Book review: The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue

Edited by Robert B. Stewart


When this book first appeared, I purchased it with great anticipation. Crossan and Wright are respected and respectful scholars, both with a reputation for digging deeply. But they sit on opposite sides of the fence.

To set the stage, there is no mention of an empty tomb in Paul’s writings, and the earliest Christian tradition contains no description of the resurrection itself. By the time the Gospels were written, it would have been very hard to certify what the tomb had contained. Tombs in that period were not permanent places of burial but only temporary places where the body decayed, leaving the bones, which were then either pushed to the back of the tomb or collected in ossuaries. In other words, no evidence existed to prove or disprove the claim of bodily resurrection by the time the claims were committed to writing.

Did it happen? How?

Wright believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb. He puzzles, as a historian, why anyone would continue to belong to the Christian movement in the first century and regard Jesus as the Messiah, unless the stories were regarded as literally true. Crossan, on the other hand, understands the resurrection as a metaphor for Jesus’ continued presence in the church. Bodily resurrection, to him, means “the embodied life of Jesus,” which continues to be experienced by believers today.

Sound like an interesting discussion? The dialogue between the two lasts all of 18 pages, and is rather uninspiring. The rest of the book contains commentary by other authors, where at least we appear to get a real peek into the minds of Crossan and Wright.


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