Ethical and Situational Themes Q/A

Below are my ANSWERS to READER QUESTIONS about uncomfortable elements in the book. (See general Ethical and Situational Themes).

Only read on if you need to know these issues for the sake of your children.

It WILL spoil the story.

Alternately, return here AFTER reading the book to get your burning questions answered.

Q 1) Was Marcellus sexually assaulted?

Q2) Why did the mother allow the children to journey to Constantinople alone?

Q3) Why did Byziana return to Antioch?

Q4) How could honorable Gaius Justus abandon his children?

Q5) Did Gallus get away scot-free?

Q6) Why didn’t they copy the Scripture scrolls?

–with specific spoilers–

Question 1. Was Marcellus sexually assaulted? Something about the scene, perhaps that Belisarius’ men were visiting prostitutes, made me wonder if he had been sexually assaulted. Other reasons included that Marcellus was pained in body and soul, he would die before speaking of it to anyone, he awoke [in his own bed] the next morning unclothed and bruised, and he vomited when he remembered what happened.
“Sorrow and grief and shame from last night flooded over me. Nothing short of cruelty would have spurred men to such actions. Men in the red capes should not have sullied the honor of Christian Rome.”
  • Answer: Yes, this is what happened. Sexual (or physical) assault of some sort. Nowhere in the book does it explain the details. The reader’s question quoted pretty much the only specific details given about the incident. It was a quick scene about “something bad” happening, though his guilt and shame and anger fuels Marcellus throughout the book until he finds forgiveness and love for his enemies.
  • Is this appropriate in a “children’s book”? No. But it is a topic other YA books discuss. And unfortunately is a topic found on social media. Thus the rating 12 to adult. That said, reviewers have said that their young (6 year old) children have eagerly looked forward to the next chapter of Trunk of Scrolls each night.  So Marcellus’s injuries can be innocently understood.
  • Fact of the Matter: I’m sorry to say that this is also historically verified as happening in Antioch at the time. Chrysostom wrote specifically against these vices. There is nothing new under the sun.

Question 2. Why would Marcellus’ mother allow teens with small children to embark on such a long and harrowing journey? On foot! As a mother, I could not wrap my mind around this even if teens were viewed as adults in that age.
  • Answer: Fourteen-year-old Byziana, who is determined to walk to Constantinople, has neither mother or father to guide her. Her mother has died, her father has disappeared. Her semi-guardian is her mother’s cousin, Lady Aemelia (Marcellus’s mother). She wants to go to her father in Constantinople, is persuaded by her father’s steward, Gallus, that she is needed in Constantinople and should leave at once.
  • Because her father “calls her,” and because the second earthquake has destroyed her home and made her terrified to stay in Antioch, she does not bend to obey her “aunt.” But presses forward willfully and foolishly. The aunt has no way to restrain her, and tries to believe the father has called them, so instead she sends her sixteen-year-old son, Marcellus, to keep them safe. Gallus, technically the family’s guard, sends a strong servant, Trolius, along with them to help protect the party.
  • In the same way that Syrians, after this recent war destroyed their cities, left their home on foot, our small family from Antioch (in Syria) joins other families abandoning the city, all hoping to find a new future in Constantinople.
  • Fact of the Matter: The path they took was called the Pilgrim’s Way because in the early church days people were walking that road to get from their homes to Jerusalem as a pilgrimage destination. The spots that our characters stayed were famous for being stop-over spots for these pilgrims and merchants.
  • For additional information on this journey read Travels of Egeria. Egeria was single woman pilgrim who traveled this path on her own in the early 380s, whose anecdotes were very instrumental in my understanding of this journey. Interestingly, she actually celebrated Christmas in Jerusalem during this pilgrimage, showing that the holiday was an early development and already structured by the time of Constantine.

Question 3. Having journeyed so far and at such a great cost, why didn’t Byziana complete the quest to Constantinople?
  • Answer: This is where wisdom catches up with Byziana. She is scared-to-death for what she has done. As a stubborn, independent young woman she had set off on an “nothing can hurt me” journey but realizes how close she brought the family to death.
  • When Marcellus and her brother Justin disappear, she is still not very close to Constantinople. At this point she is not even a third of the way there. She has no escort and no money. When she finds a party of travelers returning to Antioch, she high-tails it home, with her life and the life of her sisters. She wants what is safe and known, even in a broken world, and not the unknown and dangerous.

Question 4. If Byziana’s father were truly an honorable man, why didn’t he return for his children? Surely he knew they were destitute.
  • Answer: Gaius Justus returned to Constantinople in search of honor and fame, rubbing shoulders with the rich-and-famous. He found out his family was destitute after he had already lost everything. He was ashamed and penniless. His lack of providing for his family was covered-over by Aemelia who pretended he had been sending money.
  • This element of the story–poverty, debt, slavery, injustice, destitution–is a demonstration of the earlier saying, “your view on Chalcedon determines everything, even the god you serve.” Everyone THOUGHT Gaius Justus was honorable, but his actions throughout the story showed he did not really love others, just loved what he got out of it.
  • Gaius Justus was a worldly man, selfish until the events at the end of the story. He chose to believe what “everyone else” believed. He even commanded his wife Sophia to just let other people think for her and to fall in line. We see from this that he did not care for truth or for God or for Scripture. His god was honor itself. 

Question 5. What happened to Gallus? Did he get away scot-free?
  • Answer:  One of the issues we suffer through in life is bad men who get-away with evil. It hurts, for a long time, when people go scot-free though they’ve done great wickedness to us.
  • Understanding God’s forgiveness means finding meaning in the promise of future recompense of God. No one will get away with it. As with us, we sometimes never know what happens. The loose-end is left swaying for Marcellus and Byziana–though at this point so many other things have happened that what Gallus did was almost minute.
  • The Gallus / Indulf questions will be cleared up in Dragon over Constantinople (Trunk of Scrolls II).

 Question 6. Why after Marcellus lamented about not making copies of the scrolls did he not attempt to do so when he was in possession of them again?
  • Answer: Simply put, at this point, he was afraid to break an unspoken “law of God” to copy Scripture without authorization by the Church.
  • Fact of the Matter: Reading Biblical scrolls by the laity was actually against Byzantine law, and the copying of them was also forbidden by law except by those who had special training–ie: in the monasteries.
  • The Trunk of Scrolls characters, including Marcellus, wish they could make copies, they want to give copies, they wished they had been brave enough or foolish enough to break the law.
  • This family was the ONLY family with a Bible. Scripture was becoming restricted, all the things that were ABOUT to go wrong with the Church were starting to go wrong and limits put on Scripture is where it all began. So the family’s desire to preserve Scripture was a pre-Wycliffe/Tyndale/Luther call for Reformation of the Church.
  • These are freedoms we have in the 20th century. We so easily send people Bible verses in all forms of social media, because we CAN. We have been given this great gift: the whole Bible as close as our smartphone, a world of media to employ to get copies into the hands of those who have never heard.
  • We are so blessed to have full access to and free use of His Word, which was not true for any generation as much as ours today. It should remind us, that to whom much is given much is required. May your “Trunk of Scrolls” never get dusty or forgotten in a corner. May it be your delight.

Ethical and Situational Themes

Trunk of Scrolls is an historical fiction book. It is also our story, of life and problems we face in the 21st century.

These themes are not lightweight, yet in the context of family reading time Trunk of Scrolls opens up discussion into these important ideas, from a conservative Christian point of view.

During the Byzantine times, many changes in church and culture were setting the stage for the errors of the Middle Ages, issues which Martin Luther and the other reformers sounded the alarm. Those who had access to the Bible were unique in that they still had something to refer to upon which to base their challenges. Trunk of Scrolls is about the Only Family left with a Bible.


Due to some serious ethical and situational themes in the book, Trunk of Scrolls needs parental guidance for children 12 or younger.

—spoiler alert–

Topical Themes: Why does God allow bad things to happen to us? Why does it matter what we believe? Is the dual-nature of Christ even important? Should I give up my dreams for the good of my family? How sovereign is God? Should we obey the government at the cost of our faith? How can I prove myself a man?  Are relics useful? How trustworthy is God? How helpful is the Bible for answering these issues?

The characters struggle with many big problems because their lives have been struck by a natural disaster. Families can spend time discussing these issues if desired, or let the characters live-out the solutions. The StudyGuide is helpful for families in this.

Ethical/Situational themes: Death,  robbery, destitution, sickness, prostitution, sexual-abuse, debt, carnal living, deception, slavery and kidnapping are some of the BIG ISSUES faced by the family. 

These are big topics. Under the guidance of a parent, these issues can be discussed or slipped-over. The prostitution and sexual-abuse topics are subtle enough that younger readers will not necessarily notice, and innocence can be preserved. The only thing directly spoken of is a “bad thing” that happened. Older children will most likely understand.

Other less-critical but sensitive issues: irresponsible parenting, disobedient children, the death of a pet, losing everything in an earthquake, being lost, being attacked by wolves, being drugged by kidnappers, fighting alcoholism.

With a list like that! But wait…by no means is this a downer of a book! Yes, the main characters have a lot against them after the earthquakes, but on the contrary…

It is an investigation, through story, into suffering as the context for us to come to know God’s great love. Readers discover that suffering proves the necessity of Christ being both God and man and learn to triumph in difficulty through knowing God and his Word.

It is about faith and trust, about keeping true to God no matter the cost, about reading your Bible and growing in faith because of it. 

I am a mother of four, a classroom teacher, a history teacher, a homeschool teacher and a pastor’s wife. As such I wrote a book that instructs in history, guides in faith and entertains the mind.

May it be a blessing to your family.


Ephesians 4:29: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Questions and Answers about specific, sensitive elements in Trunk of Scrolls.

WARNING: This link contains spoilers, so you should read the book first for full enjoyment of the story.

Trunk of Scrolls as Curriculum

Church History Curriculum

Trunk of Scrolls is so full of history, it COULD HAVE been true!

Omnibus II and Church History Curriculum

Church Fathers to the Reformation, Trunk of Scrolls Tie-in

When scheduling your year of Church Fathers to the Reformation, perhaps with Veritas Press Omnibus II, you can fit Trunk of Scrolls easily into the plan.

  1. According to the Apologia Scale*,  Trunk of Scrolls would rank 6.7.8 (Theology, History, Literature).
  2. If you are using the Apologia Reading Schedule, use Trunk of Scrolls during Weeks 3-9 of the Secondary Books. While The Nine Tailors and The Dragon and the Raven are good books in their own right, your student will gain more from Trunk of Scrolls in terms of history, theology and literature. [Nine Tailors: 1.0.9; Dragon and Raven 1.6.3; *scale and reading schedule is on p.477 of Omnibus II]
  3. If you are willing to incorporate Trunk of Scrolls into your Omnibus Curriculum, download the FREE Study Guide.
  4. Purchase the paperback and ebook through the Publisher or the Kindle on Amazon.

Click for more….Download the FREE Study Guide Today!

Trunk of Scrolls Video

Wondering a bit about Trunk of Scrolls?

watch the trailer here…

Note: Because of some big themes, this book is appropriate for independent reading ages 12 to adult, or with parent guidance, read-aloud for younger children.

Trunk of Scrolls-Free Resource Pack

7th-12th grade study guide,  Book-club discussion questions and a web-based research guide.


Free Study Guide Download

The questions in this guide are appropriate for family read-aloud time with younger children, or 7th to 12th grade classroom/homeschool assignments. Topic areas such as History, Geography, Art, Social, Politics, Ethics, Cultural, and Research are addressed. Includes short and long-term research project ideas.

My hope is that this novel will open to the reader the time period of the early church and that by their investigation, they will be better and more faithful individuals.

Download your free copy of the STUDY GUIDE
Trunk of Scrolls Study Guide

note: due to some serious ethical and situational themes in the book, this book needs parental guidance for children 12 or younger.

FREE Book-club Discussion Questions

Most appropriate for adults, these questions help you apply the allegorical world of Trunk of Scrolls to your own life at work, at church, at home.

Download your free copy

Web-Based Research Guide

Knowledge is addictive, and primary source history surfing is the next-best thing to time-travel.  For more information on some of the critical elements from TRUNK OF SCROLLS, take a look at the following pages with their links.  Enjoy the trip!  



The TRUNK OF SCROLLS weaves historical fact with Christian truths and the misadventures of endearing characters: a Tolkienesque journey tale where the trolls and dragons are those we really meet in American Christian life.

………….FREEBIE! ………….
To prepare for your journey, READ THE LOST TRUNK
a free serial-novel introducing Trunk of Scrolls.

Facts of the Matter: Story of Scripture

scroll-1410168_1280STORY OF SCRIPTURE

The Word in the World


For thousands of years the people of God had no full copy of God’s Word. The Israelites of the Exodus had the word of Moses, and the books he was writing. Otherwise it was hearsay. The judges had a couple more books. The kings had the books of Moses up through Samuel.

God commanded Israel that when kings would finally reign:

“…when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them (Deut 17:18-19).


During the time of the kings the historical books and the wisdom books were pulled together: Ruth, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. And the later kings required the prophetical books spoken against them. The more God spoke, it seems, the more people ignored him.

We can’t make a blanket statement that all people neglected the word of God, but the story of Israel is our story. We must draw from it the lessons and message God intends:

“We all like sheep have gone astray.”


The prophets warned and Israel blocked their ears, so Assyria took away the northern kingdom. Yet God continued to speak. When Babylon came to take away Judah, the scrolls went with them. In Babylon and in Egypt (those who escaped) the scrolls were collected and compiled into the Old Testament we have today. While in Babylon during the exile and after Jews returned to Israel were added: the exilic prophets Jeremiah (Lamentations), Ezekiel, Daniel; and the post-exilic historical writings of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther and prophetical writings of Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi. (see graphics below)

Post-exilic Prophets

In other words, by the time they came back to the land and were settled after the decree of Cyrus, they clearly knew God’s expectations for them and had a renewed and more-detailed promise about the rescuer who would come.

Four hundred years of silence later, one voice in the desert speaks:

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” and “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

400 Years of Silence

It should have been clear that this message (after that long silence) was the apex. But only some people were caught aware: Mary & Simeon in the birth narrative and James and John in the Baptism narrative.

By the end of the next three years we have a huddled mass of people in an upper room, afraid to open the door to whom a resurrected savior appears. Then everything changed.

New Testament Gospels & Epistles

In the whirr of the next sixty years Christianity, the new covenant, grows and spreads by the instigation of the spoken and written word. These words, treasured and collected, were passed around and recopied.

By AD 110, Polycarp, Justin Martyr and Clement of Rome and had referred to 20 out of the 27 books that are in today’s New Testament. (see graphic below)

Then by AD 180, 26 of the 27 books were readily acknowledged and known by most of the church fathers, and in 230 the last book, Second Peter, was referred to by Origen.

Has Jesus Been Misquoted? Click for more on HOW RELIABLE or TRUSTWORTHY the Manuscripts can be.

Duplicated, Copied, Distributed

The LORD spoke, the church had his Word. Scholars could read it. Even early on scholars would make copies of Scripture for others. Eusebius wrote of his teacher Pamphilus who he gave (not merely lent) scholars copies of the Scriptures, of which he kept an extensive supply. (SOURCE)

But it wasn’t until the advent of the printing press and when the Bible was translated into the spoken language by men like Wycliffe and Luther that the common man finally could have their own copy.


Now the Scripture is as close as our next phone call. Searching for a verse or a topic takes the click of a couple fingers.

Are we any better off than any of these people since the Israelites coming out of Egypt?
Your answer to that is up to you.


Do you have Your Scrolls?


History of Parchment & Papyrus

Development of the Canon

Story of Scripture

Codex Sinaiticus

Codes Alexandrinus

Development of the Old Testament

Development of OT Books
Development of OT Books

Chronological Order of Old Testament Books

Chronological Order of Old Testament Books
Chronological Order of Old Testament Books

New Testament Books Referred to by Early Church Fathers

Early Church Fathers references to NT
Early Church Fathers references to NT

[How Did We Get the Bible We Have?]
[How Did the Bible Develop?]