Every once and a while a book comes a long that totally revolutionizes your thinking on a subject. You imagine yourself having a pretty reasonable understanding, until you realize you had no clue whatsoever! Frank Viola’s book ‘The Untold Story of the New Testament Church‘ is one such book. I can not put into words how much I have enjoyed reading it. And I am sure I will be reading it again and again as time goes by. I can also not begin to imagine the countless hours of research it took him to compile this tremendous work. Thank you Frank for your amazing dedication to the church!
So what is this book about? It is simply the story of the birth and spread of the early church from Jerusalem to the rest of the world through the apostles and of course Paul. It starts out by pointing out something that we don’t often consider, and that is that the order of the New Testament Bible books are totally out of whack. They have been grouped together by general theme, by author and by the length of each work. So if you read the New Testament from Matthew through to Revelation, you are actually reading the books out their written order. For example, Paul’s first letter was not Romans, it’s just listed first because it is the longest!
The other utterly amazing thing Frank has done is that he has taken the book of Acts as the backbone or skeleton to the story, and used the letters of the various other writers to fill in the body parts to form a more complete and sequentially accurate story of the early church’s adventures.
In great detail he describes the various cities, customs and cultures in which the early church grew with historical context and accuracy. He uses a technique known as ‘mirror reading’ to fill in the parts of the story we do not have a direct account of in the Bible. What this means is that when you only read a letter somebody wrote, you are only hearing one side of a conversation. Many of Paul’s letters were written in response to fasle teachings by various people and other events taking place in the different churches he planted. Frank uses the mirror reading technique to give us a pretty good understanding of why the letters were written, in what context, for which audience and during what time. I have never seen such a complete historical picture of how the church grew until now! And what a joy it is to read and even imagine yourself being there like a fly on a wall, seeing it all unfold!
It is not often that one reads a book that is so skillfully and well written that you will never forget reading it! If I think back to my early years and all the books I have read, there are but a few that fall into this category. If you have not read this book, I can not recommend it highly enough! If you have ever wanted the see the New Testament as one big picture, as an unfolding drama of divine proportions, then do yourself a favour and invest a little into yourself and read this awesome story. After all, the story of Jesus and His glorious bride is the greatest story ever told! This is where what you are now a part of originated!
Click here to link to Frank’s blog, Beyond Evangelical, which I also highly recommend!
Yours in Grace!
“In The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, Frank Viola has produced a useful and engaging account of the New Testament Church, helpfully setting people and events within their first-century cultural context. While not everyone will agree with every detail of the author’s reconstruction or theological interpretation, for any such retelling unavoidably involves some interpretation, still this account helps contemporary believers more fully appreciate the remarkable dynamism of our earliest Christian forebears.” ~ Howard A. Snyder, theologian and historian, Tyndale Seminary and Asbury Theological Seminary.
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