What do I think of Gary Burge’s book put out by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Fiction is not really the genre of New Testament scholars for the most part. Very few would consider writing a fictional account in order to sell a book or convey information. Fortunately, that very few does not include Gary Burge. Burge has written a book about the story of a centurion who meets Jesus (The one found in Luke 7 and Matthew 8) to give readers some insight into the New Testament world and what it would be like to be in the household of a centurion. You get to see life mainly through the eyes of a servant captured in battle and taken to live with the centurion as he describes all the events that take place.
Since this is a fictional account, I can’t really tell too much about the book, although it is based on the above Biblical passages, with some artistic license certainly granted. After all, we don’t really know anything about the back story of this centurion or the slave in his household. Still, I found the story to be exciting and I could easily remember who the characters were and found myself drawn into what was happening. Since we live in an era where we have TV shows like A.D. going on, I found myself intrigued with the thought of what it would be like if this was made into a filmed version, even if only one that goes straight to TV.
Along the way, Burge makes sure the reader learns about important concepts surrounding life in the ancient world. I was particularly pleased to note the time that Burge dedicated to the topic of honor and shame. This is such an important concept in the ancient world and it is one that we moderns do not realize when we read the Bible. The average person in the pew unfortunately looks at the Biblical world and thinks that the world was just like theirs. (Consider someone who told me as a skeptic today that human nature is the same so surely the empty tomb of Christ would be a popular site for tourists to visit.)
There will also be photographs along the way of various places and artifacts so that if you want to see the kind of item that’s being talked about, you can get that as well. These little snippets in the book are brief and have excellent information that the reader can quickly grasp.
If there were two things I could change, the first would be that it would be helpful for the reader to get a list of recommended books at the end that they can do for further reading on the topic. The reader who gets done with the book and is intrigued and wanting to learn more won’t really know where to go. The second is I wish there had been a different title. One would think by the title you were getting a picture of the day-to-day life of a roman centurion. The title mainly focuses on the last week when the centurion does wind up meeting Jesus. A title like Jesus and the Roman Centurion would have made much more sense.
Still, this is a brief enjoyable read for all wanting to learn something about the ancient world and I highly recommend it.