caesarea, arrangements in theaters and controversies about them, and many more historically relevant topics are raised throughout the text.
Priscilla: The Life of an Early Christian is a good introduction both to the world of the early Christians and to many related theological topics in the early church.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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