Pillars of Barabbas by M.D. House
I’m sure readers of the Bible sometimes wonder what happened next. Was that prophecy fulfilled? Did that tax collector or that prostitute manage to start a new, upright life? What became of the healed cripple?
M.D. House has invested much creative fantasy in developing the life stories of several New Testament characters – some prominent, like the Apostles Peter and Paul; some less so, such as Joanna, Cornelius and the eponymous renegade Barabbas.
We learn how the early Church reached out to both Jews and Pagans, explaining and demonstrating the teachings of Jesus, how it grew and spread to Africa, Armenia, India and even the wilds of Britannia.
Faithful Barabbas and his deeply spiritual wife Chanah play the leading roles in this multi-faceted narrative. Summoned by the Church leaders to Jerusalem from their home on Malta, they are surprised to find themselves abruptly sent to Rome to supervise the building of the Temple there, and assist Paul in his dealings with the rather insecure and perturbed Emperor Nero.
Meanwhile, their son Matthew joins Cornelius in the heart of Africa, initially with a view to developing trade routes, but soon to become involved in both pioneering missionary and dramatic military activities.
The climax of the book develops after Rome is ravaged by massive fires, for which some Senators blame the expanding Christian community. Peter arrives to dedicate the completed Temple, Paul is imprisoned and subsequently released with the help of the mysterious ‘mooring stone’.
Whether hastening through the streets of Rome for an audience with the Emperor, sailing to Joppa to meet the Church leaders, trekking through the hostile African jungle, or sharing a time of fellowship among believers, the author sets the scenes with great skill and realism. All the main characters are richly developed and the plot is mostly plausible. This book – the second of a trilogy about Barabbas – is primarily of interest to readers familiar with the New Testament story. It could be seen as a vivid continuation of the Acts of the Apostles.