Book Review: Climbing the Dragon’s Ladder -- By: Aída Besançon Spencer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 22:1 (Winter 2008)
Article: Book Review: Climbing the Dragon’s Ladder
Author: Aída Besançon Spencer


Book Review: Climbing the Dragon’s Ladder

Andrea Lorenzo Molinari

(Wipf & Stock, 2006)

Reviewed by

Aída Besançon Spencer

AÍDA BESANÇON SPENCER (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Seminary) is professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. She has written numerous books and articles including Beyond the Curse, Paul ‘s Literary Style, 2 Corinthians (reprinted by Hendrickson as Daily Bible Commentary) and contributions to Discovering Biblical Equality and The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary.

In a time when wealth and prosperity are more welcomed than the cost of discipleship, Climbing the Dragon’s Ladder is a timely historical novel. No greater identification can be made about the cost involved in persevering as a Christian than identifying with a martyr such as Perpetua. Andrea Lorenzo Molinari, president of Blessed Edmund Rice School for Pastoral Ministry and assistant professor of New Testament and early church history, has used the original account of The Martyrdom of Perpetua in combination with archaeological and historical information to expand upon and recreate a likely scenario for Perpetua’s martyrdom. The full-page illustrations by Tyler Walpole help the imagination envision the scenes. Perpetua’s martyrdom is the “first known work written by an early Christian woman” (xi). According to professor Rosemary Rader, “The account demonstrates the emergence within the church of a prophetic movement in which women assumed leadership roles indicative of . . . male/female equality.”1

Vibia Perpetua, together with her friend and slave Felicitas, and Saturus, Revocatus, Saturninus, and Secundulus died on (or before) March 7, a.d. 203, in Carthage, North Africa, during the persecution of Christians under Emperor Septimus Severus. For the original collector of Perpetua’s diary, Perpetua was an illustration of Acts 2:17, Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit still falling upon women (as well as men) and granting visions.2 The journey to her martyrdom includes numerous visions: climbing the dragon’s ladder to the heavenly shepherd, seeing her dead brother Dinocrates in trouble and then healthy, Perpetua battling the devil (in the form of an Egyptian), and Saturus’ journey to the youthful “white-haired man.”

Molinari takes the original brief Martyrdom of Perpetua and develops a lengthy and positive picture of Perpetua and her Christian brothers and sisters, developing the characters of the persons in the original account. Twelve pages3 have been expanded to 278 pages; thus, ...

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