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.
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
N. T. Wright commonly known as N. T. Wright or Tom Wright, is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Andrews University. Previously, he was the bishop of Durham. He has researched, taught, and lectured on the New Testament at McGill, Oxford, and Cambridge Universities, and has been named by Christianity Today as one of the top five theologians in the world. He is best known for his scholarly contributions to the historical study of Jesus and the New Perspective on Paul. His work interacts with the positions of James Dunn, E. P. Sanders, Marcus Borg, and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Wright has written and lectured extensively around the world, authoring more than forty books and numerous articles in scholarly journals and popular periodicals. He is best known for his Christian Origins and the Question of God Series, of which three of the anticipated six volumes are finished.