I’m currently reading the biography-style The Apostle: A Life of Paul by John Pollock. And it is really interesting. I highly recommend it, although it is best alongside a more thorough treatment. One of the things I like about this book is that it reads (almost) like a novel, helping me to envision Paul walking down dusty first-century streets or interacting with the colorful characters of his day. At some points the author is imaginative where Scripture is silent, but for the most part his portrayal of Paul and his life is based on Acts, on Paul’s own letters, and on other reliable sources for understanding Paul and his life & times. Here’s just a sample of one of the many moving passages of the book, where Pollock helps the reader enter more deeply into what is described in Acts as the result of Paul’s ministry in Pisidian Antioch (in the province of Galatia): “And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region” (Acts 13:49).
In years ahead the Galatians would have their failures and falls; they would nearly break Paul’s heart. But in these first days as Christians they had a tremendous sense of Christ’s reality, His action and presence working in and through them. . . . Converts who were not tied by servitude pushed into the hills, and over to the great lake where the thatched cottages dotted the bays, and up into the high mountain range that divided the Antioch countryside from the central plateau. They preached the grace of God, and they knew that Jesus worked with them, for now and again they saw light dawn on a listening face. In a matter of weeks a flourishing, expanding church sprang up. Since families often joined as one, there could be shallow faith mixed with deep, the tares among the wheat, but even so these days were like a springtime of spirit. Two goatherds watching the kids would talk freely about Jesus. Among the fishing boats on Limnai, returning early with their catch, a crew would be seen dropping their oars to bow their heads in prayer. A woman meeting an acquaintance at market would discover that she too was a believer. A field slave on a great estate would find the last, worst hour before sunset more bearable and shorter because Christ was with him. The soldier on the wall at night about the gorge had a new song to hum.
This is just one example of many places where Pollock helps make the text come alive and helps the reader enter into the events described in Scripture.