The author of The Nazarene has chosen St. Paul for this new ""novel"" and has handled an exceedingly difficult and challenging subject superbly. A powerful book, creative in the sense that he has gone outside the records of contemporary sources, The Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, to give his readers a sense of time and place and personalities. He has dared much -- for he has drawn life size figures of Peter (Simon bar Jonah), of Barnabas (bar Naba), of Titus, a gentile and uncircumcized, of Reb Jacob ben Joseph (James) and Jochanan (John), of Timotheus (Timothy) and other characters of the New Testament in such human form that never again will they be simply names in the Book. Instead they are people living out the drama of the slow spread of Christianity, recognized by few of them as other than an interpretation of Judaism in more idealistic form. The story begins after the Crucifixion, and follows the tortuous process by which Saul of Tarshish came to see the light -- and grew into one of the great spirits of all time. He makes him human to the end -- and end he shared with Peter, at the hands of Nero. Frequently, Asch interprets events contrary to accepted traditional ways -- always he makes one pause and question previous interpretations. Bit by bit, one sees the struggle within the ranks, before acceptance of the Gentiles could be faced; one sees the beginnings of practices we have taken for granted, and the reasons for them; one realizes that persecution was neither wholly the province of pagans or of Jews or of Gentiles; one senses the story behind the Epistles, a story of a handful of the faithful standing firm in the midst of doubters and scoffers and weaklings: one gets a sense of the courage of the few who set out to teach their message to a world of unbelievers, Jew and Gentile. Not always easy reading, but in final analysis rewarding reading. With the success of The Nazarene as an impetus to interest, and the more recent popularity of Dauglas' The Robe, this should prove a sure best seller for months to come.