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Posted March 12, 2006

Book: Resurrecting Jesus: The earliest Christian tradition and its interpreters
Author: Dale C. Allison
T & T Clark, New York, 2005, pp. 404

An Excerpt from the Preface:

As I write, it is Easter Sunday. This morning the pastor asked us to imagine the Easter story without the resurrection. Suppose, he said, that the gardener — in response to Mary Magdalene’s despondent remark, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” — told the woman exactly where the body now lay, and the she, retrieving it, dragged it back to its proper resting place. The pastor’s point, I take it, was that whereas we could tow a dead Jesus wherever we will, a resurrected Jesus may resist us, for he is not passive but active and so lives beyond our control: he must be encountered, not directed. Although my first thought was of Achilles dragging Hector before the walls of Troy, soon enough I began to think about this book and to wonder to what extent I am dragging tests this way and that before the walls of the guild, dragging texts that, because dead, cannot go where they wish but must instead suffer to go wherever I lead them. I have no answer, except to confess that, despite my best efforts and intentions, I am sure that I have done violence — how often I do not know — to th texts and to the history behind them. My sincere hope, however, is that, like Jesus in this morning’s sermon, the texts are not really dead, that they yet speak, and that sometimes I have indeed heard what they, and those responsible for them, may still wish to say.

An Excerpt from the Book:

When Jesus’ followers were bereft of their friend’s physical presence, they would naturally, when together, have remembered him. Anything else would have been abnormal. Such recollection, furthermore, was almost certainly one of their collective preoccupations; and it would have included, above all the things that Jesus said and did toward the end of his life, or what they imagined that he then said and did. For not only does a tragic, violent death typically draw attention to itself in powerfully emotional ways and so both stimulate imaginations and create commanding memories. It also is a healthy human instinct to come to terms with the horrific by creatively reclaiming it. Reliving past trauma can be life-enhancing. Surely, then, it is no coincidence that all four of the canonical Gospels concentrate on the last few days of Jesus — I suggest that this focus goes back to the birth of the post-Easter Jesus tradition — and that the first extended narrative about him was probably a pre-Markan passion narrative. After violent death “the story of the dying may become preoccupying,” so that it “eclipses the retelling of their living — the way they died takes precedence over the way the lived.”; only later is the rest of the life remembered. Al this is to say that the evolution of the Jesus tradition — as reconstructed by many modern scholars, according to which large portions grew backward from the telling of his end — matches a pattern, a process of memorialization, commonly found in bereavement.

Table of Contents:

1. Secularizing Jesus
2. The problem of audience
3. The problem of Gehenna

Excursus 1
Percy, Bysshe Shelley and the Historical Jesus
4. Apocalyptic, polemic, apologetics
5. Torah, urzeit, endzeit
6. Resurrecting Jesus

Excursus 2
Joseph of Arimathea

Excursus 3
The disciples and bereavement
Index of Scripture
Index of Modern Names