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4.6 out of 5 stars
5
4.6 out of 5 stars

on 12 December 2015
So much insight into life in 1st Century Corinth. Brings to life the contemporary scene and explains some passages in Corinthians that otherwise seem difficult.
Highly recommended .
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VINE VOICEon 29 June 2012
It seems that everyone's joined in the cross-over craze. Rock stars are writing ballets and operas, chick-lit writers are getting elected to Parliament, and now a NT scholar has turned novelist. The point about Witherington's very enjoyable little book, though, is it that it is entirely in keeping with his primary profession of opening modern eyes to an ancient and alien past. This explains the narrative's regular interruption by text boxes providing historical background (covering topics such as slavery, the client/patron relationship, gladiators, the Roman legal system and a potted history of Roman as opposed to Greek Corinth).

For by simply indulging in some scholarly imagination, he has brought to life a world that often seems hard to conceive of. The book is precisely what it's title suggests - but the week in question is an intriguing one: the week in which the apostle Paul was hauled up in front of the Roman governor of Achaea, Gallio (Acts 18:12-18). This episode helps the reader better to appreciate Paul's challenges:
"The life of a Jewish evangelist like Paulos was precarious, especially when his own people largely rejected his message. In many ways he realized he was a man without an earthly country. Unwelcome in Judaea, and beaten, jailed or cast out of one town after another, the fact that he had been able to stay in Corinth for over a year without real trouble was something of a record respite. In part this was because he had converted enough high-status citizens that they had his back when necessary." (p96)

Now Witherington should not necessarily succumb to the temptation to give up his day job and write fiction full-time! This isn't great literature - but that is hardly the point. As a didactic tool it succeeds brilliantly - and the book's inspired conceit is to write a narrative through the eyes of a pagan freedman, Nicanor, a former slave and now trusted employee of recently converted (and friend of Paul's) Erastus. This enables Witherington to draw on a number of the themes of Paul's subsequent Corinthian letters - in particular the absurdity of a crucified saviour to the Greek mind (1 Cor 1:18-25) and how off-putting chaotic and ecstatic worship can be to outsiders (1 Cor 12-14).

Furthermore making Erastus one of the book's key characters, however, the speculations are rooted in real events. As Witherington comments in an appendix:
"There are two famous inscriptions from Roman Corinth that mention Erastos. Both are in Latin. One, which probably comes from the late Claudian or early Nero period, reads: "Erastos for the office of aedile laid this pavement at his own expense." It is found in front of the large theatre at Corinth, still in situ where it was discovered. The second inscription reads `The Vitelli, Frontius, and Erastus, dedicate this..."
Here we likely have one of those rare synchronisms between artifacts and inscriptions on the one hand, and the New Testament on the other. In my judgment, it is hardly likely that there were two Erasti who were aediles in the 50s in Corinth when Paul was there and just afterward. No, the two inscriptions refer to one and the same Erastos. And in Romans 16:23, writing from Corinth, Paul sends the greetings of Erastos, the oikonomenos yes poleos, Greek for `aedile of the city'. All of this raises the interesting question of how a high-status Christian like Erastos managed to function, including helping maintaining pagan temples, all the while keeping his new faith. In short, the story in this book, while fiction, is based in the historical realities of the Corinthian Christian community that Paul founded." (p156)

Some will quibble with some of the author's extrapolations towards the end of the book about what actually went on during Corinthian worship. It is always tricky to read between Paul's lines (and anyway, the excesses described in the letters presumably took place some time after Paul left). But he makes a good stab at it. And despite my aspersions about his writing style, I did find the end of the story curiously moving and satisfying. Just as one of the book's commenders noted, this book really does breathe life and flesh onto the dry bones of ancient history. As a companion to (though of course never replacement for) Paul's letters, this is a brilliant and exciting read.
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on 26 June 2014
A Week in the Life of Corinth is a charming story by New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III. Although it is fictional, it is based on Witherington's knowledge of the New Testament world and includes real historical figures like the apostle Paul, the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:12-17), and Erastus the treasurer of Corinth (Rom. 16:23). It is a book that not only "tells" us about the 1st century world, it "shows" us through the medium of story.
The story revolves around a fictional character named Nicanor, a former slave of Erastos (the Greek spelling used by Witherington), but now a freedman. By following Nicanor's life for one eventful week, the reader is treated to many insightful details about life in the 1st century AD. For example, rather than being told about the relationship between a patron and client as a textbook would do, the reader experiences patronage first hand through the life of Nicanor. We also learn the potential dangers involved in these kinds of relationships when Nicanor's loyalty to Erastos clashes with the desires of the powerful Marcus Aurelius Aemilianus.
In order to educate the reader, the book is punctuated by information boxes called, "A Closer Look." These boxes include a mountain of informative details including such topics as, Slaves and Manumission, The Roman Calendar, Gladiators and their Contests, Paul, a Visionary with an Eye Problem, Home Schooling Greco-Roman Style, Jews in Corinth, Roman Trials, and a host of other subjects. Besides these information boxes, Witherington also includes a number of photos and diagrams. Diagrams include a layout of "First Century downtown Corinth," and the layout of a Roman domus (house). Photos include a number of pictures of the remains of ancient Corinth such as the diolkos (the shortcut used to drag small boats across the isthmus rather than sail them all the way around Greece), or the Erastus inscription. Other helpful photos feature a gladiatorial school, an ancient Roman road, and a street in Pompeii. Although the photos are helpful, in order to keep this slender volume at a reasonable price, they are in black and white which affects their quality.
The book is suitable for the average reader seeking to learn more about life in the New Testament world in an entertaining way. However, there are a few shortcomings. Further character and plot development would certainly have created a greater emotional attachment to the story and its characters. The numerous Latin and Greek words used by Witherington are sometimes, but not always, explained. Although the use of these words adds to the atmosphere of the story, those who aren't acquainted with these ancient languages may find it a little exasperating. More importantly, there appear to be some errors in the use of Greek and Latin words or names. For example, Tyche is definitely a feminine name, though Witherington uses it for a male doorman. In spite of these shortcomings, Witherington's book is an enjoyable and educational read. I recommend A Week in the Life of Corinth to all who are interested in ancient Corinth or the world of the New Testament.
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on 5 June 2012
Ben Witherington has done a good job here in not only putting together a good job but also giving you a deeper insight into the life in Corinth and the early Chuch. For thos of you who want to learn without becoming bogged down in accademic books this is a book for you. I just hope that he plans to write more novels like this on the Early Church.
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on 9 May 2012
When I am teaching hermeneutics, I teach my students that before they try and apply any passage of Scripture, they have to 'go to Corinth' first. It's a shorthand way (that I learned from someone else) of saying that they have to determine what was the original application to the original readers of the passage before they can determine the contemporary application. In that sense, Corinth is representative of the original readers/hearers of any biblical text.

Ben Witherington has done us a great service in writing this fictional account of life in Corinth, incorporating into his story such biblical charaters as Paul, Priscilla and Aquila and Erastus, and weaving a strong, gripping story line around a week in their lives. There's intrigue, skullduggery and even a hint of romance, all set in a very convincing portrayal of everyday life in this important Roman colony city.

As well as the fictional account, Witherington inserts a series of 'A Closer Look' features' in which he explains, or gives the background to, features of the life and times of Corinth and its people - such things as the Roman baths, homeschooling, Greco-Roman beliefs about the afterlife, the Roman calendar, and many more, and this is where this book really comes into its own, for me at least. As you read the story you feel as if you are walking the streets of Corinth and expect to turn a corner and see Paul or one of his friends. There some illusions to the more lurid aspects of the Corinthian way of life that we know of from elsewhere, but never in an unhelpful way.

There are a couple of comments that slightly irritated me, such as the statement that "there was no reason to think that Paul expected that gift (of prophecy) to be confined to the apostolic age. Indeed, 1 Corinthians 13 suggests it will continue until faith becomes sight when the Lord returns." (p155); or the possibility that "the marks of Christ" Paul speaks of in Galatians 6 might be stigmata (p43). These are, however, small blemishes, and I will certainly be recommending this valuable book to my students. Next time I have to 'go to Corinth' I will do so with much greater knowledge and insight.
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