This is the ninth excerpt in what will be a series of ten (with the entire series of excerpts available here) from Maurice Casey’s about to arrive volume titled Jesus of Nazareth. It is, I have to admit, a very persuasive volume. Being someone who doesn’t really think we can know much at all about the Historical Jesus (because the Gospels, our only real source for the life of Jesus aren’t biographies and were never intended to be read as if they were), I received the proofs of the volume with more than a little skepticism. ‘Oh, here we go again….” I thought to myself, ‘another one of many in a long line of purely speculative works which somehow or other are able to make a suit out of a button.’
I’m glad to say that I’ve taken away from this volume a surer certainty that there are things we actually can know about the historical Jesus and that these things can truly be termed ‘historical’.
Is that to say that I agree with Casey on every point? I can’t, and don’t. But has there ever been anyone who agreed with someone else about every point? Hardly. What Casey does is present a solidly reasoned and well presented reconstruction of the life of Jesus that has more of the ring of truth to it than any that I’ve read (since Bultmann’s slim volume- which, to me, is still the high water mark).
Here’ the ninth excerpt. The tenth and final comes tomorrow.
The belief that Jesus rose from the dead has been a central feature of Christianity from the earliest times. As Paul put it: But if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is vain too (1 Cor. 15.14). Scholars have however found the origins of Christian belief in Jesus’ Resurrection very difficult to understand. Moreover, the subject is phenomenally controversial, because religious and anti- religious convictions about it are so strong. Conservative Christians believe not merely that Jesus rose from the dead, but that he rose bodily from the dead, leaving an empty tomb behind. This is in accordance with the witness of all four canonical Gospels. In recent years, there have been two outstanding scholarly defences of this tradition, the standard works of William Lane Craig, and of Bishop Tom Wright. Many educated Christians, on the other hand, believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, but not bodily. They follow what used to be a conventional view among critical scholars, that the disciples saw appearances of Jesus after his death, but that the stories of the empty tomb are not literally true. As Barnabas Lindars put it, ‘so far from being the origin of belief in the Resurrection, the empty tomb stories arose from this belief.’
Casey follows this observation with his final chapter – on the question of the resurrection. This chapter will be of great interest to many.