Book review: Papias and the Mysterious Menorah

by Ben Witherington III & Ann Witherington


Witherington is one of my favorite authors. He’s very well steeped in the history and Christianity of the first and second centuries, and an excellent source for learning. But I never knew he wrote fiction until my own publicity agent mentioned it to me! Bob Todd Publicity represents Witherington as well, so he sent a sample my way for review. It’s the third of a series about a lovable archaeologist named Art West. Indiana Jones with half the testosterone and twice the education.

In this book, Art investigates the discovery of the house of Papias, who forms an important link between the church fathers of the second century and the original apostles and writers of the first century. Art helps uncover a find that would make any Christian archaeologist salivate: evidence by Papias’ own hand that the gospels of Matthew and Mark were not written anonymously, but truly penned by their traditionally named authors: Matthew, a tax collector, and Mark, the sidekick of Peter.

Sorry, folks, it’s fiction; Papias’ home hasn’t been discovered, nor has proof of traditional Gospel authorship. But much of the book is factual, built upon current archaeological finds.

I don’t think Witherington’s fiction is quite as good as his nonfiction. This one will appeal primarily to fellow archaeologists and wannabees. I never did get used to the stilted language, and my editor would tell Witherington to swap his passive for active verbs. But I loved the subject matter, and I definitely enjoyed learning about first- and early second-century Christianity from a different angle.

In a couple days, I’ll review a nonfiction Witherington book which I found absolutely fascinating.

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