"It seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mayest know the truth of those words in which thou hast been instructed." - Luke 1:3-4
I am a huge Michael O'Brien fan. I've read all of his books, most of his essays, and I dream of one day owning at least a print of his artwork. I could not wait for his latest book, Theophilos to be released.
A departure from his earlier, end times novels, Theophilos is a fictional account of the character to whom Saint Luke addressed both his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Steeped in historical context, O'Brien writes a fascinating first person account of Greek physician, and uncle to Loukas, Theophilos.
The novel is divided into three sections. The first part being a journal written by Theophilos giving the background story of his own life and it's intertwining in that of Saint Luke's. Tragically orphaned, Loukas comes to live with his uncle and aunt on the island of Crete and is classically educated and trained, under his loving uncle's guidance, as a physician. Upon leaving his uncle's medical practice to begin one of his own, Loukas has fallen in with the followers of the crucified Christos. Theophilos is skeptical and concerned for Loukas when he receives the account, written by Loukas, of the mystical life, death, and resurrection of this Yeshua.
The second section, entitled "Examinations", is the account written by Theophilos after he seeks out Loukas in Judaea. Theophilos, in his concern for Loukas' acceptance of this strange cult, takes on the task of interviewing those touched by the life of Yeshua and examining the evidence for and against this new religion. Is it myth or is it truth? Theophilos interviews followers and rejectors alike, seeking to build and fortify his case against the new religion in hopes of dissuading Loukas from promoting the cult.
The final section continues Theophilos' journal and reveals the results of his encounters with the followers of Yeshua. What does Theophilos conclude? Could a soul, coming in such close contact with first person accounts of the miracles and teachings of Yeshua Christos remain untouched?
Of all Michael O'Brien's novels, this is by far my favorite. It is obvious he took great lengths in researching the history, culture, and political environments of first century Greek, Roman, Judaean, and Christian cultures. While reading, I could not wait to go back to Saint Luke's Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to re-read Saint Luke's accounts. O'Brien's writing made Saint Luke's writings that much more rich and real. Theophilos' and Loukas' story is beautifully written and filled with deep emotion, and while it is evident the account is written from a distinctly Catholic point of view, it truly is accessible and relevant to all Christians. Unlike many of O'Brien's novels, there is only fleeting, veiled adult content, and so I would recommend this book for teens and adults. Our family is studying Ancient Greece and Rome, finishing this year with the birth of Christianity. Our teens will be reading this novel as part of their history studies.