Is it even legal for New Testament studies to be this much fun? Grab your walking stick and follow along as recent college graduate Norm paces among the ruins of the Citadel, the ancient palace of Herod the Great at the western edge of the Old City of Jerusalem. Norm has a Christian background, a bachelor's degree in religion, and a head full of questions.
The young man is in Israel/Palestine on a backpacking caper to discover in situ what a self-respecting intellectual adult can believe about Jesus. Aware that Herod's palace eventually became Governor Pontius Pilate's residence, our hero finds three ancient steps among the ruins—a stairway that some believe once led to Pilate's judgment hall. If this is true, Norm broods, he is "standing near where Jesus stood when his death sentence was announced."
This vignette comes from a book that is neither a novel nor a traditional introduction to the New Testament. With his imagination in overdrive, Bruce Fisk of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, has created the fictional character Norm (Fisk's alter ego?) to guide readers through today's Holy Land and into the thickets of New Testament scholarship. Norm's trip is imaginary, but it reflects insights Fisk has garnered on his own frequent travels in Israel/Palestine. The happy result is a travelogue-textbook that gives a satisfying overview of recent historical Jesus scholarship and provides a colorful introduction to archaeological treasures of the Holy Land.