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Revisiting the Empty Tomb: The Early History of Easter

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The Gospels disagree on what happened at the empty tomb, on who was there, and on what they saw or heard. The fact that our earliest written witness to the risen Christ, Paul, says nothing of the empty tomb has long provoked the question, what did early believers know about Easter, and when did they know it? Daniel A. Smith seeks to get behind the theological and apologetic concern to “prove” the resurrection and asks, where did the accounts of the early tomb come from, and what purpose did they originally serve? He shows that Paul is a valuable witness to the development of Easter traditions; that Q was already interested in connecting the disappearance of Jesus with his future role; that Mark was interested in the disappearance of Jesus, rather than in the empty tomb as such; and that both sources had interests different from the later Gospels.

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  • Provides careful and insightful discussions of the earliest traditions about Jesus’ disappearance
  • Draws significant implications for a theory of Christian origins
  • When the Dead and/or Gone Appear to the Living
  • Paul: “Last of All, He Appeared Also to Me”
  • Empty Tombs and Missing Bodies in Antiquity
  • The Sayings Gospel Q: “You Will Not See Me”
  • Mark: When the Bridegroom Is Taken Away
  • Luke: “Why Do Doubts Arise in Your Hearts?”
  • Matthew: “And Behold, Jesus Met Them”
  • John: “Where I Am Going, You Cannot Come”
  • Rewriting the Empty Tomb: Early Christian Deployments and Developments
  • Revisiting the Empty Tomb: Why Beginnings Matter
Smith has given us a carefully reasoned and original piece of scholarship that allows us to think about some old issues from new points of view. The fresh approach to Q and Jesus’ vindication is particularly suggestive. A solid contribution to a perennially fascinating topic.

Dale C. Allison Jr., Erret M. Gragle Professor of New Testament, Pittsburg Theological Seminary

In Revisiting the Empty Tomb, Daniel Smith advances a thesis that makes sense of several puzzles that have plagued scholarship on the resurrection account. On his showing, the empty tomb story is not, as many had thought, fabricated as a deduction from the announcement of the resurrection of Jesus. Instead it belongs to a different complex of representations of the vindication of Jesus—the belief that he, like Elijah, Enoch, and other heroes was assumed and was therefore ‘not seen.’ Smith’s important and lucidly argued work promises to help sort out many of the complexities of the accounts of Jesus’ post-mortem vindication. A ‘must read’ for anyone concerned with the beliefs of the earliest Jesus-movement.

John S. Kloppenborg, professor, Department of Religion, University of Toronto

  • Title: Revisiting the Empty Tomb: The Early History of Easter
  • Author: Daniel A. Smith
  • Publisher: Augsburg Fortress
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Pages: 267

Dan Smith teaches in the areas of biblical Greek, biblical exegesis, the Synoptic Gospels, the letters of Paul, and apocalyptic literature. Areas of research interest include the Sayings Gospel Q, Life of Jesus Research, and Christian Origins. Dan is the author of several articles published in scholarly journals (including Theological Studies, Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, and Novum Testamentum), and also of the monograph The Post-Mortem Vindication of Jesus in the Sayings Gospel Q, (London; New York: T & T Clark International, 2007). He is currently working on a book entitled Revisiting the Empty Tomb: Narrative and Theological Developments in the Empty Tomb Stories. Dan and his family live in London and are members of the Anglican Church of Canada. &


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