I, Saul, page 1
“Jerry Jenkins is a masterful storyteller. Only Jerry can transport readers from modern-day Texas to the early days of Christianity, breathing new life into familiar biblical characters. In I, Saul Jerry has crafted an epic thriller that left me on the edge of my seat hollering, ‘Sweet Mercy!’”
“I, Saul has everything a great thriller needs: page-turning action, intrigue and mounting suspense, plot twists that really work and, above all, characters worth caring about. The chapter-to-chapter shift from present day to the first century is both clever and effective. The best part? Spending time with Saul of Tarsus. A brilliant concept and a great read.”
—Liz Curtis Higgs
New York Times best-selling author of Mine Is the Night
“ I, Saul combines the historical with the contemporary, and the outcome is compulsive reading. Vintage Jerry Jenkins!” —Chris Fabry
Novelist and host of Chris Fabry Live!
“If Jerry Jenkins would be but one thing (which he assuredly is not), it would be a story teller. He is worth reading for this alone, but he also manages purpose without preaching. I, Saul is plausible fiction, astute reflection, and a flat-out good read.”
—Wallace Alcorn, Ph.D.
Biblical scholar and author
“Jerry Jenkins has compressed his vast talents as a biblical researcher, biographer, mystery writer, and thrill master in I, Saul. Hang on, friends—it’s all in one breathless package!”
—Dr. Dennis E. Hensley
Author of Jesus in the 9 to 5
Director of the Professional Writing Program, Taylor University
“I, Saul is one of the finest books I have ever read. I not only believe it is a good book; I believe it is an important book. I laughed. I cried. And, yes, I found myself wanting to learn even more of the life of the Apostle Paul. In the end, I don’t think Jerry could ask any more of a reader.”
“The best of stories bring truth to life. The best of stories engage the imagination of the soul. The best of stories help one see the dynamic, real-time possibilities of one’s own life. I, Saul is one of those best of stories that invites you to see and live into your own future, no matter your past. I could not put this one down!”
Leadership Mentor/Organizational Designer, Leadership Design Group
“Jerry Jenkins mixes a dose of international intrigue with historical information and douses it with biblical inspiration to create one of the most riveting stories I’ve ever read. A masterpiece. If you liked the Left Behind series, then you’ll love I, Saul. I think it’s Jerry’s best.”
International evangelist and author
JERRY B. JENKINS
JAMES S. MACDONALD
Copyright © 2013 by Jerry B. Jenkins and James S. MacDonald
Published by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 134 Franklin Road, Suite 200, Brentwood, Tennessee 37027.
HELPING PEOPLE EXPERIENCE THE HEART OF GOD
eBook available wherever digital books are sold.
Audio distributed through Brilliance Audio; visit brillianceaudio.com
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jenkins, Jerry B.
I, Saul : a novel / Jerry B. Jenkins ; with James S. MacDonald.
ISBN 978-1-61795-006-3 (hard cover)
1. Paul, the Apostle, Saint—Fiction. 2. Bible—History of Biblical events—Fiction. 3. Apostles--Fiction. 4. Christian fiction. 5. Biographical fiction. I. MacDonald, James S. II. Title.
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
For foreign and subsidiary rights, contact Riggins International Rights Services, Inc.; rigginsrights.com
ISBN: 978-1-61795-006-3 (hardcover w/ jacket)
ISBN: 978-1-61795-194-7 (international edition)
Cover design: Kirk DouPonce, DogEared Design
Interior typesetting: Susan Browne Design
Printed in the United States of America
13 14 15 16 17 SBI 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To my brothers
Jim, Jeoff, and Jay
WEDNESDAY, MAY 7
“call now. desper8.”
The text appeared on Dr. Augie Knox’s phone at 8:55 a.m., seconds before he was to turn it off—protocol for profs entering a classroom at Arlington Theological Seminary.
Augie could have fired off a “give me a minute,” but the message was not signed and the sending number matched nothing in his contacts. The prefix 011-39-06 meant Rome. He’d traveled extensively in his thirty-eight years and enjoyed many visits to the Eternal City, but such a text could easily portend one of those I’ve-been-mugged-and-need-money scams. Whatever this was could wait until he got the Systematic Theology final exam started and could step into the hall with his phone.
Augie had long been fascinated by his students’ nervous chatter before final exams. One announced, “I looked you up in Who’s Who, Doc, and I know your full name.”
“Congratulations for discovering something you could have found in your student handbook four years ago.”
“No! That just says Dr. Augustine A. Knox! I found out what the A stands for.”
“Good for you. Now, a few instructions ….”
“Aquinas! Augustine Aquinas Knox! Man, what other career choice did you have?”
“Thank you for revealing the thorn in my flesh. If you must know, that moniker was my father’s idea.” Augie mimicked his dad’s monotone basso. “‘Names are important. They can determine a life’s course.’”
Many students chuckled, having sat under the elder Dr. Knox before he fell ill the year before.
“It also say
“No secret,” Augie said.
Another hand shot up. “Was that a hint about the exam? Will we be speculating on Paul’s thorn in the flesh?”
“He’s only mentioned that mystery every class,” another said.
Augie held up a hand. “I trust you’re all prepared for any eventuality.”
“So, what’s your dad’s name?”
“Ed!” someone called out. “Everybody knows that.”
“Look it up,” Augie said. “You may find it revealing.”
With blue books distributed, Augie slipped out and turned on his phone. The plea from Rome had already dropped to third on his message list. At the top was a voice mail from Dr. Moore, who had been filling in as acting department chair since Augie’s father had been hospitalized with a stroke.
Augie would have checked that one first, but next was a voice mail from Sofia Trikoupis, his heart. It was eight hours later in Athens, after five in the afternoon. “Call me at the end of your day,” her message said. “I’ll wait up.” It would be midnight her time by then, but she apparently needed his undivided attention. That would bug him all day. How he longed for them to be together.
His phone vibrated. Rome again. “urgent. call now, pls!”
Augie pressed his lips together, thumbing in, “who’s this?”
“trust me. begging.”
“not w/out knowing who u r.”
Augie waited more than a minute for a response, then snorted. As I figured. But as he headed back into the classroom, his phone buzzed again.
Augie stopped, heat rising in his neck. He quickly tapped in, “90 minutes OK?”
Few people had been more important in Augie’s life than Roger Michaels, the diminutive fifty-year-old South African with a James Earl Jones voice and a gray beard that seemed to double the size of his pale, gnomish face. Augie would never lead a tour of an ancient city without Roger as the guide.
“2 mins,” Augie texted.
He rushed to his father’s old office, which still bore the senior Dr. Knox’s nameplate on the door. Augie knocked and pushed it open. “Les, I need a favor.”
Dr. Moore took his time looking up from his work. “Number one, Dr. Knox, I did not invite you in.”
“Number two, I have asked that you refer to me as Dr. Moore.”
“My bad again, but listen—.”
“And number three,” the acting chair said, making a show of studying his watch, “we both know that at this very moment you are to be conducting—.”
“Dr. Moore, I have an emergency call to make and I need you to stand in for me for a few minutes.”
Moore sighed and rose, reaching for his suit coat. “I know what that’s about. Take all the time you need.”
Augie followed him down the hall. “You do?”
“You didn’t get my message?”
“Oh, no, sorry. I saw one was there, but I—.”
“But you assumed other messages were more important. I said we needed to chat after your first exam.”
“Well, sure, I’ll be here.”
“Part of what we need to discuss is your father. Is that what your call is about?”
“What about my father?”
“We’ll talk at ten.”
“But is he—.”
“There have been developments, Dr. Knox. But he is still with us.”
As Dr. Moore headed for the classroom, Augie ducked into a stairwell, away from the windows and the relentless sun forecasters were saying would push the temperature at least twenty degrees above normal by 2:00 p.m., threatening the 107° record for the month.
Augie wasn’t getting enough signal strength to complete his call, so he hurried back out to the corridor. Cell coverage was still weak, so he stepped outside. It had to be near 90° already. Scalp burning, he listened as the number rang and rang.
Augie moved back inside for a minute, braced by the air conditioning, then ventured out to try again. He waited two minutes, tried once more, and felt he had to get back to class.
On a third attempt, as he neared the entrance, it was clear someone had picked up a receiver and hung up. Augie dialed twice more as he walked back to take over for Dr. Moore. Just before he reached the classroom, his phone came alive again with a text.
“sorry. later. trash ur phone. serious.”
Augie couldn’t make it compute. Had his phone been traced? Tapped? If he got a new one, how would Roger know how to reach him?
Dr. Moore stood just inside the classroom door and emerged immediately when he saw Augie. “Talk to your mother?” he said.
“No, should I?”
Moore sighed and opened his palms. “You interrupt my work and don’t check on your father?”
Augie reached for his cell again, but hesitated. If he used it, would he be exposing his mother’s phone too?
“Call her after we’ve talked, Dr. Knox. Now I really must get back to my own responsibilities.”
It was all Augie could do to sit still till the end of class. Before getting back to Dr. Moore, he dropped off the stack of blue books in his own office and used the landline to call his contact at Dallas Theological Seminary, just up the road. Arlington Sem sat equidistant between DTS to the east and the massive Southwestern Baptist Seminary to the west. Arlington was like the stepchild no one ever talked about, a single building for a couple of hundred students, struggling to stay alive in the shadows of those two renowned institutions. When Augie needed something fast, he was more likely to get it from the competition. Such as a new phone.
Like his father before him, Augie was the travel department at Arlington. No auxiliary staff handled logistics as they did at DTS and Southwestern. The head techie at Dallas was Biff Dyer, a string bean of a man a few years older than Augie with an Adam’s apple that could apply for statehood. He could always be counted on to program Augie’s phone, depending on what country he was traveling to.
“Calling from your office phone, I see,” Biff said. “What happened to the cell I got you?”
“It’s been compromised.”
Biff chuckled. “Like you’d know. What makes you think so?”
“I need a new one. Trust me.”
“I’ll just switch out the chip. You’re not gonna find a better phone. How soon you need it?”
“Fast as possible.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I’m not deliverin’ it. Can you come by during normal hours?”
There was a knock at Augie’s door and he wrenched around to see Les Moore’s scowl. “Gotta go, Biff.”
“Sorry, Les. On my way right now. Or do you want to just meet here?”
“Here would not be any more appropriate than your insisting on our being on a first-name basis,” Dr. Moore said, scanning the tiny chamber in which the guest chair was folded in a corner and brought out only when necessary.
“C’mon, Les. You were only a couple years ahead of me. We hung out, didn’t we?”
“Hardly. You spent most of your free time in the gym with the—what?—six other jocks who happened to enroll here.”
It was true. And everyone knew the library had been where to find Les Moore.
Augie looked at his watch. Another final at 11. He followed his interim boss back to his father’s old office. It wasn’t that much bigger than his, but at least the guest chair didn’t block the door.
“Would you start with my dad?” Augie said as he sat.
“I would have thought you’d have already checked in with your mother, but all right. She called this morning, knowing you were in class. Your father has slipped into a coma.”
Augie nodded slowly. “She okay?”
“Your mother? Sure. It’s not like he’s passed. She just thought you might want to visit this afternoon.”
“Now then, Dr. Knox, I have some
“You’re scheduled to teach summer-school Homiletics beginning four days after commencement.”
“A week from today, right.”
“And we have contracted with you for this stipend, correct?”
Why Les felt it necessary to pencil the figure on the back of a business card and dramatically slide it across the desk, Augie could not fathom.
“Yep, that’s the fortune that’s going to let me retire by forty.”
“Um-hm. Humorous. It is my sad duty to ask you to agree to undertake the class for two-thirds that amount.”
That was for sure.
“Les—Dr. Moore, you know we do these classes pretty much as gifts to the sem. Now they seriously want us to do them for less?”
“This is entirely up to you.”
“I can refuse?”
“We’re not going to force you to teach a class when we have to renege on our agreement.”
“Good, because I just don’t think I can do it for that.”
“I’ll report your decision. We’ll be forced to prevail upon a local adjunct instruct—.”
“Like that youth pastor at Arlington Bible—.”
“He’s a graduate, Dr. Knox.”
“I know! I taught him. And he’s a great kid, but he didn’t do all that well in Homiletics, and there’s a reason they let him preach only a couple of times a year over there.”
“He’ll be happy to do it for this figure—probably even for less.”
“And the students be hanged.”
Les cocked his head. “Naturally, we would prefer you ….”
Augie reached for his pen and signaled with his fingers for the document.
“I’m glad I can count on you, Dr. Knox. Now, while we’re on the subject, I’m afraid there’s more.You were due for a four percent increase beginning with the fall trimester.”
“Let me guess, that’s not going to happen either.”
“What, now it’s a four percent decrease?”