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.
Bissell (The Disaster Artist) journeyed to the tombs of the apostles, finding some sticky with kisses and others bone-barren. His account of his travels is an excellent cornucopia of history, exegesis, travelogue, biography, analysis, corrective, and hilarity. Bissell, a scholar but not a believer, pairs some disciples (Philip and James) and adds one not of the original twelve (Paul) in this quirky and learned Christology. Each chapter covers an apostle's life story and legend, comparisons of the apostle's appearances throughout the Gospels, and places from Italy to India where relics beckon pilgrims. Bissell includes questions, definitions, traveler's tales, and sprightly interviews with the pilgrims, translators, and docents he meets, and these bolster his Bible commentaries; his accounts are always grounded in his meetings with scholars and church fathers. Even if readers don't care about the apostles, Bissell's style is compelling on its own. His unforced humor is delightful, his wealth of research grounds this formidable apostolic project, and his crafty rhetoric and irresistible charm make it a must-read.