by Adriane Dorr
Dr. Paul L. Maier is a true Renaissance man—professor, campus chaplain, author and lecturer who just so happens to serve as the Synod’s third vice-president. He also recently retired from teaching in Western Michigan University’s Department of History for the past 50 years. He is the author of several best-selling books, such as In the Fullness of Time, and other well-known titles including The Flames of Rome and A Skeleton in God’s Closet. His latest book, The Constantine Codex, is now available at Christian bookstores and www.amazon.com.
The following is an edited interview between Dr. Maier (PM) and The Lutheran Witness (LW).
LW: Until your recent retirement, your academic career focused on the correlation of ancient history with the New Testament. How did your Lutheran faith influence your work?
PM: Luther emphasized “Scripture alone,” and yet the Bible is under increasing attack today. Are the critics right? I think it’s extremely important to check out the reliability of the Old and New Testaments, and one way to do this is to see if the geography, archaeology and historical documents from the ancient world agree with the biblical record. Despite sensationalist media claims to the contrary, they do indeed agree—in spades! The place names in Scripture are cited also in secular sources. Most of the archaeological finds concur with biblical evidence and so do the inscriptions, coinage, records and histories from antiquity. No other religious system has that sort of outside support for its holy book, with the exception of our parent Judaism.
LW: Throughout all your years of teaching, how did you balance your vocation as pastor, professor and author with that of husband and father.
PM: Although weekend seminars often take me out of town, I try to find more time with the family during the week and especially during the wonderful summer months. They also often join me on tours I lead to the Bible lands.
LW: Tell us about your most cherished teaching memories.
PM: That would be on my Mediterranean seminars when I could show my students—on site—what I had been lecturing about only weeks earlier. Another joy was to see former students become professors in their own right.
LW: You’re the author of several well-known and best-selling books. How did you tie your classical and biblical scholarship into your latest novel, The Constantine Codex?
PM: Since truth is stranger than fiction, all of the background and much of the foreground in my novels are historically authentic. My latest, for example, tees off from solid fact. Constantine, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, authorized Eusebius of Caesarea (the “father of church history”) to have 50 elegantly written copies of Scripture prepared in the form of a codex—the earliest book form—for use in the church. In my book, not one of these has ever been discovered—until now. Since this earliest Bible has 67 books rather than the usual 66, how does Christendom react, especially when the extra book is authentic? I have fun, of course, projecting how the Christian world will respond.
LW: Your novels seem to take on current challenges to the church. Why is it important for Lutherans to engage the culture in this way?
PM: In fact, it’s hugely important for Christians to defend the faith against all the current attacks on it in the media, which practice a wretched double standard, namely, “You dare not attack any religion—unless, of course, it’s Christianity.” Islam is the greatest challenge ever to face the church, and Christians should be better equipped to meet its claims. This is a big subplot in The Constantine Codex, when my protagonist, Dr. Jonathan Weber, debates a leading Islamic theologian.
LW: How do you encourage young people to take an interest in the things of the church, particularly the Early Church?
PM: I think back to how I myself was similarly encouraged, and it was back in Sunday School and parochial school that Bible history got me really excited. That is why I’ve written seven children’s books for CPH and the church and went into campus ministry for students. It is so very important that the young get the story accurately from the start and learn how to defend their faith later on in college and universities.
LW: What’s on tap now that you’re retired?
PM: Everything stays the same in my life except for facing classes. The research, seminars, tours and writing will continue along with
a bit more time for family and friends.
The Constantine Codex
A novel | Paul L. Maier
416 pages, paperback | 2011 | Tyndale House
Renowned church historian and novelist Dr. Paul Maier revives the beloved character Dr. Jonathan weber (A Skeleton in God’s Closet and More Than a Skeleton) to envision the lost ending to Mark . . . and a Second Acts. His seamless inclusion of canonical history into the suspenseful tale ensures readers come away with a greater understanding of the origins of Scripture and the lengths to which early Christians went to ensure the continuation of the Gospel story throughout time.
About the Author: Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.