In the last novella of the Sons of Encouragement series (the follow-up to her Lineage of Grace series), bestselling author Francine Rivers imagines the little-known life of Silas, one of the first Christians and the beloved traveling companion of the Apostle Paul.
Pulling from the biblical books of Acts, First Peter and Matthew, used as an outline for her novella, Rivers presents Silas as a rich and educated man who gives up everything for the early Church.
The novella opens with Peter and Silas --- his secretary --- fleeing Rome. Peter turns back at the last minute, leaving Silas to go on alone unwillingly. Tradition tells us that Peter is then crucified, upside down (having deemed himself unfit to die in the same way as Christ), and Rivers narrates the events through the grieving Silas’s recollections. We also learn that Paul, Silas’s travel companion for thousands of miles, has been beheaded. The apostles are scattered; many are dead.
Silas, as seen through Rivers’s words, is a man broken by the loss of the giants of the Christian faith, burdened with the responsibility of safeguarding their letters, penned in scrolls, that someday would be the cornerstone of the New Testament text. He longs to join Peter in death: “To have an end of trials, an end to fear, an end to the attack of doubt when he least expected it.” Silas is presented as a man tired, defeated and fighting an internal battle with discouragement and grief. Grudgingly obedient and desperately weary, he is determined to finish his task. And he comes to find that his task is to write of what he has seen and experienced while living in a small room in Puteoli. “Those I loved most dearly are not lost, only beyond my sight. I cannot give up! I cannot fail! I must go on!”
With time to rest and remember, Silas begins writing again. He talks of how he was at first put off by the company Jesus kept: lepers, women, the poor --- commoners. However, Silas had many questions about the Jewish Law and hoped that Jesus might be able to answer them. He also longed to see a miracle. Rivers recaps the biblical text about various events in Christ’s life that Silas might have been witness to, including the call for Jesus to become king; Jesus defending the woman caught in adultery; Jesus teaching from a boat where the unruly crowd might better hear him; and Jesus explaining why it is right to “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” Rivers imagines Silas to be the rich young ruler who Jesus commands to give up his money and cannot. She also imagines him as one of the two men who walks with Jesus to Emmaus after His resurrection.
Several pages are taken up with recapping key events in the life of Christ through the eyes of Silas’s recollections, followed by events from the book of Acts involving Saul’s conversion to Paul, Silas’s defense of the young John Mark, and the life of the early Church. Indeed, an over-reliance on scriptural retelling and less reliance on imagination of Silas’s life makes the writing a little too familiar to those who have studied the scriptural text. Although there are some good imaginative stories, such as Paul and Silas falling into the hands of robbers, those who have read some of the great novels of the early Church, such as THE SILVER CHALICE or LION OF GOD, will wish for more embellishment and less adherence to straight scripture retelling. (Some scenes, such as Timothy’s heroic decision to be circumcised as a young teen, which lend themselves to more exploration, are barely glossed over.) Those who want to revisit biblical events without too much embroidering of the details will find this book more satisfactory.
Readers will appreciate the Bible study section at the end of the book, which allows for greater exploration of the scriptural basis for the story and its application to Christians today.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on June 21, 2007