I have just started reading NT Wright’s book, the Resurrection of the Son of God. In the first chapter, Wright lays the groundwork for his 800+ page assertion that the physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead was a real historical event which can be shown to have occurred, with evidence:
Wright asserts that the Christian movement could not have developed and spread so rapidly within the Jewish community of the first century unless Jesus really and truly…physically…rose from the dead. The physical resurrection of a dead person was inconceivable in first century Judaism. No one would have converted to this new Faith based on such an outrageous, unheard of, supernatural assertion…unless…people had really witnessed and interacted with, a resurrected, walking, talking dead man.
Quote : “Never before had there been a movement which began as a quasi-Messianic group within Judaism and was transformed into a sort of movement which Christianity quickly became. Nor has any similar phenomenon ever occurred again. The common post-Enlightenment perception of Christianity as simply ‘a religion’ masks the huge differences, at the point of origin, between this movement and , say, the rise of Islam or of Buddhism. Both pagan and Jewish observers of this new movement found it highly anomalous: it was not a club, not even like a religion (no sacrifices, no images, no oracles, no garlanded priests, certainly not like a racially based cult.
…how might we speak of such a thing, which had not been seen before and has never been seen since?
…If we are to speak truly about the early church, we must describe something for which there was no precedent and of which there remains no subsequent example. In addition, as we shall see, the early church by its very existence forces upon us the question which we, as historians, must ask: what precisely happened after Jesus’ crucifixion that caused early Christianity to come into being: Ironically, then, it is precisely the uniqueness of the early church that forces us to say : never mind analogies, what happened”
I get the feeling that the remainder of this book will be based solely on this “evidence”. I hope not, because I believe it is an inaccurate assertion. I believe that it can be proven very easily to be an inaccurate assertion.
Do radical, world-view-altering, new beliefs occur within very stable, mature belief systems? Let’s look at Christianity. For almost 1,800 years the Christian Church believed that God’s full revelation, his complete message to mankind, had been revealed in the Old and New Testaments. In the early 1800’s a Christian man living in New York state claimed to have received a new message, a new testament, from God. Hundreds, then thousands, and today 15,000,000 of this Christian man’s followers believe this shocking, radical teaching, never heard of before in the Christian Faith. It is called Mormonism.
How about Judaism? Wright claims that this phenomenon has never occurred in Judaism. I guess that Wright does not consider the movement of Menachem Mendel Schneerson to be equivalent. Many would disagree with Wright on this point.
Let’s keep reading.
See part 2 here.