WMU News

Paul Maier completes three new religious works

Nov. 30, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Dr. Paul L. Maier, the Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University and an expert on the rise of Christianity, has completed two new books and a video series.

The books, "The New Complete Works of Josephus" and "Eusebius: The Church History," have been published by Kregel Publications of Grand Rapids, Mich. The video series on "The Odyssey of St. Paul" has been released by Tobias Communications of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

The new 1999 volumes are Maier's translation of historical records left by Flavius Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, and Eusebius (A.D. 260 to 339), the bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. Maier translated their writings from the original Greek.

His video project is an eight-segment, four-hour documentary on the life and travels of Paul of Tarsus, who is sometimes referred to as "the co-founder of Christianity." Maier wrote and directed the series and serves as its host. The voices of other WMU faculty and staff members as well as local religious leaders also appear in the documentary.

Maier, who is on sabbatical this year, has been a member of WMU's Department of History since 1960. The noted religious scholar now has 15 books in print in a dozen languages.

"The New Complete Works of Josephus" is a 1,143-page tome containing every word that has survived in Josephus' writings as well as improvements on the traditional William Whiston translation of these writings. It expands on Maier's award-winning 1988 book, "Josephus -- The Essential Writings," which was substantially updated in 1995 and renamed "Josephus -- The Essential Works." For that book project, Maier condensed as well as translated Josephus' voluminous writings.

"His works are so central to understanding the ancient world that all current biblical dictionaries and commentaries would shrink drastically were it not for this Jewish historian," Maier says of Josephus. "He is the largest ancient source of biblical information outside of the Bible itself."

Josephus was born in Jerusalem only four years after Jesus' crucifixion. He was an eyewitness to much of what he reported in addition to being a careful chronicler of what preceded him.

Although Josephus' historical record ends about A.D. 73, Maier notes that the story of Christianity is continued in Eusebius' celebrated work, "The Church History."

Eusebius, often called "the father of church history," wrote the first history of Christianity. His work covers the religion's initial three centuries-the crucial time period from Christ to Constantine. He also details the later careers of Jesus' apostles, including Peter, James, John and Paul, and shows how their writings and the Gospels were included in what came to be known as the New Testament.

"I've tried to add freshness and clarity to previous translations, while remaining absolutely faithful to Eusebius' Greek," Maier says. "I've also supplied commentaries after each chapter to further illuminate the text and correlate it with major events in the Roman Empire at the time."

More than 150 full-color photographs, maps and illustrations further document "The Church History" and its record of how a tiny, persecuted sect, seemingly doomed by a hostile Roman Empire, would nevertheless conquer it in only three centuries.

Maier's third 1999 project, "The Odyssey of St. Paul" documentary, takes an in-depth look at the greatest apostle. The video series was filmed over the past two summers on location in the Mediterranean world. During production, Maier and the film crew visited every site associated with Paul's life and ministry.

"Luke's descriptions of Paul's travels in the Book of Acts turned out to be absolutely on target," Maier says. "All the places they visited are authentic, and the order in which the sites show up is also correct, as we found in every instance."

To add realism to the series, two members of WMU's public radio station, WMUK, lend their voices to the production. General manager Garrard Macleod dramatically portrays St. Paul while reporter/announcer Gordon Evans supplies the voice of Jesus.

The series includes videocassettes, a study-guide and posters and according to Maier, is especially appropriate for church, school and home study purposes. It is available from Tobias Communications by calling 1 (800) 463-4685 or by online order via the <www.tobiascomm.com> Web site. Maier's new books are available at various local bookstores.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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