Book Review: The Advocate

The Advocate, by Randy Singer

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

This is the second book by Randy Singer I have read [1], and while it is a distinctive book in many ways from its predecessor, it is likewise a book that shows the author’s passionate interest and deep knowledge of the legal craft, a preference for dramatic reversals of fortune, and a great interest in writing about complicated characters who are great sinners and great repenters. As Singer is a teacher of law as well as a minister and also a practitioner of law, none of this ought to be surprising, but it is nonetheless notable that his writing is consistent with his life and his faith, even if we would disagree about some matters (including, it should be noted, the immortality of the soul, which plays some role in this particular novel).

This particular novel is about a fascinating but obscure biblical figure named Theophilus, the noble Roman to whom Luke dedicates both Luke and Acts. Despite (or maybe because) the details about the life of this man are so little known, the author feels free to blend a sound knowledge of Roman history and first century culture with a certain knowledge of conditions in Palestine during the time and a sound knowledge of the legal profession (including its incarnation in the early Roman empire). Where exactly the author got enough historical breadcrumbs to suggest this particular account of the life of Theophilus is a mystery that the author leaves to his own webpage [2], but the story itself is a compelling one, showing Theophilus as a Roman equestrian with a dangerous passion for egalitarian politics and social justice and the rule of law and a dangerous willingness to speak truth to power even at the sake of his own life and freedom. With a fine gift for provocative argumentation, a high degree of intellect, and a certain cynicism and skepticism to balance his idealism, along with a certain hopeless romanticism, he is a figure I can relate to rather well.

The life of Theophilus as told here is extremely dramatic, involving a great deal of education, presence in Judea as as assessore of Pontius Pilate, present at the trial of Jesus Christ and a witness of his last actions in the Temple. Singer has this bright lawyer using the techniques learned from Jesus in turning the tables on accusers to give him a career as an advocate in Rome known for his defense of poor tenants and those who have been charged with political crimes like the first century equivalent of lese majeste, an area of law I have a very serious and deep personal interest in [3], giving those whose reputations were toxic the ablest defense possible. As an older man he is called upon in such a task to defend Paul in trial at the judgment seat of Nero himself, and finds himself (along with his family) converted to Christianity. Without giving away too much about the ending, there are some close similarities between this novel and another one I have read from this same publisher from another accomplished writer [4].

In reading this book, which was a gripping and exciting tale that is hard to put down. Yet at the same time it was a troubling novel as well, in that it paid a great deal of attention to religious superstition, corrupt politics, and the threat of martyrdom when one speaks truth to authorities. It is unclear exactly why the author would feel this necessary. It is a salutary lesson, to be sure, about self-sacrifice for the sake of truth [5], but the question of why this book focuses on self-sacrifice and the dangers of speaking the truth, but I wonder what it is that drew the author to this story aside from its obvious legal angle. Does the author have in mind some sort of persecution for those who are willing to speak the truths of God in public? If so, he and I share the same concerns. On the plus side, this book contains a great deal of biblical quotes and references in intriguing contexts.



[3] See, for example:


[5] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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