Book review: Man of God

by Debra Diaz


This is an intriguing story about the birth of Christianity among the Gentiles, particularly in the city of Rome. It’s a sequel to Diaz’s first book, Woman of Sin, though I don’t believe it’s necessary to read book one in order to enjoy book two.

Paulus and Alysia, with their daughter, Rachel, hide from the Roman authorities while spreading the message of Jesus in Christianity’s underground movement. However, the time comes when they must all three take a stand for their beliefs. The plot is engaging, and the tension builds as they choose to leave things in the hands of God, though it’s never a question of God’s power, but of His will. Will God rescue them, or will He stand idly by and let them succumb to Roman torture and cruel death?

I love Diaz’s chosen historical era! Little scholarly emphasis has gone into studying Christians of this period, the 30’s and 40’s of the first century, and precious little is known about how Christianity took hold. Paul’s letters give us our best hints. So Diaz clings pretty tightly to the Pauline picture of church-planting as she recreates the atmosphere of early Mediterranean beliefs. For example, the characters battle against spirits and bodily possession. (The main character, Paulus, manages to exorcize a demon from a man, though his wife, Alysia, fails in her attempt to perform the same miracle on the Emperor, Caligula.)

There is an exception, however, to its authenticity. Diaz portrays the Christianity of the early first century very much like today’s Christian teachings. This is my one disappointment with the story; its lack of authenticity in this area stands out since the spread of Christianity is the focus of the story. I’ll give an example:

In one scene, Paulus, the main character, meets a friend’s father on his deathbed and tries to convert him. “When your soul leaves your body it will go to one of two places. To be forever with God, or to be forever separated from him in a place of torment, reserved for those who refuse to accept his son as savior, the one who paid for their sins.” The fellow dies, and we hear no more about him. So why include the scene? If it’s meant to add historicity, a more interesting and authentic choice of theology would be the apostle Paul’s teaching that the sinful die forever (annihilationism) or the Greek teaching of soul punishment for the extremely evil (which this man was not) or the Jewish belief in a physical, bodily resurrection for God’s chosen nation (such as that described in the book of Revelation). All of these theologies would be more believable for the time period of the story, and in my opinion more interesting. Diaz’s choice to use contemporary beliefs made me feel a little like I was being preached at.

Then I reached the climax. Excellent!! Exciting, authentic, appropriate, thought-provoking, mildly disturbing, all my complaints dissolved in twenty pages as Diaz came through with the perfect ending. Christianity is born!

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