I managed to get a copy of Ben Witherington‘s new book A Week in the Life of Corinth (IVP, 2012). It is a novel (about 150 small pages) centred around the life of Nicanor, a former slave of Erastos. Basically Nicanor has secured his freedom and is now an up-and-coming businessman. The novel tells of his business adventures and his encounter with the new religion, ‘Christianity’.

I won’t give away the details of the story because it really is a good story. I don’t read a lot of fiction and especially not during term time, but I found this story engaging and well written. I was intrigued and wanted to know what was going to happen.

Beyond the story itself, Witherington has managed to sneak in a large amount of history. One is introduced to the city of Corinth, key historical figures, what life was like for both the wealthy and the poor, how people travelled, and other things. Alongside what comes out in the story itself are short sidebars, ‘A Closer Look’, that provide explanations and historical details about things mentioned in the story.

The book is ideal for church goers and students. It can help to bring the ancient world to life in ways that a lecture or academic book simply can’t.

As reading the book, though, I wondered if we are perhaps seeing a different way to teach history and theology. This book, along with Bruce Fisk’s A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus (see here for my thoughts on this book), move in a different direction than standard academic textbooks. Rather than point by point arguments and reviews of scholarly positions, they teach by bringing the reader into a story. Both are, in my judgement, very effective at introducing a reader to the topics. Anyway, I just wonder if this more narrative, story-type book is where the future of textbooks might lie.