The Peregrine’s Odyssey

Burnt Offerings - A Novel of Early Christianity

Christiani esse non licit

“It is not lawful to be a Christian”

From the time of Nero in the mid-first century, four words hung over the heads of every Christian for the first three centuries of the nascent Church of the Christos, the God-man.

In 116 AD during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in Syria, heard those four words that sentenced him to death in the Roman Colosseum. His condemnation and martyrdom were witnessed by his closest friend, Gaius Segusiavus, the “Peregrine.”

Through the eyes of Gaius, we travel back in time to October of 96 AD, to Antioch in the Roman province of Syria. On a stormy night in Antioch, Ignatius reveals the story of his mid-life conversion, prompted by a singular event witnessed by his father outside Jerusalem in 30 AD. Gaius, a prosperous merchant from Roman Gaul, a typical believer in the gods, is incredulous at Ignatius’ strange tale and the peculiar history of the followers of Christos. Ignatius, novice Christian, asks a favor of Gaius, a request rooted in his new religion.

Granting Ignatius’ request leads the two friends to the island of Patmos, a Roman penal colony, and a meeting with the last of the twelve apostles, the “Ancient One”, John, the beloved of Christ. Against the backdrop of Trajan’s Roman Empire, Gaius is inexorably drawn into the Christian world as “The Way” spreads throughout the Empire and into Gaius’ own family. We encounter the Christians of Rome, those in Asia and Bithynia; the emperor Trajan, successful in war, reshaping the face of Rome with his monumental building projects; the decorated centurion Maximus who befriends Gaius; the eloquent Roman senator, Pliny the Younger, through whose letters we live the lives of noble Romans; and a vengeful, banished son who will haunt the last days of the “Peregrine.”

Throughout the course of twenty years, from that night in Antioch to a death under the noonday sun in the Colosseum, the lives of Gaius and Ignatius are increasingly intertwined: Ignatius the martyr who becomes one of the most famous and iconic of the early Church Fathers; Gaius who seeks understanding of his closest friend’s faith, while fearing the possibility of hearing those mortal four words.

History and fiction meet in this story of the love of two “brothers” and the story of the Love that conquers both.



Fresh, well-rounded characters in their complexity… an adventure where one finds answers along the way. Hope-filled!!!             L.E.

I read it the first time just for enjoyment. On a second reading I began to see how rich the story was in historical facts that I had skimmed over and how much I enjoyed the second reading. This is a book that inspires me to delve deeper into story.

The story “humanizes” what can be very dry history… the fact of John the Apostle had more of a life after Patmos and was able to continue preaching. I thought he died on the island… the suspense of what seems to be coming in the character of Sagittarius (the grandson) and his Christian mother and how they will guide him in the future as he takes over his grandfather’s business and how the “Wolf” will seek revenge.            S.C.S.

Kleinfall takes you seamlessly back in time, as you venture with early Christians and converts. While submerged in the different cultures and languages, affection grows for the people of the past whose paths of faith we still walk today.   C.E.

Profile Photo Michael Kleinfall

About Michael Kleinfall

Throughout my high school and college years I was fortunate to have a number of literature professors who planted the seeds that someday might sprout a novel or two.

After graduating from the University of California-Davis in 1970 I began a 30-year career in business insurance and risk management.

Now "retired," I have the luxury to pursue that life-long dream of being a published author.

Over the years, I've dabbled in a number of genres and finally found the “it” that I enjoy and that employs my interests and experience.

​For the past fifteen years I have been active in Church ministry. One ministry in particular married an interest in history (Roman imperial period) with the history of early Christianity. The overarching questions I often asked were: What was it like to be one of the first Christians? And, why would a "pagan" get involved with or practice this radically strange religion? How can we, twenty centuries later, relate?

Four years ago, I began this project—a series of historical-fiction novels I call Burnt Offerings—delving into this period of Roman and Christian history, entering the world, the culture, the lives of the first Christians and their Roman neighbors. A secondary purpose was to (re)introduce some of the important Christian figures who were so instrumental in promoting (evangelizing) and defining what Christianity was and would become.

This first book, The Peregrine's Odyssey, begins our journey into this early period of our shared history of western civilization.

All books by Michael Kleinfall

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