Resurrecting Old Arguments: Responding to Four Essays

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author: N. Wright1
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  • 1 Bishop of Durham, Durham, UK
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The author is grateful for the attention given to his book The Resurrection of the Son of God by the four reviewers. David Bryan is right to highlight the Enoch literature as a more fertile source of resurrection ideas than the book allowed for; but he has overstated his objection. Granted that the stream of thought represented by resurrection is more diverse even than RSG allowed, the book's argument did not hinge on the wide spread of resurrection belief at the time but on the meaning of 'resurrection', i.e. a two-stage post-mortem existence, the second stage being a new embodiment. Bryan's suggested elevation of Enoch, Elijah and others as precursors of the exaltation of Jesus fails in that these figures neither die nor are resurrected. James Crossley's counter-proposal—resurrection stories grew from 'visions' which gave rise to the idea of an empty tomb as an attempt to 'vindicate' the 'ideas and beliefs of Jesus'—fails on several counts, not least because it ignores Jesus' kingdom-proclamation which was not the promulgation of ideas and beliefs but the announcement that Israel's God was going to do something that would claim his sovereignty over the world. Michael Goulder revives the highly contentious hypothesis that the early Church was polarized between the Jerusalem apostles, who believed in a non-bodily resurrection, and Pauline Christians for whom the resurrection was bodily. The claim that Mark 16.1-8 is full of contradictions and impossibilities is rejected. Larry Hurtado warns against downplaying the role of experience both in the Christian life and in describing the devotion and liturgy of the early Church. While cautioning against the use of the word 'metaphor' to mean 'less than fully real', I acknowledge the force of the argument, and suggest the cognitive processes I propose and the devotional life sketched by Hurtado are complementary.

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