Thursday, December 8, 2011

Troubles with the resurrection

I gave my paper on the resurrection narratives at the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies annual conference the other day. Generally speaking I spoke about the narratives and their possible contribution to history in a way which was naive and positivist, that is, I did not take sufficient account of the progress of historiography both in general terms and with particular reference to the history of Jesus. However I have secured a likely publication in a revamped Stimulus journal (some NZ readers will know of it - it is currently in abeyance but is going to be, well, resurrected next year), so one task at present is a radical rewrite of my paper into something less susceptible to criticism when published.

Part of what I would like to tackle in the revision is the question of how we say something briefly yet substantively about the resurrection. There are a lot of 'troubles with the resurrection' - questions and issues which multiply upon one another, partly because of the differences in gospel accounts, and partly because of differences between the gospels and Paul's account of the tradition he received (1 Corinthians 15). Dealing with these troubles can take a big book, and has done so in one of the most recent apologia, Tom Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God.  Another recent book, Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach is no thinner.

But practically speaking many Christians deal with resurrection troubles in situations where it is inappropriate to say, "Look, read this massive book, it will answer all your doubts." Many Easters one of our media outlets publishes a "Resurrection Troubles" article which is just a few pages long and the main avenue of response would be a letter to the editor of 150 to 200 words in length. Or, around that time, a preacher might respond to the troubles which sit within our sceptical culture but has at most 30 minutes to tackle the troubles (which might be 3000 words or less). So, as I rework my own troubled offering on the resurrection narratives, one of my "driver" questions will be, Can we say anything worthwhile about the resurrection in a concise form?


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

So, as I rework my own troubled offering on the resurrection narratives, one of my "driver" questions will be, Can we say anything worthwhile about the resurrection in a concise form?

Peter, I don't know if this falls within the ballpark of your question, but I'm hoping that this excerpt on my blog from Luke Timothy Johnson's Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel which I entitled "Jesus: Dead or Alive" is helpful. I find that Johnson's perspective cuts through a lot of B.S. (academic or otherwise).

Anonymous said...

Peter Williams of Tyndale House says "something worthwhile about the resurrection" in about 5 minutes in the Q & A section at the end of his videoed lecture at Lanier Theological Library dealing with the differences in the accounts (time/number of women/number of angels/"men"/locations etc), developing the methodology from Richard Bauckham.
Google Lanier Theological Library (Past Events) or link thru Sydney Anglicans.
Briefly: at least six women are mentioned, so you have multliple testimony. Pete Williams does an excellent job in communication.


Anonymous said...

Here's the link gto Peter Williams' lecture:


Andrew Reid said...

I find Ezekiel 37 a great source for a short talk or written piece about resurrection. It's got great visuals (a valley of dry bones coming to life), most people know it at least through the Dry Bones song, and it communicates that God is powerful enough to raise the dead. I think the key issue for most people isn't "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" but "Can God raise the dead?" They dismiss Jesus' resurrection because they dismiss any resurrection.
Or the story of Lazarus is another good place to focus, because it shows the raising to life of someone dead for three days, and that Jesus is the focus of resurrection life.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for helpful suggestions!