At the trial of Christ, Theophilus, brilliant young assessore raised in the Roman aristocracy, stands behind Pontius Pilate and whispers, “Offer to release Barabbas.” The strategy backfires, and Theophilus never forgets the sight of an innocent man unjustly suffering the worst of all possible deaths—Roman crucifixion.
Three decades later, Theophilus has proven himself in the legal ranks of the Roman Empire. He has survived the insane rule of Caligula and has weathered the cruel tyrant’s quest to control the woman he loves. He has endured the mindless violence of the gladiator games and the backstabbing intrigue of the treason trials.
Now he must face another evil Caesar, defending the man Paul in Nero’s deranged court. Can Theophilus mount a defense that will keep another innocent man from execution?
The advocate’s first trial altered the course of history. His last will change the fate of an empire.
Good fiction! If you have wondered about the writers of Luke-Acts this book gives a possible explanation. It was very interesting and good insight.
- Shows how God can transform us
I read this book and when it first came out. Excellent book in my top five of all time.
- I really enjoyed this book
I really enjoyed this book, i liked the way many historical facts were woven into the story, and that it was written from a Roman's point of view, it gave a very good overview of life at that time.
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- I can't remember the story. It was not memorable.
Disappointed with the ending.
- Great read for Christians and non-Christians: Changed my perception of my own relationship with Christ
I received Randy Singer’s “The Advocate” as a free audiobook almost 12 months before I eventually settled down to listen to the 15-hour long masterpiece.
At the time, I was intimidated by the number of chapters in the book and its setting in the Roman-Empire times – a period I have equallly been too overwhelmed by to actually study.
But the need to decongest my phone’s exterrnal memory where the gift from Christian Audio laid for months as well as my desire to realise my ‘read-40-books-in-2016’ goal set on Goodreads nudged me to devote part of my annual leave to reading The Advocate.
And boy, what a great decision it turned out to be!
Within the first ten minutes of listening to the audiobook, I knew this was a piece I must get to unravel and discover its conclusion.
Intrigues, hatred, betrayal and abuse of power played out throughout the title, sometimes threatening to overtake and outshine justice, patriotism, learning and love of everything that is good.
But the steadfastness, selflessness and faith in God expressed by the believers till the end in the face of worldly riches and human-inflicted pain are the most symbolic elements of the book for me.
Now, I feel the urge to re-evaluate my own belief, rededicate myself to Christ and believe in him at all times.
“The Advovcate” is a must-read for Christians and non-Christians who not only seek an interesting narration of events taking place in other parts of the Roman Empire in Jesus’ last days and and those of the early Church but also want to immerse themselves in a well-written, captivating and enriching prose.
Randy has done an excellent job with this title. His work dwards every possibility I could ever have imagined thought of a Christian fiction.
- Great Historical Fiction at the time of Christ
I totally thought this was going to be non-fiction. How thrilled I was when it was a historical fiction. This character from Rome is a lawyer. He is there helping Pilot when the Christ is brought before him. He sees the events from a non-believer's viewpoint and yet knows this innocent man is dying. Back in Rome he creates a name for himself and even commits a horrible sin. But he meets Paul, who preaches to him with power, and is converted and baptized. A great story of love for the Christ in a convert's soul. Very enjoyable.
- Thoroughly Enjoyed, Historically Fascinating, Highly Recommended
The Advocate is one of the best novels I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. The freedom Randy Singer took in filling in the gaps of history, were interesting and enjoyable. For anyone looking to become further acquainted with the life of the early church, this book is an excellent place to begin.
The character development is phenomenal, by the end, I was loath to leave the characters.
Highly recommended book.
- Great Book!
This book took me down on a marvelous journey. Randy Singer blended fiction with history in a way I am sure only he could. I was fascinated with the writing and the story itself. Excellent work.
- Great Story, I learned a lot!
I learned so much from this book. The story of Theophilus was very enjoyable. And I became more familiar with Roman history. But the most valuable thing I gained from listening to "The Advocate" was seeing Jesus vividly in my imagination as I read, through the eyes of a personal witness, as though I were really there getting a close look. I thank the author for writing this book and how it has helped my faith.
- Extremely Good
This book is easily the best I have ever read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys history/biblical fiction. Everything aligns with Josephus (who I have read entirely) and the Bible (which I also have read entirely). Great book, don't know what else to say except that it is entertaining, accurate, thought out well, written well, narrated wonderfully....get it, you won't regret it.
- fantastic tale and great as an audio book
Many have wondered at the person to whom Luke addressed his Gospel and the Book of Acts. Just who was Theophilus? Is his name just a symbol (it means “lover of God”)? Or was this a real person, and if so, who was he?
These theological musings may form part of the background to a new work by Randy Singer. "The Advocate" (Tyndale House, 2014) traces the fictional life of Theophilus from his schooling in Rome under the tutelage of Seneca, to a stint serving Pontius Pilate in Judea, and on to an improbable confrontation with the emperor. But I don’t want to give too much away.
The telling of the story was as much fun as the tale itself. Theophilus’ 1st Century world was described in a masterful way. The book spends a lot of time developing the main character and pushing forward a romance, and at first Christianity is only a tangential concern. The reader begins to truly inhabit the character and can only guess at how his story will turn out. The ups and downs, the triumphs and tragedies move the tale along. And Theophilus’ conversion and battles with faith are both believable and inspiring at the same time.
Like any good work of fiction, there is much more to the story than I described above. One will find a complicated love triangle, gladiators and conspiracies, and intimate details concerning two maniacal emperors. The tale becomes engrossing the longer it goes and by the end you are loathe to leave Theophilus behind. I was completely impressed by this story and hope to sample other works from this author.
I should also share that this book won the 2015 ECPA Christian Book Award for the Fiction category! Well deserved, in my opinion.
I listened to the Christianaudio.com version of the book. David Cochran Heath did a fantastic job reading the book, he provided the right amount of character phrasing, differences in the voices, and energy. The audio experience was completely engrossing. The only challenge I had was the sheer number of chapters: each audio file was a different chapter, and with an inexpensive mp3 player, I had to keep skipping past chapters that were sorted alphabetically (instead of sequentially). This was a small price to pay for this fascinating example of historical fiction.
I highly recommend this for anyone looking for a good summer read.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Christianaudio.com. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
- Loved the book!
I thought is was a wonderful historical portrayal of Paul and the early Church. I highly recommend it.
- very good book
well written story tied into the bible narrative well
- Good storytelling, good story
i'm not normally a big fan of historical fiction, but The Advocate does a nice job of tying several Bible stories together with Theophilus being the common thread. Singer does a good job of weaving a solid tale that comes full circle with no loose ends. As far as i could tell, the book is theologically sound and compelling through each phase of Theophilus' life. If you like historical fiction, this one is highly recommended.
- Perhaps my favorite historical fiction book.
This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute www.desertbibleinstitute.com.
In his book, The Advocate, Singer writes the first historical fiction book that I found myself actually enjoying. The characters where realistic, the use of varied cultural and physical setting added to the author’s use of conflict in the story, and the use of scripture was engaging but not overwhelming.
As I implied in the opening, I am not a huge fan of historical fiction. Often the characters are trite, two-dimensional representations of what people were like at that time in history. Singer strikes a balance with his characters. While some of his characters, like Nero, were thoroughly despicable from beginning to end, most of his characters showed growth. Ultimately, their hubris turned to more affable qualities that make them easier to like, appreciate, and understand. This comes across particularly clear in Theophilus’s first-person point of view. As you read, the book’s protagonist changes from a self-involved boy with a shallow understanding of the world into a thoughtful and wise man. His struggles and regrets become palatable as we grow to know and even like the man he becomes.
While little is known about the actual person Theophilus, and viewpoints about the culture in this time period is varied, Singer does a reasonably good job of presenting Roman, Jewish, and early Christian cultures. There’s clearly a heavy slant towards the Christian position; however, since this is written in a first person point of view we have to assume the narrator (Theophilus) is biased. This is one man telling a story about his life and his perceptions, not a historical or theological scholar reviewing details after the fact. Therefore, Theophilus is, of course, an unreliable narrator just like Huckleberry Finn or Atticus Finch.
What was a pleasant surprise was that the book wasn’t simply a retelling of the Passion of Christ (which is what I was afraid of). Instead it was a blending of places and cultures that came together fairly well. This book takes you on a journey with the character allowing you to experience Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem from one man’s perspective. Finally, the author makes a decent attempt at helping the reader understand the first century mindset: the depravity of Rome and the conviction of The Way. It is however flavored with a lot of current mindsets and values as well, but after all, it is fiction.
There were only two weaknesses in this book that bothered me. The first was that the transitions were not always clear. I occasionally found myself wondering where the author was going only to figure it out much later. The second was a tendency to fall out of narration into explanation which might cause readers to forget that this is a fictional book with just some sections of fact and subjective truth to engage the audience. I think of the memorable phrase of Dan Brown, in reference to his own book, “What section of the book store did you buy my book in?” It’s fiction -- not theology or history.
The reader of the audio version, David Cochran Heath, did a good job overall. As in his readings of The Explicit Gospel and To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain he spoke in a clear measured tone that was easy to listen to and very relaxing. The pace at which he read was a little slow for me, but I simply increased the playback rate and it was great. This is not the kind of thing that everyone finds a problem however, and if you are one of the few for which it is, now you have an easy solution. Overall this was a good book. I will likely look into more of Pastor Singer’s books to read in the future.
Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.
- Epic Historical Fiction
The Advocate by Randy Singer is a mixture of Bible stories and historical fiction based around the mysterious Biblical character of Theophilus. It starts during the lifetime of Jesus Christ and carries through the Apostle Paul's trial in Rome. There are epic court cases, powerful Roman emperors and crucifixions galore with an underlying theme of the birth and flourishing of Christianity.
Theophilus is the intended recipient of the books of Luke and Acts but that is his only reference in the whole Bible and no one knows much about him at all. This book attempts to base a fictional story around his life and it is quite entertaining with plenty of action and intrigue.
Personally I really like novels and this one is quite a fascinating one with a possible insight into a mysterious Biblical character. I thought it flowed well and each of the court cases and time periods were quite well thought out with a mixture of Biblical non-fiction and made up back story for Theophilus.
The narrator was very good as his deep voice matched the content of the novel and he portrayed each character differently and it was easy to follow.
This book would be great for anyone who loves a good novel and in particular people who love historical fiction with a few Biblical references thrown in for effect.
This audio book was gifted as a part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. More information can be found about this and other Christian audio books at christianaudio.com.
- Roman Context of Scripture
In most hermeneutic discussions of the Bible, I've traditionally heard a lot of talk of the Jewish context. That makes sense, especially with the Old Testament. After listening to the historical fiction The Advocate, I am realizing how important knowing and recognizing the Roman (and Greek) context of the New Testament is.
Randy Singer's story revolves around his imaginings of who Theophilus (of Luke and Acts fame) could have been. I realized through the course of this book how little I ever really learned about Roman culture (I'm kind of surprised about this frankly). The audiobook is 15 hours, so it took many days to listen to. During this process and the few days since completing it, I have been starting to view various New Testament passages differently, considering the Roman culture in which much of it (especially the texts attributed to Paul) were written. It helped me challenge some assumptions about interpretation and really pushes against some traditionally conservative interpretations (in my opinion). I have long firmly believed we have to interpret Scripture in the original historical and cultural context (as much as we are able). The Roman context is absolutely central and very unique and different from traditional Jewish contexts. Suddenly, various stories make even more sense.
For instance, the phrase "Jesus is Lord" seems particularly significant in contrast to Caesar is Lord of the Roman Empire. The divinity of the emperor was standard belief, and acknowledgement of his role and power was in that phrase. While I've heard pieces of that before, becoming immersed in a fictional framing of the culture gave the phrase new life. It also reminded me of the particularity of much of Scripture to a particular time and place. Would we say "Jesus is Lord" if the Incarnation occurred today? It doesn't have the same meaning that it did living in the Roman Empire.
Especially post-Constantine, much of Western Christian culture specifically is derived from Roman culture (probably more than Jewish culture). I wasn't familiar with the tradition of the Vestal Virgins; ladies who were married to the state and sworn to remain virgins (until their 30 year duty was completed). Could this have been the precursor to the Roman Catholic nun tradition?
Even the trial and execution of Jesus was centered in Roman culture. Yes, the Pharisees may have brought Jesus to Pilate, but Pilate has a backstory (and Singer's characterization is compelling) and thought process that is distinctly Roman in origin. We mustn't forget that crucifixion was not a Jewish rite. It was Roman with a long history in asserting power and dominance.
One of the more disturbing parts of Singer's book is the vivid explanation of the violence and fundamental lack of value of human life that was prevalent throughout Roman culture. When reading Scriptural references regarding the ways people treat each other and the role of slavery, having a better understanding of what this looked like in Rome (rather than in US history) really helps us better interpret the Bible. Verses that seem to reference a penal substitutionary theory of the atonement are given a completely new clarity in this Roman context, providing a particular framework for people to understand Jesus' sacrifice in a way they could understand.
One of the things that I really appreciated about this story is how Jesus' story was presented as rather tangential for the vast majority of the book. While some Christians may not like this, it really puts context to the initial impact of Christ's life on the Roman Empire--people didn't pay too much attention. Even when Paul is introduced (far past the halfway mark), he doesn't initially seem to be a major player in Theophilus' life. This approach helped me better understand the possible context Paul is entering and speaking to when he pursues his ministry to the Gentiles.
The flow and content of the book was rich and engaging. It's been a while since I listened to an audiobook that I wanted to keep running after my commute was over. David Cochran Heath's narration accentuated this, bringing dynamic life to the characters. The characterizations of famous historical characters and events sparked my interest and prompted me to spend a good amount of time reading even more about Roman history. Again, it's been a while since a book prompted me to do further research on a topic, so I give Singer a lot of credit!
Readers/listeners should remember this is historical fiction, and it is not intended as a hermeneutic guide, as far as I'm aware. But it's one of the stronger Christian fiction stories out there. It's definitely one that is not as cheesy as many and doesn't get too heavy-handed. It takes a fairly traditional view of how Scripture was written, for better or for worse, but I think people of all stripes can enjoy the story as an opportunity to explore a possibility of the origins of Theophilus and the books of Luke and Acts.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
- Entertaining and Convicting
For me, the most delightful parts of the story where the trials of Christ and of the Apostle Paul. Randy Singer made it real in my mind’s eye. He emoted the passions involved in both cases. Placing the reader right in front of the defendants – hearing, feeling, seeing all that was transpiring.
The majority of the characters are ripped from the annals of time. We know them or are familiar with their qualities and accomplishments. This sense of familiarity propels the story and creates a incredibly enjoyable read. Singer brings the biblical cast to life in a positive almost familial way. Roman leaders like Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero are aptly portrayed as selfish, power seeking, ruthless and paranoid. Though little is known of Theophilis besides two mentions of him in the bible (Luke & Acts), Singer’s has cleverly created his fictional life story and deftly placed it into historical events.
If you have ever finished a book and been disheartened by the remaining loose ends, you will not have that problem here. There were times when I read something that seemed of little consequence only to have the reason for it’s original mention come to light later in the book. There is a long pause between the trial of Christ and the trial of Paul where the author steers away from the mention of Christ or The Way. During this hiatus he develops the romantic storyline for Theophilis. In addition, he paints a splendid picture of Roman architecture, culture, values, and their religious and legal systems.
This book was more than a legal thriller for the reader’s amusement, it challenges us to reexamine our faith. To ask yourself, “How far would I be willing to go and what would I risk for Christ?” Like Theophilis, I have made mistakes in my life and likewise made attempts to right those wrongs on my own. His story reminds us that it’s only through Christ that we are fully redeemed and granted life everlasting. I finished the book feeling humbled, yet hopeful. I give it 5 stars.
- I rest my case
Anyone who is familiar with the New Testament recognizes the name Theophilus. Many would know the name means "Lover of God" but Randy Singer offers a glimpse into a possible origin of the name in pagan Rome with its many gods while giving the name a whole new meaning at the end of his life.
This is presented as the autobiography of Roman Advocate Theophilus, a lawyer willing to take on unpopular and dangerous cases. It begins with his early education and training under Seneca and ends in Rome after the fire. Along the way the listener is taken to Roman temples, gladiatorial arenas and views from afar the debauchery of Saturnalia and the degradation of Roman leadership.
I appreciated the review of Roman history and the political intrigues. I enjoyed hearing of the Advocate's development over time and his eventual contact with the Apostle Paul. Randy Singer suggests a context for the writing of Luke and Acts. Through the lawyer Theophilus we find a clever reason for the outcome of Paul's first trial.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the narrator David Cochran Heath did a good job distinguishing the characters with his change of tone. His pace was just right and I will be interested in hearing his voice again.
I received a free download of the book from christianaudio.com with the understanding I would review the book after reading.
- Not quite the courtroom drama I was hoping for
In the Bible, Luke dedicates his Gospel and companion piece, Acts, to the “Most Excellent Theophilus.” Who is this person? Is it merely a reference to believers (the name means “Lover of God”), or is it a real person? Randy Singer’s fiction book The Advocate chronicles the life of Theophilus, imagining him as an Equestrian (wealthy, upper-class Roman) lawyer.
Singer has Theophilus advising Pontius Pilate at the trial of Jesus and later as a defense attorney for the Apostle Paul before Nero Caesar. But these incidents in the life of Theophilus do not make for the majority of the story. Much has to do with Theophilus’s upbringing, hazardous navigation of Roman politics, his love life, and more.
I must admit that I was a little disappointed with the two biggest draws of the book, the trial of Jesus and particularly the trial of Paul. Having a decent grasp of the themes of Luke-Acts and a better-than average understanding of 1st Century Roman society, I was expecting to see a powerful legal argument for why Christianity (the Way) should be viewed as a legitimate outgrowth of Judaism and thus granted the privileges and protections that Rome had granted the Jewish religion. Since this is a “legal thriller,” I thought some clever use of Roman law would come up during the trial, but it did not. The resolution of the trial came much too quickly and seemed rather odd, turning not on any matter of law, but on an uncharacteristic act mercy to satisfy a very characteristic pride of Nero.
Considering the historical matters, Singer does a decent job of relating Roman history and describing the depravity of Roman society and ideals. Unfortunately, probably to make readers more sympathetic to the main characters, he makes Theophilus and company opposed to these ideals, holding to a fairly Christian morality despite being pagan Romans. This distorts the true picture of Roman society and makes the main characters into outliers rather than fair representations of their time and culture. Having his upper-class, Roman citizen pupils carry cross beams to teach them about the immoral practice of crucifixion is almost as absurd as the crucifixion of Roman citizens later in the book. As wicked and sick as Nero was, there were certain rights of Roman citizens that could not be denied without undermining the whole distinction between citizen and non-citizen, a distinction that formed the whole backbone of Roman society. There’s a reason why tradition holds that Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified—one was a Roman citizen and one was not.
Additionally, at a few points in the book some characters explain to other characters the Latin roots of English words. This may be helpful to the reader, but it makes about as much sense in the novel as it does for me to explain that the word “houseboat” comes from the words “house” and “boat.”
The audio recording was well done, and I’ve appreciated David Cochran Heath’s cadence in other audio books I’ve heard him narrate.
In all, I’d say the book was “okay.” Not great, but not terrible either. The kind of reading you’d expect to find in an airport terminal.
Disclosure: I received this book from ChristianAudio in exchange for my honest review.
- Takes a LONG time to get to Paul
Good book but it takes hours and hours to get to the life of Paul. Way too much background to set up Paul and his defense. When it does get there, it is over pretty quickly relative to the earlier portion. Disappointed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook the first I have listened to by this author and certainly not my last. Though I was daunted by the 101 chapters, the writing and characters are so well done that I became immersed in it straight away. The story was so good too, that I feel as I've been living in Ancient Rome for last 9 days. The narrator David Cochran Heath is absolutely brilliant and perfect for this audio, he really added to my experience as he became all the different characters in the story. I knew a bit about Ancient Rome and the early church but I've learned so much more from this book because of the research by the author. I don't think I would read the print version of this, partly because of the size, but also because there is so much historical description in it that it would have put me off. However, I must add that the detail is very important to the overall story. I I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone who enjoys historical fiction as this really is an excellent story. Thanks to christianaudio.com Reviewers Program for this free copy.