I recently finished reading Bruce W. Longenecker’s book, The Lost Letters of Pergamum. My friend Daniel loaned the book to me. For him, the book had been assigned seminary reading. For me, however, Daniel thought it might just be an interesting pleasure read.
Turns out he was right.
The concept for the book is drawn from a rather obscure passage in the New Testament of the Bible. Revelation 2:12-13 reads, “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live — where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city — where Satan lives.” And that’s really all that the Bible has to say about the city of Pergamum and/or the person of Antipas. But from this one reference, along with other research, Longenecker builds out a whole scene and set of characters that prove to be surprisingly credible and consistent with the rest of the New Testament. And surprisingly insightful, too!
I especially appreciated the glimpse into some of the social dynamics and cultural dynamics of the 1st Century Church. I knew about some of these historical differences that were at play. Still, it somehow became more real to track them through a story like this one. The characters in this story helped me to better understand and empathize with different individuals from that time period: Roman noblemen, Jewish peasants, slaves, etc. The plot of the story also revealed how someone outside of the Jewish faith tradition would have been inclined to receive the Gospel.
The story had legs, too, as an actual narrative and not just as an illustrative device. The character of Antipas, in particular, has an intriguing arc (even though the reader knows from the introduction what’s going to happen to him by the end). I’ll confess there are moments where the dialogue is a bit awkward and forced. But by and large, the plot is compelling. I’m glad that I made this book my first cover-to-cover read of the Winter Break. And I commend it to anyone else looking for education and entertainment.