The Peregrine’s Odyssey: Burnt Offerings – A Novel of Early Christianity

Written by Michael Kleinfall
Review by Viktor Steiner

During the first 20 years of the 2nd century AD, Gaius Segusiavus Peregrinus is torque-bearer of the Gallic clan based near Lugdunum (Lyon, France). As master of the family’s enterprise of shipping cereal and luxury, he roams Mare Nostrum, visiting the trading posts in Ostia (Rome), Carthago, Alexandria, Antiochia, and Ephesos. His faithful wife, Fionna, delights him whenever he is back at the Villa of the Three Crows, but his sons and nephew disappoint him, and Gaius wonders if anyone will prove worthy of inheriting the family torque when he dies.

Gaius’s lifelong friend, the Jew Ignatius, becomes a member of the illicit sect known as Christiani. Together, they are instrumental in rescuing the aged Apostle Ioannes from his exile on the island of Patmos and bringing him to the community of believers in Ephesos. Through these towering characters, along with historical letters by the later-canonized St. Ignatius of Antiochia, readers gain insights into the caring community of followers of Iesous Christos, their faith, and the persecution they suffer.

Geographic and historical details are meticulously accurate and very informative. Circumstances and prospects fluctuate under the Roman emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan, but all the while the Christians live under the threat of arrest and execution. This is a long book, unnecessarily drawn out by recapitulating key episodes and including too many named characters who play only minor roles; in places the prose tends toward the pedantic, and dialogue can be unclear. However, the family tree, maps and appendix with an afterword and a summary of the principal characters – historical and fictitious – are very helpful.