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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Resurrection According to Crossan

For decades, Christian historians have refused to investigate Jesus' resurrection on the ground that, if it happened, it was a miracle worked by God and therefore belongs to the field of theology. For example John P. Meier, the author of A Marginal Jew, never wrote about this subject, although he painstakingly analyzed the canonical gospel in all their aspects. Why then not to extend his study to the resurrection narratives, which are their focal point?

At last, the British scholar N.T. Wright published a book titled The Resurrection of the Son of God. He's apparently the first scholar who argues that faith can grow on a rational ground.
In the ancient pagan world, he writes, what came after death was the existence in the form of soul, a sorrowful existence devoid of the pleasures of life. The ancient Jews instead, and precisely the Pharisees, believed that God's people would be bodily raised from the dead at the end of times, either in a luminous body or in a plain human body. Ancient men and women, however, knew that when people die they stay dead. They were not inclined to believe any kind of absurdity they happened to hear. Not only Wright, but also C.S. Lewis before him, wrote that the notion that ancient people believed in magic is false. There had been very little of it even in the Middle Ages, but it grew in 16th and 17th century, right when modern science was developing.

In The Birth of Christianity, John Dominic Crossan holds a different position:
"That the dead could return and interact with the living was a commonplace in the Greco-Roman world…Not only were visions and apparitions accepted…as a possibility in the early first century, they are also an accepted and even commonplace possibility in the late twentieth century….Why, against the first century context, does vision, apparition or resurrection explain anything, since such events were not considered extraordinary let alone completely unique?"
Crossan is arguing against those who maintain that Christianity was born because of the apparitions of a dead man. Of course, he implies that these apparitions lacked certain qualities that would make them equivalent to reality, as if the man in question was alive again. Also, when he talks about the dead interacting with the living he uses as an example the mythical story told by Virgil in the Aeneid. In Italy, kids study that poem in middle school. It sounds like a myth and nobody ever claimed that it was more than that. Furthermore, he reports data from a recent study: Fifty to eighty percent of bereaved people experience an overwhelming feeling of the presence of the lost loved one and these types of experiences can't be classified as hallucinations or delusions. They are, in fact, part of the grieving process.

Crossan admits that grief related visions alone could hardly have motivated the apostles. What did it, according to him, was the powerful effect that the living Jesus had on their lives.
Crossan was co-director of the Jesus Seminar, where each participant scholar put to vote every passage of the canonical gospel to establish their credibility. He's a Christian because he loves the Jesus of history and can appreciate what he accomplished in all its magnitude. Bodily resurrection, for him, means that "the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in this world". This is beautiful but misleading. I think that there is more than that to be found in the birth of the Church,

It's obvious that when the early Christians spoke of Jesus being raised three days after the crucifixion, they were speaking of an event unknown to any culture or religion. Something unique must have happened to make Jesus and His resurrection become the center of Christianity.


Manny said...

Thank you for stopping at my blog Antonella. There's no need to stop by the political entries if they aren't to your taste.

Antonella said...

I have already read your "political" answer on your blog. I was able to add your link to my reading list, but without "mannis-life",so I'll have to bump into some republican stuff! I'm joking...Antonella