Excerpt from forthcoming book, Onesimus: A Novel of Ancient Christianity
From my forthcoing novel, Onesimus: A Novel of Ancient Christianity, an excerpt.
Spaced periodically through the novel are copies of letters sent during the time frame of the novel (first century AD). Since these are letters written in the ancient style, they have some difference from modern letters. For example, papyrus for writing was expensive, so letters were commonly quite short.
They began their letters by naming the letter-writer first, followed by the receipient. After that came a greeting and well-wishing on the recipient, usually with a wish that a god or goddess would bless them. Only then would they begin writing the purpose of the letter.
Finally, at the end of the letter, the writer would ask the receipient to greet others, following by a farewell.
(If you look at some of the letters found in the New Testamant, or any ancient letter, you will see this pattern. Of course, some of Paul’s letters are massive, but still follow this structure.)
Here is one of the early letters from the novel:
I hope your health is good. Thank you for your letter, and, of course, for your faithful assistance all these years.
No, Giarri, I do not want these letters included in my collection. You know my requirements—only letters that he wrote, and only those whose contents are helpful to everyone.
I know you what you will say—“But you’ve included the one that is only about you!’ True, that letter is about me, but it is about so much more. It stays.
If you find others letters, send me copies and I will decide whether they belong. And please keep trying to find a copy of the one to the Laocideans. Someone must have one.
As for your idea that we should write my story—I do not like it, Giarri, as I am sure you will know. One thing I have learned in my long and unlikely journey is this: freedom comes from focusing beyond oneself. Still, your argument is compelling, especially if the focus is the work he did. I’ll begin sending you my recollections in the next letter.
To your last question—no, I do not think I will survive this. I suspect it is my time. But not yet.
I must end this letter now. My writing ability is not what it used to be. Tychicus visited last week, and we recalled the memory of so many who are now dead. So many.
Say hello to the whole household for me—especially Bacchus and little Terentia.
Onesimus: A Novel of Ancient Christianity
Coming first quarter 2018.