Tom Bissell has written about subjects as varied as video games, the Aral Sea, and Werner Herzog. In Apostle, he turns his ever-curious mind to early Christianity. Always intelligent, fascinating, and frequently quite funny, Apostle is Bissell's exploration of Christian history and faith. For lovers of essays or narrative nonfiction, Bissell should be on your list. Recommended By Jill O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A profound and moving journey into the heart of Christianity that explores the mysterious and often paradoxical lives and legacies of the Twelve Apostles—a book both for those of the faith and for others who seek to understand Christianity from the outside in.
Peter, Matthew, Thomas, John: Who were these men? What was their relationship to Jesus? Tom Bissell provides rich and surprising answers to these ancient, elusive questions. He examines not just who these men were (and weren’t), but also how their identities have taken shape over the course of two millennia.
Ultimately, Bissell finds that the story of the apostles is the story of early Christianity: its competing versions of Jesus’s ministry, its countless schisms, and its ultimate evolution from an obscure Jewish sect to the global faith we know today in all its forms and permutations. In his quest to understand the underpinnings of the world’s largest religion, Bissell embarks on a years-long pilgrimage to the supposed tombs of the Twelve Apostles. He travels from Jerusalem and Rome to Turkey, Greece, Spain, France, India, and Kyrgyzstan, vividly capturing the rich diversity of Christianity’s worldwide reach. Along the way, he engages with a host of characters—priests, paupers, a Vatican archaeologist, a Palestinian taxi driver, a Russian monk—posing sharp questions that range from the religious to the philosophical to the political.
Written with warmth, empathy, and rare acumen, Apostle is a brilliant synthesis of travel writing, biblical history, and a deep, lifelong relationship with Christianity. The result is an unusual, erudite, and at times hilarious book—a religious, intellectual, and personal adventure fit for believers, scholars, and wanderers alike.
“Well-documented, with an extensive bibliography, this is a full-bodied read for the religiously curious.” Sandra Collins, Library Journal
“A deep dive into the heart of the New Testament, crossing continents and cross-referencing texts… On the page, Bissell finds the Gospels to be a vast, crazy quilt on which every jot and tittle is suspect, from proper names to history, due to both the vagaries of oral tradition as well as the varying translations and competing agendas of copyists, scribes, and leaders. The author examines all these controversies in scholarly depth. Was there really a Judas? Was John actually the Beloved Disciple of history, or was that someone else? Was James actually the stepbrother of Jesus? Were the Gospels written as a reaction to the fact that the second coming did not immediately occur? As a long-lapsed Catholic, Bissell’s driving concern is why people still believe… Illuminating… A rich, contentious, and challenging book.” Kirkus (starred review)
“[Bissell’s] account of his travels is an excellent cornucopia of history, exegesis, travelogue, biography, analysis, corrective, and hilarity… Bissell includes questions, definitions, traveler’s tales, and sprightly interviews with the pilgrims, translators, and docents he meets, and these bolster his Bible commentaries; his accounts are always grounded in his meetings with scholars and church fathers. Even if readers don’t care about the apostles, Bissell’s style is compelling on its own. His unforced humor is delightful, his wealth of research grounds this formidable apostolic project, and his crafty rhetoric and irresistible charm make it a must-read.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
TOM BISSELL is the author of eight previous books, most recently The Disaster Artist, and has been awarded the Rome Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He writes frequently for Harper’s Magazine and The New Yorker. Apostle will be published by Pantheon Books in March 2016.