Do you remember how you felt after the first time that you saw Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”? I do. When the movie started I couldn’t believe that I was going to have to read the entire film using subtitles, but as it played on the familiarity of the story almost made the subtitles unnecessary. My focus was wholly rooted to the screen as I wept at the betrayal and brutality that Christ willingly endured on my behalf. A year prior to the movie’s release I had committed my life to Him, laid my sins at His feet and basked in the peace that only comes through the His grace and forgiveness. Yet in my theater seat the weight of my wayward youth sat squarely on my heart once more. Jay and I left the theater in complete silence – humbled, yet hopeful. I’ve not felt an impact like that again until I read The Advocate by Randy Singer.
“With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,” Luke 1:3
Randy Singer spins a fictional masterpiece around the life of twice mentioned biblical character, Theophilus. Written primarily in the first person the book reads similar to a memoir, beginning in Theophilus’ 14th year, in the city of Rome. The story follows Theophilus to Greece, where he studies in the Molon School of Rhetoric, which prepares him for a career as an advocate (lawyer). Fully trained in rhetoric and a master of laws he lands his first job as an assessore (legal advisor) to Pontious Pilate. This lends both Theophilus and the reader a behind the scenes glance into the trial and crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene. His role in the trial permanently mars him as evidenced by his statement, “I was born to be an advocate of the truth, to fight for justice, to speak for the powerless. But in my greatest test I had failed miserably. I had lost my nerve and at a critical moment abandoned my principles.” Theophilus returns to Rome shortly after the trial of Jesus. As time passes he wrestling new cases, risky cases that are undesirable to other advocates, all in efforts to redeem himself. After entering retirement, years later, he is approached about representing the Apostle Paul a follower of a new religious sect called The Way. Though reluctant to do so, he accepts…altering history and his life.
For me, the most delightful parts of the story where the trials of Christ and of the Apostle Paul. Randy Singer made it real in my mind’s eye. He emoted the passions involved in both cases. Placing the reader right in front of the defendants – hearing, feeling, seeing all that was transpiring.
The majority of the characters are ripped from the annals of time. We know them or are familiar with their qualities and accomplishments. This sense of familiarity propels the story and creates a incredibly enjoyable read. Singer brings the biblical cast to life in a positive almost familial way. Roman leaders like Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero are aptly portrayed as selfish, power seeking, ruthless and paranoid. Though little is known of Theophilis besides two mentions of him in the bible (Luke & Acts), Singer’s has cleverly created his fictional life story and deftly placed it into historical events.
If you have ever finished a book and been disheartened by the remaining loose ends, you will not have that problem here. There were times when I read something that seemed of little consequence only to have the reason for it’s original mention come to light later in the book. There is a long pause between the trial of Christ and the trial of Paul where the author steers away from the mention of Christ or The Way. During this hiatus he develops the romantic storyline for Theophilis. In addition, he paints a splendid picture of Roman architecture, culture, values, and their religious and legal systems.
This book was more than a legal thriller for the reader’s amusement, it challenges us to reexamine our faith. To ask yourself, “How far would I be willing to go and what would I risk for Christ?” Like Theophilis, I have made mistakes in my life and likewise made attempts to right those wrongs on my own. His story reminds us that it’s only through Christ that we are fully redeemed and granted life everlasting. I finished the book feeling humbled, yet hopeful. It will become a permanent addition to my bookshelf and one that I will recommend to many. I give this book 5 stars.
I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
About the Author:
Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney. His first novel, Directed Verdict, won the Christy award for the best Christian suspense novel. Recently, Randy was a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children. Visit his website at http://www.randysinger.net.