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Cast of Characters: New Testament Fiction

My historical fiction series, From Broken to Bold, portrays true historical figures in the Bible, rounded out as fictional characters.


Forgotten Followers: From Broken to Bold, Book 1, features stories of Mary of Clopas and Joanna. It is set in a harmony of the Gospels. Here I clarify what is fact and fiction for the twelve woman disciples introduced in Forgotten Followers: From Broken to Bold:

  1. Mara/(Mary, wife of Clopas, a blacksmith)

  2. Maria of Nazareth (Jesus's mother, widow of carpenter Joseph)

  3. Perpetua (wife of fisherman Peter)

  4. Salome (wife of fisherman Zebedee, mother of Apostles James and John)

  5. Joanna/Junia (wife of Chuza, patron and disciple)

  6. Susannah (patron and disciple)

  7. Marie of Magdala (Mary Magdalene, patron and disciple)

  8. Miriam of Bethany (Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, sits at Jesus's feet as a disciple, anoints Jesus's head)

  9. Martha of Bethany (sister of Miriam/Mary and Lazarus)

  10. Photini (unnamed woman at the well of John 4)

  11. Mariamne (unnamed one of many women in the Gospels, traditional sister of Apostle Philip)

  12. Veronica (unnamed woman with a bleeding disorder)


I will continue to update the descriptions of the above twelve women as their characters develop through the series.


Book 1 also has a small storyline for a fictional woman named Nadira, who is an Arab from the Decapolis who marries Manaen, a step-brother of Herod Antipas. Joanna sows the seed of God's word to them about acceptance of all ethnicities. Due to their mixed-marriage, they leave Galilee and Judea and relocate to Syrian Antioch. Nicolas, a deacon in Jerusalem (Acts 6), returns to Syrian Antioch after Stephen is stoned.


Because She Was Called: From Broken to Bold, Book 2, is set in Acts 2-11. It features stories of Joanna and Susannah while also having storylines for Jesus's mother Maria, Marie of Magdala, Mariamne (Philip's sister), and Mary (John Mark's mother). In Joppa, we meet Tabitha (Dorcas), Simon, the tanner, and his fictional wife Carmelita, and a fictional widow named Sarah. Book 2 is set in AD 35-37 and introduces members of the congregation in Rome at that time. I describe Prisca and Aquila, Persis, Tryphaena and Tryphosa, Philologus and Julia, Rufus of Cyrene, and Nereus. The novel also introduces two men who live and work together and are members of the congregations of The Way.


The From Broken to Bold historical fiction series offers fictional backstories for biblical figures as well as fictional characters. By shining the spotlight on women and other minorities, I hope the reader will see how the early church overcame diversity and formed one body of Christ. As the series progresses, we will meet Timothy's mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. As the female apostles' travel, we will develop the backstories of Apphia in Colossae and Nympha in Laodicia. In Philippi, we will encounter Lydia, Euodia, and Syntyche. We will come face to face with opposition from prominent women of Thessalonica and in Berea. We may meet a prominent woman member of Athens, named Damaris. Eventually, we arrive in Corinth where Prisca and Aquila have relocated, and meet Chloe and Phoebe, of nearby Cenchreae. Later, Prisca and Aquila will move to Ephesus where they plant a house church. They are there when Chloe's report arrives and Paul responds with his letter to the Corinthians. Later still, Phoebe will go from Corinth to Rome and greet Joanna/Junia and other believers as she presents Paul's letter to the Romans.


Click here for the complete list of Women in the New Testament.


Below I clarify what is fact and fiction for the biblical figures I am adding in Because She Was Called: From Broken to Bold, Book 2, A Novel of the Early Church.


Prisca

Facts (in the period of this novel AD 35-37)

  • Aquila, a Jew, a native of Pontus in the northeast area of Asia Minor, working as a tentmaker; Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla is the diminutive form) are married and live in Rome until Emperor Claudius orders Jews out (Acts 18:1-3).

  • Prisca and Aquila later teach and plant churches in Corinth and Ephesus (Acts 18:18-20).

  • Prisca and Aquila teach Apollos, another teacher (Acts 18:24-26).

  • Prisca and Aquila are Paul’s co-workers; patrons who risked their lives for Paul and all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them; they host a church in their home (Romans 16:3-5).

  • Aquila and Priscilla host a church in their house in Ephesus and greet the Corinthians warmly when Paul writes to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:19).

  • Aquila and Priscilla are greeted in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:19).


Fiction/Tradition


priscilla and aquila
Icons of Priscilla and Aquila https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ic%C3%B4ne_des_saints_Priscille_et_Aquila.jpg

Peter is traditionally the founder of the church in Rome, and since residents of Pontus and Rome were in Jerusalem for Pentecost (Acts 2:9-10), I imagine Prisca and Aquila became followers of Jesus after Peter preached and baptized them. Peter may have hidden in Rome, calling it Babylon (1 Peter 5:13).

I portray Prisca and Aquila hosting a congregation in their home in Rome because later, they plant churches in Corinth and Ephesus and host them in their home. During the period of the novel, I show disturbances between The Way and the established Jewish religion because later, emperor Claudius will cite these disputes in ordering all Jews to leave Rome. When Emperor Nero ends the edict expelling Jews from Rome, Prisca and Aquila return (Romans 16:3-5).

The novel shows Prisca unveiling to reflect the first-century debate about unveiling (1 Corinthians 11:5-15). Veiling and unveiling were not symbolic of male authority but of class or marital status. In her book, Women and Worship at Corinth, Lucy Peppiatt discusses Paul quoting and refuting incorrect Corinthian thinking. Paul confirmed believers will judge angels and a woman ought to have authority over her own head (1 Corinthians 11:10). The veil separated Moses from God, but Jesus removed the veil (2 Corinthians 3:12-18). The veil can also refer to the curtain that separated people from the Holy of Holies which Jesus tore away (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). Jesus broke the dividing wall between peoples (Ephesians 2:14).


Jewish Congregation of The Way in Rome (hosted by Prisca and Aquila)

During Book 2, members of The Way obey the Jewish laws which prohibit eating with Gentiles. They may not meet together to share the Last Supper ritual.

Julia and Philologus - A married Jewish couple.

Nereus and his sister are Jewish believers in Rome.

Marie of Magdala joins this congregation for a time.


Greek Congregation of The Way in Rome (hosted by Persis)

  • Persis, Gentile from Pontus and Tabriz (Persia), a non-Jew, freedwoman (former slave), widow and mother of two daughters, Lysandra, age ten, and Aria, age eight. She is from Pontus and makes Tabriz carpets. and is a hard worker who hosts a Greek-speaking assembly of The Way in Rome.

  • Tryphena and Tryphosa, twin sisters, Greek ladies of high social standing, petite women with delicate constitutions, members of The Way. 

  • Narcissus, a freedman, attends the Greek-speaking assembly of The Way

  • Rufus of Cyrene is Jewish but cannot attend the Jewish synagogue because he is Black, from Libya. His mother is active in The Way; his father, Simon of Cyrene, is deceased.


Congregation in Damascus

Damascus is in Syro-Phoenicia, north of Galilee, a six-day journey on foot from Jerusalem. It is on the Silk Road/Via Maris and King’s Highway trade routes. Ample water from both the Abana River and Pharpar River. Crops of vineyards, fruits, grains, nuts, cotton, wool, silk, olives, tobacco.


Judas, a Jewish nobleman, hosts The Way in his home on Straight Street (Acts 9:11)

Ananias, a Jewish elder of The Way (Acts 9:10-31)


Fictional characters:

Zander, Greek, Joanna’s father, and his wife, Aisha, an Arab from the Decapolis.

Caleb, a Jewish farmer.

Naomi, Jewish woman of The Way.

Malik, an Arab member of The Way.


John Mark

Facts (in the period of Book 2, AD 35-37):

John Mark is the son of Mary, who hosts the Jerusalem congregation in her home and has a servant named Rhoda (Acts 12:12-13). John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark and is Barnabas’s cousin (Acts 12:12, 25, 13:5, 13, 15:37, Colossians 4:10).

Fiction/Tradition:

John Mark is mentored by Peter and writes Peter’s memoirs. In this novel, John Mark’s father is Marcus, a Pharisees. Their home contains the upper room where Jesus had his last supper and where The Way often meets for prayer and worship. John-Mark was about twelve in Forgotten Followers and about eighteen in Because She Was Called.


Barnabas

Facts (in the period of Book 2, AD 35-37):

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, is called Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement”. He sold property and gave the money to the apostles (Acts 4:36). Barnabas is a cousin of John Mark and nephew of Mary. Barnabas earned money by working, not from donations (1 Corinthians 9:6). Barnabas vouches for Saul (Acts 9:27).

Fiction/Tradition:

Barnabas may have been a student with Saul under Gamaliel. The Levite tribe did not own or inherit land, but some individual Levites had property in cities. Levites typically served in the temple and were supported by other tribes. In this fiction he is a Levite working on building maintenance for the temple.


Saul/Paul

Facts (in the period of Book 2, AD 35-37):

Saul is his Hebrew name; Paul is his Latin name. He was from Tarsus, the tribe of Benjamin, and studied under Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25), Pharisee (Philippians 3:5), tentmaker (Acts 18:3), and had a sister and nephew (Acts 23:16). His sister's husband may have been a temple treasurer. Paul appears to be a distant relative of Andronicus, Junia (Romanas 16:7), and Herodion (Romans 16:11).


Saul’s movements Acts 2-11 (per Walvoord, John F., et al. “Acts.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures)L

·         Jerusalem: arrested and imprisoned both men and women (Acts 8:3).

·         Saul cast his vote to imprison or execute men and women (Acts 26:10).

·         Jerusalem (Acts 9: 1-2).

·         Damascus (Acts 9:3-22).

·         Arabia (Galatians 1:17).

·         Damascus (Acts 9:23-25, Gal. 1:17, 2 Cor 11:32-33).

·         Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-29, Gal 1:18-20).

·         Caesarea (Acts 9:30).

·         Tarsus (Acts 9:30, Gal 1: 21-24) .


After Saul left Jerusalem for Cilicia and Arabia, the congregations in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had a time of peace (Acts 9:32).


Since Saul/Paul was advancing beyond his peers as a Pharisee, he would have been expected to marry and have children. It is likely that he married young and became unmarried prior to travelling for evangelistic work. He addresses unmarried and widows together, including himself in that category (1 Corinthians 7:8). He addresses the never-married and virgins separately (1 Corinthians 7:25). It is quite likely that his wife died in childbirth since this was common, and he had no children. It is also possible that Paul and his wife separated when he became an outcast from Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 7:8-16, 9:3-5). He may have been referencing his marital separation when he wrote he had lost all things for Christ’s sake (Philippians 3:8).


The name Paul means ‘small of stature.’ The Acts of Paul and Thecla describe Paul as “a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness”. Saul’s thorn in flesh may be poor eyesight (2 Corinthians 12:7, Gal. 4:15, Gal. 6:11, Acts 9:9, 18). It is also possible he had a speech impediment since he confesses he was not an eloquent speaker (2 Corinthians 10:10, 11:6). Or it could refer to persecution and hardship against Paul.

It is possible that Saul was one of the great grandchildren of Herod the Great’s sister, Salome I, and her husband, Costobarus. He was personally related to Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa, and Drusilla (wife of Governor Felix), and was a highly educated Roman citizen.


Watch this space for updates on the biographical fiction!










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