Apostle Or Bones That Shine Like Fire : Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve
by Tom Bissell

Overview - A profound and moving journey into the heart of Christianity that explores the mysterious and often paradoxical lives and legacies of the Twelve Apostles--a book both for those of the faith and for others who seek to understand Christianity from the outside in.  Read more...

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More About Apostle Or Bones That Shine Like Fire by Tom Bissell
A profound and moving journey into the heart of Christianity that explores the mysterious and often paradoxical lives and legacies of the Twelve Apostles--a book both for those of the faith and for others who seek to understand Christianity from the outside in.

"Expertly researched and fascinating... Bissell is a wonderfully sure guide to these mysterious men.... This is a serious book about the origins of Christianity that is also very funny. How often can you say that?" --The Independent

Peter, Matthew, Thomas, John: Who were these men? What was their relationship to Jesus? Tom Bissell provides rich and surprising answers to these ancient, elusive questions. He examines not just who these men were (and weren't), but also how their identities have taken shape over the course of two millennia.

Ultimately, Bissell finds that the story of the apostles is the story of early Christianity: its competing versions of Jesus's ministry, its countless schisms, and its ultimate evolution from an obscure Jewish sect to the global faith we know today in all its forms and permutations. In his quest to understand the underpinnings of the world's largest religion, Bissell embarks on a years-long pilgrimage to the supposed tombs of the Twelve Apostles. He travels from Jerusalem and Rome to Turkey, Greece, Spain, France, India, and Kyrgyzstan, vividly capturing the rich diversity of Christianity's worldwide reach. Along the way, he engages with a host of characters--priests, paupers, a Vatican archaeologist, a Palestinian taxi driver, a Russian monk--posing sharp questions that range from the religious to the philosophical to the political.

Written with warmth, empathy, and rare acumen, Apostle is a brilliant synthesis of travel writing, biblical history, and a deep, lifelong relationship with Christianity. The result is an unusual, erudite, and at times hilarious book--a religious, intellectual, and personal adventure fit for believers, scholars, and wanderers alike.

  • ISBN-13: 9780375424663
  • ISBN-10: 0375424660
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books
  • Publish Date: March 2016
  • Page Count: 407
  • Dimensions: 1.75 x 6.75 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds

Related Categories

Books > History > Ancient - General
Books > Religion > Christianity - History - General
Books > Travel > Special Interest - Religious

BookPage Reviews

Observing the seasons of faith

An early Easter brings the hope of spring and the promise of seasons to come as winter’s shadow slowly recedes. It’s a time of faith, a time to remember and renew, a time to reflect on the promise of Christ.

The cycle of life and the wonder of nature rest at the heart of Christie Purifoy’s Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons. When Purifoy and her family left Florida for Maplehurst, a 19th-century farmhouse in Pennsylvania, they dreamed of experiencing the full spectrum of changing seasons. From the August day they opened the old front door to a year later and a new August day, Purifoy found not only the beauty of the seasons, but also a growing appreciation for God’s gifts, asked for and received, looked for and unexpected—a year of faith as well as a year of nature’s bounty. Roots and Sky is Purifoy’s memoir of striving to make a home and face the ins and outs of life as it moves from one moment to the next. Throughout the year, she sees how God is speaking to her, touching and teaching in every event〞a faith lived in the metaphors of life. 

Purifoy refers to her experience as “a pilgrimage in one place,” which perfectly captures this beautifully written book. Her memoir celebrates ordinary life, but does so with the depth and power of a river, flowing ever onward.

Finding God in everyday life, or despite everyday life, is Logan Wolfram’s mission in Curious Faith: Rediscovering Hope in the God of Possibility. Like Purifoy, she ponders the seasons of life, which offer opportunities for growth and understanding. Every moment lived with God is a moment to discover something new, Wolfram suggests; it’s not a route to a destination, but a path of constant discovery that never ends. In these discoveries, we can find peace from our worries, strength for our trials, celebrations of our triumphs and comfort in our tragedies. Wolfram shares her personal stories of pain and fear, including a time when she suffered several miscarriages, and reveals how she learned to embrace the discovery God has for her.

Insightful and challenging, but filled with encouragement, Curious Faith reaches into the reader’s life, calling for a renewed faith in a God who is trustworthy, faithful and good, the leader on a journey worth the risk and a life worth the search.

Renovate: Changing Who You Are by Loving Where You Are is both a challenge and a call to full involvement in faith and community. For Léonce B. Crump Jr., this call came personally, as he and his wife left a ministry in Tennessee to move to a depressed, neglected neighborhood in downtown Atlanta. Bemoaning the process of gentrification, Crump set out not to change the neighborhood, but instead to honor and uplift the community that was already there. Passionate and uncompromising, Crump doesn’t hold back in either his criticisms or his call to action. His challenge isn’t always comfortable to read, nor may the reader agree with every point, but since when were challenges comfortable, or passion perfect? The point is to be involved where you are, with whomever surrounds you, to be a servant of God not after a drive across town, but right next door.

In Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve, journalist and fiction writer Tom Bissell chronicles his journeys to the tomb sites of Christ and his Apostles. Bissell’s eye for detail shines as he recounts his explorations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. From a Greek Orthodox priest who communicates with broken English and expressive gestures to the startling contrasts of India, Bissell’s memoir is a modern-day pilgrim’s tale of Old World churches and historic sites. Throughout, Bissell presents the history and cultural traditions behind the sites and the Apostles themselves, both in Christian teaching and secular scholarship. Although he grew up Catholic, Bissell reveals in an author’s note that he experienced a “sudden and decisive” loss of faith as a teenager. The book is framed by that perspective, but it’s a fascinating read for believer and nonbeliever alike. Bissell’s sense of place is evocative, vividly casting images in the reader’s mind of the catacombs, ruins and cathedrals he sees, as well as the variety of faith he encounters.

A search through the history of Christianity is also the focus of The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ. In the view of skeptics, the Gospels are unreliable tales, altered by numerous hands to suit a constantly changing early theology. These theories hold that the authors of the Gospels are unknown, that the works were written nearly 100 years after the events and that they are not intended to be accurate records of Jesus’ teachings and actions. With skill, logic and exceptional research, Brant Pitre, professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary, argues that such theories are based not on scholarship, but on assumption and speculation〞and a lack of understanding of 1st-century Jewish thought. To affirm the Gospels as truthful biographies, not tall tales, Pitre establishes the credibility of the claimed authorships, dates the time the Gospels were written to within 30 years of Jesus’ life and asserts that the four Gospels fundamentally agree on the divinity of Christ. Reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ famous works, The Case for Jesus brings sound historical authority to any discussion on the nature of New Testament scripture and the beliefs of early Christianity.


This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews