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The Resurrection: History and Myth    by Geza Vermes order for
by Geza Vermes
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Written by one of the world's leading authorities on Judaism in the age of Jesus (and a pioneer whose work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the historical Jesus has garnered him widespread praise and respect among critics and scholars), The Resurrection (by Geza Vermes) is a superbly reasoned and elegantly written analysis of the story of what happened to Jesus following his crucifixion (which itself is widely accepted and supportable as a factual event). However, Jesus' subsequent Resurrection, a central article of faith in Christianity, is generally met with one of two extreme reactions: absolute acceptance based on faith, or rejection based on a variety of reasons but most often disbelief.

Vermes approaches the problematic subject of either proving or disproving the Resurrection as if he were a detective, relying upon the textual evidence (especially as it has been presented by the authors of the New Testament, and most notably by Paul, the de facto founder of Christianity), which is further clarified (although not consistently or conclusively) by cultural evidence (i.e., that which is contemporaneous with Jesus' life, and locatable within relevant Jewish and Greco-Roman literary and archeological sources); Vermes also significantly turns to traditional Jewish beliefs and textual antecedents in the Hebrew scriptures (otherwise known as the Old Testament) to 'unravel the true meaning {of the Resurrection as} conveyed by the {New Testament} evangelists.'

Based upon the various facts, therefore, Vermes carefully and rationally constructs a 'tenable hypothesis' about what actually happened following Jesus' crucifixion, but 'it will be up to the readers to make up their minds.' Ultimately, as Vermes notes, the dilemma readers have 'to confront and resolve is how to reconcile the extreme importance ascribed to the Resurrection by Christianity with the very limited amount of interest discernible in the authentic teaching of Jesus.'

Anything written by Vermes is always fascinating and often provocative, and The Resurrection is no exception to that rule. At slightly over 150 pages, this deceptively slender volume is ironically overflowing with powerful and, of course, thought-provoking evidence. The Resurrection may not change anyone's mind about the Resurrection (and I have many acquaintances - some agnostics, some secular humanists, some liberal Christians, evangelical Christians, and some fundamentalist Christians - whose mindset either for or against the Resurrection is fairly well entrenched and immutable), but if readers (even some of my acquaintances) are carefully attentive to and open-minded about Vermes' evidence, they will nevertheless be richly rewarded by a stimulating intellectual presentation.

In other words, here is the bottom line: Don't miss it!

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