N.T. Wright on Easter

Today I spent a few hours reading N.T. Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God.”  Now, this is a guy who has spent the greater part of his life immersing himself in the world of 1st-century Palestinian Judaism in order to better understand the origins of Christianity.  He used to read the Dead Sea Scrolls in the bathtub.  Here’s what I read, in a very condensed form, in a three minute interview:

Basically, if you want to claim that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen, you need to provide an argument for the origins of the Christian movement that have greater explanatory power than the Resurrection.  After two thousand years of critiques that rise and die and rise and die, and of a Christianity not just surviving, but growing, that’s a very tricky thing to do.

Read him.  He’s great.  Moreover, he’s renewed in my mind the importance of serious historical study.

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4 Responses to N.T. Wright on Easter

  1. fin says:

    2,000 years of survival is not, in its own right, an argument that a man was killed and then came back to life.
    and assuming that didn’t have to have happened in reality, but in fact MADE to appear to have happened in reality, then we’re back to square one.
    no ressurection. no divinity. 2,000 years of power structures control that benefit an elite minority.
    the last statement is enough of an argument against it. once the CHURCH as an institution is set up, the resurrection is no longer the driving force of the survival of the religion.

  2. fin says:

    additionally:
    now that i’m thinking about this.
    what historical data is there on the resurrection? outside of the bible? i would really like to look at it (if you can direct me, i’m not demanding anyone produces it here).
    we know the story of jesus is a little too similar to osiris dionisis to be a fluke, and considering all the other pagan roots the early church had, we have more than enough reason to believe that the resurrection was not a man coming back to life.
    we also know people can’t come back to life. i don’t think we should ignore that. that’s pretty big.
    if christianity pivots on this idea that jesus is who he said he is, and the one true indication of that is whether or not he came back to life, than this seems like a rather pertinent issue.
    and the biggest reason to date why i do not believe in god.
    this whole deal is more convincing than dawkins could ever hope to be.

    • urbanfall says:

      Good to see you’re still snooping around on my blog, dude. Can I take just one point?

      I’d be careful about saying that Christianity has, for all 2,000 years of its existence, been a power structure that benefits an elite minority. The Church at its inception appears to have had a pretty communist structure, with everybody putting all their cash into a common pot and getting back as they had need. Check out the description of the early church in Acts 2:42-47 (in context here): better, look at what happens when two of the wealthiest members tried to keep some cash for themselves. Pretty harsh. Plus, the apostle Paul seems to have spent a lot of his time harassing the wealthier churches in Greece to give some money to the church in Jerusalem, which, during that time, was in the middle of a severe famine. More references to that redistribution here, here, and here.

      For a long time, in fact, Christianity was a religion chiefly of the poor and the subject of persecution, not a propagator of it. For more than a few Roman emperors, Christians were the scapegoat for all kinds of different problems.

      I would argue that Christianity did not become a tool of the state until Constantine, for whom Christianity had pretty clear political benefits. If there’s one lesson Christians can learn from Church history, its that allying themselves with political powers generally ends in the perversion of the Christian message.

      But even the history of the Church shows that Christianity has often been liberative, not oppressive. You can’t ignore the fact that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian, his motives and ideals were Christian, and the means he used to achieve the things he did was primarily a network of African-American churches: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And what about Christians’ active role in the abolition movement? The Church was THE driving force behind these coalitions in both America and Great Britain. Sure, some Enlightenment rationalists condemned slavery because it violated the rights of man, but it was the Christians who got the job done.

      And you might also want to take a look at the work Christian charity organizations are doing around the globe, as well as the way that churches indigenous to China, India, and Africa are helping people, upsetting unjust social systems, providing relief, and so on.

      Granted, it’s all done imperfectly. But I think you’ve got a tough case to make if you want to continue to say that the Church is primarily an oppressive force that benefits the elite. You’ve just got to look outside this country and this past century in order to see that that’s not the case.

      As for the Resurrection: no proof available, of course. Only some very loud witnesses.

      And why would a bunch of Jews desperate to preserve their culture in the midst of a pagan occupying force suddenly adopt pagan ideas to create a new religion which, they well knew, would lead them to being ostracized by their community and persecuted by the authorities? Why, in a world of people proclaiming that “Ceasar is Lord”, would they want to travel around preaching that the real Lord was actually a crucified Jew from 1,000 miles away? Those are questions you should be able to answer. But perhaps that’s for another post.

  3. fin says:

    i like what i read here significantly more than most news sites. i snoop around often, if anything just to harrass you and maybe make you laugh out loud at my attempts to argue with you deep within your own intellectual territory.

    it’s true that i’m talking about a church post-constantine.
    i offer a counter example:
    solidarity, the party that eventually liberated poland from communist rule in the late 80s, was ideological and had the worker’s interests as its primary moving force. life for working people sucked under communism–they wanted to do something about it. it started off as a great, organic, poor people’s movement.
    long story short: they sold out. accepted huge liberal free-market reforms that didn’t improve the life of the common pole and essentially didn’t change the status quo for 10 years.

    granted, you’re interested in christian movements that get back to this pre-constantine ideal, and i like that. but even in the case of the civil rights movement, where it’s true that southern churches provided infrastructure for mobilization, james baldwin didn’t like the christian component, and he was a preacher for a long time.

    regardless, again, you are right when you talk about religious groups doing good things. AFSC is a group i really like that i think does good work, and i forget about that while basking in the still recent wake of mars hill.
    unfortunately, i think there are plenty of examples on either side. yes it fights for social justice. yes it promotes the interests of elites.
    it can be used for whatever you want.

    finally, the resurrection deal:
    why in a world where people were proclaiming that ceasar is lord?
    i would argue that the fact that people regarded ceaser as lord was reason enough to go against the status quo.
    i don’t think we’re faced with a situation that would rule out all incentive unless jesus was in fact who he claimed to be.
    there’s power in opposition, even in the face of persecution.
    i mean c’mon.
    you saw gladiator.
    ceasar was a dick.

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