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The Resurrection: history and myth

Doubleday (New York) 2008
RRP $24.95

This small book is an outstanding even-handed look at and evaluation of the many forms and stories of resurrection in the Bible. The Resurrection: history and myth does not seek to prove or disprove the resurrection, just present the facts.

Geza Vermes gives us a scholarly, yet readable and easily understood work in which he outlines the ideas and concepts of resurrection and life after death in the Jewish world in Jesus’ time. He looks at the understanding of resurrection in the Jewish scriptures and in the inter-testamental period, and then examines what the Gospels say – and don’t say – about Jesus’ resurrection.

The Resurrection: history and myth looks at the earliest development of a Christian understanding of resurrection in the writings of Paul, and then at how critics have sought to explain it away. But in the end, leaves it to the reader to decide what is true, what isn’t, what is fact and what’s tradition, as a good teacher should do.

There are those who will criticize this work because it doesn’t attempt to justify their view of truth, and there will be others who will attempt to discredit the book because it even bothers to consider that resurrection might be real.

But in the end, the book is right where I think Vermes intended it to be. It is simply a clear and concise compilation and evaluation of all the resurrection stories cited in the Bible, not just those regarding the resurrection of Jesus.

This is a very useful resource for Christians who want to use their God-given mind and think. Those who take a literalistic view of Scripture may find it challenging as it outlines all the resurrection narratives with respect and reverence, pointing out the differences and similarities, thereby letting the reader – the thinking Christian -determine what he or she believes.

Reviewed by Peter Harvey, Frontier Services – Flinders Patrol