What happened on Easter morning? N.T. Wright believes that this question – the central theme of the book – is closely related to the question of why Christianity began, and why it took the shape it did. His intention was to write about the historical beginnings of Christianity and about the question of God – not an easy undertaking, given the amount of historical and theological thinking that has been invested in researching this topic, this is perhaps why the book has turned out to be that voluminous (more than 800 pages). Its purpose, Wright contends, is determined by two sub-questions: what did the early Christians think happened to Jesus, and what can we today say about the plausibility of those beliefs?
Wright is well aware of the two hundred-year fight to keep history and theology at arm’s length. The resurrection accounts in the canonical gospels have almost routinely been treated by post-Enlightenment scholarship as mere back-projections of later Christian belief, with only shaky claims to historical veracity, he claims. This understanding of Jesus’ resurrection is still widely accepted in scholarship and many mainline churches: ‘resurrection’ could mean a variety of different things; Paul, did not believe in bodily resurrection, but held a ‘spiritual’ view; the earliest Christians used ‘resurrection’ language initially to denote such a belief but underwent a kind of fantasy or hallucination; and, finally, whatever happened to Jesus’ body, it was certainly not ‘raised from the dead’ in the sense that the gospel stories seem to require. Wright challenges this by saying that the resurrection of Jesus was just as controversial nineteen hundred years ago as it is today. The discovery that dead people stay dead was not first made by the philosophers of the Enlightenment.
Wright shows that this position, fashionable as it has been, leads to enormous historical problems which disappear when treated as descriptions of what the first Christians believed actually happened. They are not the leaves on the branches of early Christianity. They look very much like the trunk from which the branches themselves sprang.
Is there an alternative explanation for the rise of the early church? Early Christianity was a ‘resurrection’ movement through and through and Wright states precisely what ‘resurrection’ involves (going through death and out into a new kind of bodily existence beyond, happening in two stages, with Jesus first and everyone else later). Early Christianity’s answer was based on a firm belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead, his tomb was empty, and several people, who had not previously been followers of Jesus, claimed to have seen him alive in a way for which the readily available language of ghosts, spirits and the like is inappropriate. If one takes away either of these historical conclusions, the belief of the early church becomes inexplicable, Wright claims.
So, what is the ultimate theological impact of the resurrection? Wright offers some hints in the final chapter: "Death—the unmaking of the Creator’s image-bearing creatures—was not seen as a good thing, but as an enemy to be defeated. ... The early Christians saw Jesus’ resurrection as the act of the covenant god, fulfilling his promises to deal with evil at last" (727). Furthermore, "[c]alling Jesus ‘son of god’ ... constituted a refusal to retreat, a determination to stop Christian discipleship turning into a private cult, a sect, a mystery religion. It launched a claim on the world ... It grew from an essentially positive view of the world, of creation. It refused to relinquish the world to the principalities and powers, but claimed even them for allegiance to the Messiah who was now the lord, the kyrios" (729). And, finally: "The resurrection, in the full Jewish and early Christian sense, is the ultimate affirmation that creation matters, that embodied human beings matter" (730).
These powerful messages, emanating from the historicity of the resurrection, offer the grounds for preaching the message of hope to a distressed and desperate humanity, a message that proves that the resurrection in fact is the reason behind the powerful start of Christianity as a world-changing grassroots movement that it truly has been.
Dr. Erastos Filos, Physicist, Brussels, Belgium
The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God series Book 3) Kindle Edition
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About the Author
A former teacher of New Testament studies at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and McGill, N.T. Wright is among the most interesting and respected New Testament scholars currently at work. His many publications include The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, The Challenge of Jesus and (with Marcus Borg) The Meaning of Jesus. Writing as Tom Wright, he is also the author of the popular...for Everyone New Testament guides. N.T. Wright is Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, and SPCK Research Fellow. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"- 'The sweep of Wright's project as a whole is breathtaking. It is impossible to give a fair assessment of his achievement without sounding grandiose: no New Testament scholar since Bultmann has ever attempted - let alone achieved - such an innovative and comprehensive account of New Testament history and theology.' Richard B. Hays on The New Testament and the People of God --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- File Size : 7939 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 860 pages
- Publisher : SPCK (7 June 2012)
- ASIN : B008HHAIP0
- Language: : English
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: 306,667 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Theological Implications from the Historicity of Jesus' ResurrectionReviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 October 2020
A conservative interpretation of the resurrection tradition in the New TestamentReviewed in the United Kingdom on 6 June 2020
Reviews of this book indicate some major questions other scholars have about it, many of which I share. In a book I have just submitted to a publisher I compare Wright's view to those held by to other equally distinguished New Testament scholars, and the differences between them simply illustrate how difficult it is to be certain about any interpretation.
Five StarsReviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 May 2018
well worth reading
ResurrectionReviewed in the United Kingdom on 2 June 2003
Like the previous two books in the series this is not a light read, but worth the effort. In spite of NT Wright's obvious learning it remains approachable to more 'normal' readers. Section 2 (Resurrection and Paul) left my head particularly spinning, but the problem is excess of detail - sight of the larger picture is always firmly in view. While the size of the book is a bit of an obstacle it has meant that the idea of resurrection has been with me long enough to have had its impact on my worldview. In short: if you want light entertainment, buy a novel; if you are serious about Christian beliefs and want to have your worldview changed, buy this book.
88 people found this helpful
Stephen H. Ford
Length matters—860 pages!Reviewed in Canada on 22 June 2020
Willi Marxsen said it in one sentence, "God's cause is our cause." Norman Perrin gave an account of the synoptic gospels in eighty-five pages (The Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke [Fortress 1977, 2006]). He did not discuss John because he said that he lacked the requisite expertise. Some aspects are up for grabs in any case; i.e. that 'spiritual body' in 1 Corinthians 15 may mean an empirical body (here on earth) motivated by "spirit." As Sara Coleridge argued, however, we need not press for details regarding the sure and certain hope (Memoir and Letters of Sara Coleridge, edited by her daughter Edith, 1873). Teach me Torah while I am standing on one foot, please.