Hi there, and thanks for stopping by my blog today. I’m not sure about you, but the word ‘controversial’ always grabs my attention. What can I say? In my dictionary, ‘controversial’ often equals ‘intellectually stimulating’. However, pair ‘controversial’ with ‘Biblical fiction’ and I’m likely to get nervous, too. And that leads me to the book that is the topic of today’s interview: A Conspiracy of Breath by Latayne Scott.
What if God breathed through a woman to author the book of Hebrews? Would you find it interesting? Or conspiratorial?
Here’s what author Cynthia Ruchti had to say about A Conspiracy of Breath:
It changed me, deepened my love for The Breath, and swelled my appreciation for those who sacrificed so much to ensure people like me–millenia later–could turn the parchment pages and read Truth for ourselves. See full review
Goodreads reviewer Michelle Ule had this to say:
What I appreciated most about this story was the descriptions of early Christian life—the throbbing sense of danger, persecution and the insight into how people turned against each other, particularly the reaction of the Jews. . . I came away with a greater appreciation for the Saints who have gone before and the challenges they faced in following Jesus Christ. See full review
I don’t mind telling you, reviews like that whet my appetite. And so here we are, about to learn more about A Conspiracy of Breath.
~ About the Book ~
In a richly-textured, controversial and provocative literary work, award-winning author Latayne C. Scott examines: What would it have been like to be a woman, a Gentile, and someone onto whom the Holy Breath moved – to produce what became the mysterious Epistle to the Hebrews in the Bible?
~ About the Author ~
Latayne C. Scott is the award-winning author of over almost two dozen books, published by major Christian publishers such as Zondervan, Moody, Baker, Howard, Word and others. In addition, she has published poems, radio plays, and hundreds of articles in magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman, Guideposts, Writer’s Digest, The Upper Room, Christian Research Journal, Christian Retailing, and Military Officer. A full-time writer, she also speaks at seminars, retreats, and on television and radio programs. She has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Trinity Southwest University and is the recipient of Pepperdine University’s Distinguished Christian Service Award for Creative Christian Writing. She is a full-time, patron-supported author who makes her home in her native New Mexico.
~ Interview ~
KATIE: Thanks for chatting with me today, Latayne. Let’s start our chat by taking a little ‘flight of fancy’. How would you finish these sentences?
If I could visit any place in the world, I would visit… Egypt. In the 18th Dynasty. (So, I can time-travel, right?)
Time travel is absolutely a-okay. And what a great choice! The Egypt of the Exodus, Tutankhamen . . . Yes please! Just not during the plagues! 😬
If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be… Changing sheets.
Uh-huh! I have two words for you: Bunk beds! *shudders* And we have two sets!
If I was a musical instrument, I would be a… clarinet. When I got to college, I paid for private lessons to learn how to play that lovely instrument. I never mastered playing one—so next best is to BE one.
Lol! If you can’t beat them, join them!
When I was a child, I wanted to be… an archaeologist.
Well, that doesn’t surprise me. 🙂
My ideal place to read would be… In a Superliner bedroom compartment on a train across Norway.
Oh wow. That does sound good. Except, I think I’d keep getting distracted by the scenery!
Okay, let’s talk about A Conspiracy of Breath. What do we actually know about the authorship of the book of Hebrews?
Even though the King James Version calls it Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, most scholars agree he wasn’t the author (that title was added hundreds of years after the epistle was written.) Two reasons: Paul was an eyewitness to the risen Jesus and the author to the Hebrews wasn’t (see chapter 2 verse 3: “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” So the author of Hebrews was not an eyewitness to Jesus. Secondly, nobody actually knows for certain who the author is, but some scholars believe that Priscilla is the best candidate.
Okay, so what do we know about Priscilla?
We know that the name Priscilla is that of an aristocratic Roman family. She would have been well educated (the book of Hebrews is sophisticated writing, referring both to secular philosophical concepts and the Septuagint – the Greek language version of the Old Testament.) Such a woman and her husband might have the financial resources to host a church in their home, as we read of Priscilla and Aquila in the New Testament.
So, putting the two together, what evidence is there to support the theory that Priscilla may have written the book of Hebrews?
According to some scholars, she is the only known close associate of Paul who had the ability and the connections to write it. This is explored in detail in the book, Priscilla’s Letter, by Ruth Hoppin.
What are your personal thoughts on this evidence? Do you believe it’s likely Priscilla did write the book of Hebrews, or are you simply exploring ‘what if’?
The more I researched and wrote, the more likely I think it is that, among all the people we know about, she wrote it. Of course, it is entirely possible that someone completely unknown to us wrote it. But it had the clout and the authority to be recognized as true revelation/inspiration/a book of the Bible, even without an author’s name attached. Some people say the anonymity came about because the New Testament era of great authority of women gave way to later times when women were not highly valued in the same way.
But the clincher was a personal observation I made. I explored a “new angle” on this when I wrote this book. If the promises of Pentecost in Acts 2 were made to men and women who would prophecy – Where are the voices of the Acts 2 Women?
(An article I wrote that explores this concept in detail.)
They’re interesting questions to explore, especially considering the role of women in the church is still a hotly contested topic. Regardless of whether Priscilla actually wrote the book of Hebrews, I’d love to know more about how women contributed to the church in the New Testament era.
What inspired you to write Priscilla’s story?
I’d heard for years that perhaps a woman wrote Hebrews, and then I discovered the research on that subject. I wondered what it would be like to have the Holy Spirit move along the mind and heart and talents of a woman, as He did other New Testament writers (2 Peter 1:21). And of course, the title refers to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Breath, which is another reading of the Greek of His name.
I imagine there were many challenges in writing a novel like this, but could you briefly share a couple of the most difficult challenges you encountered?
A big one! I have never discovered anywhere a timeline of the life of Priscilla. I had to invent my own, and line up what we know of her in the Bible to the events of Paul’s lifetime and the maps I had. Here is a photo of how I storyboarded that:
Oh, what a task! So, given what few details we have about Priscilla, what was your starting point when it came to fleshing out her character and her story?
I had an image in my mind that wouldn’t go away. It was of a woman who had the job of picking up body parts after Christians were torn apart by animals. It haunted me until I figured out this was my Priscilla.
Haunted is the right word! It’s certainly not a pleasant image, but neither does it serve us well to forget just how much people have suffered for the Christian faith. My heart is already going out to your Priscilla!
What do you hope readers take away from this novel?
The book is about some hard questions. Why did Paul and others, who had the ability to heal, not heal everyone? And what would it be like to be around someone like that who didn’t heal your loved ones? Why were the most courageous people of all history consigned to violent deaths? Why does God allow stillborn births and stillborn pregnancies?
My Priscilla is a woman who is stubborn, resentful, hopeful and inspired. I just love her, and I hope my readers will too.
Isn’t it amazing that those very same questions are still relevant to us today, 2,000 years later? Why does God allow suffering? If we still grapple with it now, how much more difficult would it have been during the time immediately following Christ’s ministry on earth? And yet those early Christians withstood so much persecution for the sake of the Gospel!
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m very much looking forward to reading Priscilla’s story. Thank you for chatting with me today, Latayne!
~ Giveaway ~
* Update as of 5 Sept: There has been a delay on the delivery of paperback copies due to Hurricane Harvey, and the winner will now receive an ebook copy of the novel. I apologize for any inconvenience. On the up side, international readers are now eligible to enter!
Latayne is giving away one copy of A Conspiracy of Breath to a lucky reader. Comment below and let us know what most sparks your interest in this book, and then click here to enter the giveaway.