In this volume, N. T. Wright takes us on a fascinating journey through ancient beliefs about life after death, from the shadowy figures who inhabit Homer’s Hades, through Plato’s hope for a blessed immortality, to the first century, where the Greek and Roman world (apart from the Jews) consistently denied any possibility of resurrection. We then examine ancient Jewish beliefs on the same subject, from the Bible to the Dead Sea Scrolls and beyond.
This sets the scene for a full-scale examination of early Christian beliefs about resurrection in general and that of Jesus in particular, beginning with Paul and working through to the start of the third century. Wright looks at all the evidence, and asks: Why did Christians agree with Jewish resurrection belief while introducing into it—across the board—significant modifications?
To answer this question we come to the strange and evocative Easter stories in the gospels and asks whether they can have been late inventions. Wright seeks the best historical conclusions about the empty tomb and the belief that Jesus really did rise bodily from the dead, recognizing that it was this belief that caused early Christians to call Jesus “Son of God.” In doing so, they posed a political challenge as well as a theological one. These challenges retain their power in the twenty-first century.
“The shape of the book is thus determined by the two main sub-questions into which the principal question divides: what did the early Christians think had happened to Jesus, and what can we say about the plausibility of those beliefs?” (Page 6)
“Fourth, and quite different from the previous three, there is history as writing-about-events-in-the-past.” (Page 13)
“The hope of the biblical writers, which was strong and constant, focused not upon the fate of humans after death, but on the fate of Israel and her promised land. The nation and land of the present world were far more important than what happened to an individual beyond the grave.” (Page 99)
“Fifth and finally, a combination of (3) and (4) is often found precisely in discussions of Jesus: history as what modern historians can say about a topic.” (Page 13)
“Resurrection means bodily life after ‘life after death’, or, if you prefer, bodily life after the state of ‘death’.” (Pages 108–109)
book really is a bomb thrown into the playground of the theologians. Not only that, it is perhaps even more unusual in being both a joy to read and nearly 850 pages in length . . . It is not only an excellent argument, it is a model for how scholarship should be done.
Wright has succeeded in building a theological cathedral of illuminated historical insights, convincing and surprising exegetical observations, and thoroughly argued systematic conclusions. No prophetic intuition is needed to predict thatthis book will remain a classic.
Scottish Journal of Theology
Theological books can be almost incomprehensible for the ordinary reader. It is a measure of the book’s power and interest that, when I was interrupted in my reading by an unexpected but usually welcome guest, I could hardly conceal my impatience to resume reading. No greater compliment could surely be paid by the lay reader to a distinguished work of theology . . . I shall return many times and always with the expectation of fresh enlightenment and new discoveries.
—P. D. James, author, The Private Patient
A fascinating tale, whose denouement is as gripping as any detective story . . . a masterpiece of lucidity and scholarship.
—Marry Ann Sieghart, Assistant Editor of The Times, 1988-2007
In the Logos edition, this digital volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Citations link directly to English translations and original-language texts, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, and theology texts. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.
Jimmy C. Corn and I don't Care