Being the product of a Catholic school education, from an early age we needed to memorize the writers of the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Once I was admonished by our parish priest, in front of my entire class as he handed out report cards, that I had not recited the scripture writers' names in the appropriate order. What was one to do when one is placed on the spot, asked a question on religion and save face in front of a roomful of pensive third grade students who were just as worried as to the question they would need to answer as they were handed their report cards? Needless to say, that experience left a lasting impression upon me and perhaps catapulted me to explore the novel Casting Lots by William D. McEachern, a story that unfolds regarding the life of Luke and his encounter with a Roman centurion named Cornelius.
A word of advice: it is best to approach this written work as a novel that explores possibilities and not historical absolutes. The Translator's Forward seemed quite convincing as to the revelation of "the scrolls of Lucinius," a Greek slave and medically trained merchant ship physician who wrote eloquently of theological ideals that laid the groundwork for the Gospel of Luke. Bearing that in mind, I was able to journey along with the protagonist as he encountered events in the year AD 54.
Set in journal format, and punctuated with various quotes from the classic writers such as Ovid and Cicero, the reader is immediately immersed in a world that is framed by mass crucifixions, tyrannical Roman rule, bustling marketplaces filled with every human trait imaginable and the development of a friendship of two men that represent two forms of slavery, one of legal agreement and the other an enslavement of the heart. At the behest of his slave master, Lucinius sets out to meet Cornelius, who possesses a multitude of stories particularly centered upon his encounters with Jesus, the Christ. What begins as a mere gathering of information soon develops over the course of travel and time as a revelation of the vast experiences of numerous powerful Roman rulers that the centurion painstakingly weaves into a story that culminates at the cross.
As I immersed myself in this story, I soon started researching historical and cultural events that the author presented, such as what comprised a Roman bath, the expectations of a slave and the largest mass crucifixion of 6000 slaves that lined the Appian Way. This novel acted as a springboard for me to build a better foundation of my understanding of what life was like in Biblical times and to therefore better understand the audience for which Luke wrote and the relevance of the scriptures upon their lives as well as reaching to my life experiences today. I encourage the reader to embark upon this journey that will surely invite inquiry of a spiritual nature as well as broadening Biblical review.
Laure McCourt Lopez
William D. McEachern is married with three children and lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The author earned his bachelor of arts in religion and psychology from Duke University, where he focused on early Christianity. He is also a graduate of Fordham University School of Law J.D. and New York University School of Law LL.M. (Taxation). A practicing tax attorney for more than thirty-five years, McEachern has written numerous articles and several law treatises.
by William McEachern
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