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The Centurion Review by Lynne Westbrook

Dr. Dick Stenbakken
2493 Frances Drive,
Loveland, Colorado 80537

Centurions are mentioned in the New Testament and refer to "the captain of one hundred soldiers." While the Bible names some centurions, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus with a spear is not named. Dr. Richard Stenbakken, however, has used his extensive knowledge, experience, and studies in religion, theology, education, and the military to bring the trusted centurion for the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to life. In the Biblical narrative, The Centurion, the centurion is given the name Longinus, and the author weaves Biblical text, historical writings from the time period, and his vast knowledge of military working together to create an engaging narrative of this soldier's heart and the warfare of the time period.  The soft-back book can be purchased on the BibleFaces website for $15.99.

As a family that homeschools, we have Bible study incorporated into our learning curriculum.  We used this text to augment our existing curriculum.  With tween and teenage daughters, we took turns reading chapters out loud and answering the end-of-chapter "Questions for Thought and Discussion."

 This book would be best for middle and high school students but could be used for younger students with parental assistance.  There are 22 chapters, and each chapter has six discussion questions that help the reader relate to the character and provoke thought and further learning into vocabulary, history, and culture related to the text.

Additionally, throughout the book, there are pictures of military tools or cultural items relevant to the time period.  One image, in particular, sparked discussion in our home, that of the scorpion.  The author explained that Pilate instructed Longinus to "Take the prisoner and have him flogged with the scorpion." By including an image of the scorpion whip, we were able to visualize how sharp bronze, lead, glass, or bone pieces were incorporated into the leather strands so as to cause pain and destroy flesh.  The imagery helped bring emotion and reality to the description on the page.  These additional pieces of historical information also helped expand educational boundaries to allow for the parallel study of historical texts, Latin roots, and geography with each chapter.

I loved that the author used his nearly 24 years of experience as an active-duty U.S. Army chaplain to provide details of the events and narratives of a first-century Roman soldier and his possible experiences and daily life.  The author's knowledge and expertise helped give insight into the inner workings of the life of a career soldier and what life must have been like for him.  The use of this book in a homeschool curriculum could lead to additional studies in other topic areas interwoven throughout the narrative.  While this text may be more difficult for visual learners to grasp, parental guidance could bring the visual components to life.

Overall, I appreciated how this Biblical narrative brought personality and details to a character whose thoughts and feelings are primarily unknown otherwise. In addition, the author brings a human character study to Longinus as he struggles with what he was taught in Roman society and the part he has played in the death of Jesus Christ. 

Even his Roman education allows him to parallel his understanding of the sacrifice Jesus has just made.  In his culture, if he made a mistake in battle and the unit's legion was captured – then every tenth man would be beaten to death by his friends and fellow soldiers as a way of atoning for the sin of losing the standard.

The reader hears the inner workings of his mind and feels the struggle and emotion this man felt.  The book was hard to put down sometimes, and my parents have already asked to borrow the book themselves!

-Product review by Lynne Westbrook, LPC, The Old Schoolhouse ® Magazine, LLC, June 2021