I have had a big reading goal which has remained unmet for the last two years. This Lent I think I might see it come to pass, just maybe. One of my favorite authors (as evidenced by many posts here) is N.T. Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham. Wright began working on his magnum opus about a decade ago. It is a series of books, thick with historical, biblical and theological reflection, that, long after he is dead and gone, will remain as a testimony to a life rich with theological and pastoral contributions.
I did not start with the first book of the series but the third. It an 800+ page historical defense of the resurrection called The Resurrection of the Son of God. When commenting on her return to the Christian faith, the vampire novelist Anne Rice cited this book as the most compelling defense of the historic Christian doctrine of the resurrection. It is a daunting read but well worth it. Wright surveys all the relevant ancient literature, both pagan and Christian, examining what the concept of resurrection means. His conclusion is that the universal understanding among the early followers of Christ and those that observed them from the outside was that Christ had come back to life again. Whether those outside of the faith believed it or not they were convinced that this is what the early Christians believed.
This runs contra to many of the current theories about what the resurrection means. Today many suggest that the idea of resurrection meant that Jesus was somehow taken up into the life of God in a unique way but did not really come back to life after his execution. Another prominent point of view states that Jesus’ resurrection serves only a mythological function. I don’t disagree that it serves a mythological function but the implication is that myth is, as Picasso said, “a lie that leads to the truth”. Like C.S. Lewis I believe that myth doesn’t necessarily imply falsehood. In the case of Christianity the myth of Jesus coming back to life after being crucified is true in fact and true as a myth.
Wright writes in conversation with the biggest scholars in the field including those involved with the infamous “Jesus Seminar”. His scholarship is as solid as it gets and his work is seen as the best in the field by both conservatives and those on the more skeptical end of the religious spectrum.
What better time of year to dig in deep to a moving, well written description of this central Christian teaching.
I do have a couple of Lenten reading suggestions. These are a bit shorter and with a more personal twist. I just finished the first recommendation and I plan on reading the second before Easter arrives. It is a gift from my friend Brad and I can’t wait to dig into it: