Elizabeth L. Sammons

The Lyra and the Cross

A Story of Friendship, Forgiveness, and Faith

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Three friends, two cultures, and one faith. Thus begins the life-changing journey to Jerusalem for Saul of Tarsus, his best friend, Stephanos, and Stephanos' little sister, Irini. Young Saul finds the meaning of his life when he meets Rabboni Gamaliel, a great teacher of the law. But that same day shatters the world of Stephanos and Irini with the sudden death of their father.

After years when Saul studies scripture at Jerusalem's great Temple, while Stephanos and Irini struggle to survive in Tarsus, the three friends reunite, but under far different circumstances. The rule of Rome and the rise of rabbis like John the Baptist have transformed Palestine into a cauldron boiling over with political and religious anger. The death of Jesus a few years later throws the Jewish world into discord. While Stephanos embraces Jesus as Messiah and forgiver of all sins, Saul remains true to the law and traditions both boys have learned since childhood.

"All forgiveness does is set you free; it lets you think just about yourself. Honor is a different thing. You know it as a Greek, not only as a Jew. Honor is what makes you strong. It binds you to your past. It shapes your life with form and meaning," Saul explains to Stephanos.

This novel looks deeply into two distinct world views, the Hellenic and the Jewish. Along the way, stories of slaves becoming freedmen, people seeking their roots, and souls questioning their beliefs intersect with the start of a new faith later called Christianity.

The author has combined her years as translator, creative artist, journalist, and Christian thinker to depict a history relevant to the interfaith struggles of our own century. The cross-dressing Irini, the honor-bound Saul, and the unknowingly heroic Stephanos will live in readers' minds long after the close of this volume.

Click Below to Read a Sample

Listen to Elizabeth Play the Lyra

It’s possible you’ve never made the connection between our English words "lyre" and "lyrics." In ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel, most poetry was read to harmonic accompaniment, often with a lyre. These words keep the ancient tie between word and music. To give you a small but mighty feel for how this could have sounded, I play my lyra as my friend Ruth Watts reads a passage opening Homer's epic The Odyssey. Ruth proceeds to several selections from Acts in the New Testament that describe the surprising degree of cross-cultural communication and also conflict marking first-century Israel. The scale I play is an ancient Greek series of notes. While we don't know exactly how music sounded then, I hope this creative rendition will give the feel for the lyra/lyric connection. A special tweet of thanks goes to a southern mockingbird who volunteered his voice near the end of this selection.

To hear Elizabeth play the lyra as ancient Greek texts are read aloud, click on the following link:

Amazon Reader Reviews of the First Edition

Historical fiction at its best!

5.0 out of 5 stars

Historical fiction at its best! The author explores the politics, religion and culture that provides structure in the volatile world at the time of Christ. With a deep understanding of character, classical mythology, and history, Sammons weaves a story of three friends that bridge the divide between two cultures and a dynamic faith. Information about the moral codes, political intrigues, religious strictures, medicine, and social expectations included in this sweeping story make it ring with truth and clarity.


Hard to put this beautifully written book down.

5.0 out of 5 stars

The Lyra and the Cross is an elegantly written entirely engrossing read. Telling the tale of Stephen, who became a martyr shortly after the birth of Christianity, Elizabeth Sammons captures the culture of the time and the passion of the various people involved with the changing religion of the day. Her knowledge of Judaism, Greek culture, and the birth of Christianity is quite amazing as she draws you into the drama.


A Missionary Tract to be Sure but Beautifully Written

5.0 out of 5 stars

The premise is clear: Judaism = Bad; Christianity = Good.
It is a premise that insults everything as a Rabbi I believe.
And yet the author’s faith is true and sincere. I give full credit for that
And she writes with surpassing skill. She sketches her characters with precision and subtlety. I do not, of course, accept her premise, but I embrace her skill as a writer.

—Stephen Fuchs

Couldn't stop reading

5.0 out of 5 stars

The biblical characters came alive. Great reading for those who believe and those who do not.

—Michael, Columbus OH

A Well-Researched Historical Novel

5.0 out of 5 stars

'The Lyra and the Cross' is an historical novel that tells the story of Greek visitors to the Holy Land at the birth of Christianity. The book puts the reader into the scenes with the use of descriptive language that is obviously the result of intensive study of the era by the author. I've always liked books that create scenes that play out in the mind's eye like scenes from a movie. This book does that as it describes Palm Sunday and the early life of Saul among other stories in its pages. While I've often disliked books that use first person stories that flip from one narrator to another, this book handles that technique very well. Chapter headings make it clear who is speaking and the book moves the story forward by spreading the narrative among the main characters. This book is worth the reading to gain another perspective on life in the very important time of the start of Chrisitianity.

—Tom M.

A riveting tale of culture, religion and character

5.0 out of 5 stars

Sammons has told this story masterfully, creatively infusing historical and biblical context with descriptive and emotional storytelling all her own. Cross-cultural narratives are attended to with care, as are conversations about religion and many present-day topics Sammons shows have roots thousands of years old. This is at once an intellectual and accessible story that anyone with background in faith, cross-cultural interaction, writing or history will appreciate.


A vibrant and relevant read for many ages

5.0 out of 5 stars

The Lyra and the Cross was a meaningfully crafted, beautifully described work of literature. I so enjoyed getting carried away to an ancient time and space through the author's colorful, creative take on ancient Jerusalem. As a young adult, I would recommend this novel for all ages ranging from young adult to senior readers. Highly recommended!

—Sophia K

About the Author

Elizabeth L. Sammons' love of both scripture and Greek mythology dates back to childhood. So does her fascination with the story of Stephen the Protomartyr and his world. She holds an M.A. in journalism from The Ohio State University. She has lived in six countries, served in the Peace Corps, and taught a course called "The Art and Science of Simultaneous Interpreting." A highlight of her international life included interpreting for several traveling clergy of diverse faith backgrounds and finding the key to conveying their thoughts in cross-cultural settings. She has also done advocacy interpreting in the disability community. The author is open to conducting lectures and sharing thoughts almost anywhere, whether in English, French, or Russian.

This author intends the release of a second novel, With Best Intent, questioning the moral value of genetic testing, and is mapping a third, Translation of Bones, whose primary focus involves the spiritual dilemma of an interpreter who finds out too much about a cross-national cult.

You may find her literary blog at WindowsOfThought.wordpress.com
and may contact her through IAmAntigone@att.net.