I had the opportunity to read two texts in the past few weeks.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman and Paul was not a Christian by Pamela Eisenbaum.
The piece by Grossman is not my normal genre in the way of novels. I try to stick with classics or culturally influential books if I am going to take the time to read. But, I had not read the Harry Potter series at all and this book by Grossman was presented to me by a reading friend I trust - as a kind of adult and mature version of Potter. I had some down time from other texts, so decided to plunge into this one.
While "magic" is not "my area" - this book was surprisingly "believable." The principal character, Quentin, from New York (starts out from Brooklyn) and his friends were real. I do not value or hope for my own children to experience the levels of inebriation and sexual activity that these teens are involved in as they go through Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy - but, they were very real, believable, persons. Lev writes very well and the book caused me to think. He created an alternate world - or a series of alternate worlds (including Fillory and Brakebills) that allowed the characters, and even I, to "escape" from reality - in intriguing ways. I passed the book on to my wife.
Pamela Eisenbaum was a means of support and guidance to me (though not "officially") when I was doing Doctoral study at the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology in the mid 1990's. Though I only took a single class from her - on general issues from the Greco-Roman period - I did not get to learn too much from her about her expertise on Paul and Pauline studies.
She clearly demonstrates her place in the field of study in this text, demonstrating that, contra the Reformation idea, Paul did not become a Christian - precisely. Paul came to believe in Jesus as the Christ - but he was deeply embedded and rooted in his Jewish theology for all of his life, even after his revelation (not conversion, for Pam) of the Christ.
A compelling and interesting read that has already caused me to appreciate Paul a bit more. He seems more "rooted" and believable in her exposition - not someone "swayed" from his former life as he encountered the reality of Jesus, but someone who was nevertheless changed from older ideas within Judaism to a new focus, while still embedded in his Jewish heritage and practice.
With students this month I started and finished reading - The Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics by Willard Swartley. I hope to comment more on that later. A powerful, complete, and thorough presentation of the "missing piece/peace" that is overlooked in so much of the New Testament literature. Compelling.