Best Biblical Fiction Novels: The February 2021 Brilliant Book List

Every once in a while, I like to review books and article read/written in the past. That’s how I unearthed this old gem:

So for this month, we’ll be spotlighting five standout novels from the above original list of 222+.

The Chronicles of the Kings by Lynn Austin

“Only a coward would send his children to their deaths in order to save his own life.”— The Chronicles of the Kings

The Chronicles of the Kings is hands down the best Biblical fiction series I have read. I discovered it by accident a few years ago at a very dark time in my life, and was fascinated by the skillful storytelling,

The Chronicles of the Kings a five-set series on King Hezekiah of Judah and his son, King Manasseh. But what makes this series stand out is a cast of secondary characters (some of which are mentioned by name in the Bible, some of which are not) and their lives, loves, and losses over the course of the story, which spans several decades.

Austin is a genius at writing inter-generational fiction, showing how the choices of grandparents and great grandparents affects the lives of their descendants, both on a personal level and on a wider social level. Her knowledge of and ability to weave in history and culture brings the entire world to life. Even though there are five books in this series, I’ve read it through twice, and will definitely continue to revisit this series in the future!

Miriam by Mesu Andrews

“Faith was a battle, its battlefield the mind.” — Miriam

Rich storytelling, believable characters, dramatic reimagining of the famous Exodus story, Mesu Andrews’ Miriam has it all. I first discovered this book when I was on a Biblical fiction kick, researching and looking up every Biblical fiction book I could find.

The problem with Biblical fiction is that not only do writers have to get historical details as close to “right” as they can, they also won’t succeed unless they do the Biblical worldview justice. Not many writers can pull it off, but Andrews is one of them, at least in this novel, focusing on the sister of Moses, as she lives her life as a slave, goes through the famous Ten Plagues with her family, and then learns what it means to be free.

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz

“Why does crime, even when as powerful as Caesar, and assured of being beyond punishment, strive always for the appearances of truth, justice, and virtue? Why does it take the trouble?” — Quo Vadis

I started reading Quo Vadis one day in college, on someone’s recommendation, and stayed up ALL NIGHT to finish the darn thing. It’s epic, it’s brutal, it’s amazing.

Quo Vadis is the story of a Roman centurion, Vinicius, who lusts after a young woman named Lygia. Unfortunately, Lygia is a Christian, and the two are living in 1st century Rome, where the persecuted Christians are about to undergo systemic persecution and torture at the hands of the mad king Nero.

This “grand in scope and ambition” novel explores the struggle between lust and love, cowardice and courage, faith and unbelief, and, of course, what it means to suffer for what you believe.

It’s hard to say why this story was so gripping for me. There are too many things I could say. But perhaps I’ll write: Sienkiwiecz doesn’t shy away from the dark and ugly things in human nature and history, yet also shows that despite the avalanche of evil, there can be hope and meaning and redemption for those who want it.

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

“We long for things that harm us and run from the things that grow and heal us. We think good is bad and bad is good.” — Pearl in the Sand

Pearl in the Sand is the first paperback Biblical fiction book I ever bought, as a teenster. I was browsing in a bookstore, saw the cover, saw the name “Rahab” on the back, and made a snap decision to buy it.

And I’m glad I did. Pearl in the Sand is Biblical fiction written for the women’s market, and tells the story of Rahab, the prostitute-hotelier who saves the lives of two Israelite spies before the siege of Jericho, and eventually becomes a great-great-great-etc grandmother of Jesus himself.

Like many readers, I’m fascinated by stories of unlikely heroes, and the Rahab story in it’s bare-Biblical form has always been one of my favorites. So reading Tessa Afshar’s rendition of the old story was a pleasure. Afshar fills in background details that are not recorded — Rahab’s childhood and family background, how she adapted to an “enemy” culture after the destruction of her home city, why her Israelite husband married her despite her less-than-desirable past, how she felt about being a harlot, and so on.

If you’re interested in biblical fiction, women’s fiction, or the dramatized story of Rahab, this book is for you 🙂

Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace

“There is no law by which to determine the superiority of nations; hence the vanity of the claim, and the idleness of disputes about it. A people risen, run their race, and die either of themselves or in the hands of another, who, succeeding to their power, take possession of their place, and upon their monuments write new names; such is history.” — Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur is very similar to Quo Vadis in scope and flavor. The novel tells the story of a Jewish boy (the titular Judah Ben-Hur) betrayed by his best friend, a Roman youth named Masala. Bitter at losing his freedom, home, and family, Ben-Hur vows to take revenge only for a surprise twist at the end to turn all his plans upside down.

Anyone who loves ancient Roman adventure stories and David-vs-Goliath tales of slaves who fight their way to freedom will love this book. In fact, it was adapted into a major motion picture in 1960, and despite its age, this movie is still a classic, in my book!

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