Book review: Phoebe A story

UK book cover Phoebe A Story

I bought a paperback copy of Phoebe by Paula Gooder from the local Christian bookshop. Phoebe is the person mentioned in Paul’s epistle to the Romans 16:1-2 as someone to be welcomed. (Not as a friend suggested a character from the TV series Friends!)

Paula Gooder has ventured into fiction with what she calls ‘a story’ rather than a novel. This is probably a fair description. She has built a back story to Phoebe (from Cenchreae a port near Corinth) entrusted to deliver Paul’s epistle, which he wrote in Corinth, to the Christians in Rome. Who these Christians were and how they lived becomes clear from Paula Gooder’s well-researched and well-written tale.

I found this book very interesting and subsequently reread Paul’s letter to the Romans.

One thing, which puzzled me, while reading Phoebe was why the persecution of Christians at the Coliseum was not mentioned. I had begun reading the book while waiting for a train and had skipped the contents page. There are many pages of notes at the end of the story, in which the historical context is explained. The story is set before those persecutions began.

It is a good book, helpful in putting the Letter to the Romans in context. It won an award at the Christian Resources Together Conference (CRT) in 2019. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It is published by Hodder in the UK and IVP in the USA.



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During the time that the New Testament was written the Roman Empire had expanded. Jerusalem was occupied by the Romans. They brought a mixture of good and bad innovations. The roads had never been better, but there were brutal punishments including crucifixion.

The book in the New Testament usually known as Romans is a letter from St Paul – mentioned as Saul of Tarsus in my post about Gamaliel – to the Christians in Rome.

This book is the most thorough explanation of Paul’s understanding of the faith to which he had been an unlikely convert.

He expressed a desire to travel to Rome, which happened in a strange way. Because he was a Roman citizen, he was allowed privileges of status that most other Jews did not share. He travelled to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial and spent much of the end of his life in prison or under house arrest. He wrote many letters, some of which have not survived for us to read.

This year for the A to Z Challenge I have taken my 2013 Challenge as a starting point for most of the posts. I have written a post based around something or usually someone from the Bible. Sometimes it is a fictional story, for example when I have added some back stories (as a writing exercise). Sometimes it is a summary.

I hope my readers will be challenged to consider the original texts in more depth. (If only to discover what liberties I have taken with them!)

My R post from 2013 mentions Romans.