Death is so uplifting…

The latest issue of Choice magazine reviews Sean Freyne’s Jesus, a Jewish Galilean. The book addresses how a Galilean prophet might have been inspired by his tradition to face death in Jerusalem:

“Freyne contends that the suffering servant of the book of Isaiah and the maskilim (wise ones) of the book of Daniel served as motivating figures in the self-understanding and the public ministry of Jesus. In particular he holds that those figures brought Jesus to accept the inevitability of his death as an eschatological prophet and to assign definite meaning to his death. The book illuminates this approach to Jesus with careful attention to the ecology, archaeology, history, and sociology of Galilee…” (Choice, Sept ’05 p 117).

I’m pleased by ongoing fresh approaches to Jesus’ death. One of the classic questions in HJ studies has been, “Was Jesus going to Jerusalem to work or to die?,” and I think Schweitzer was right to say the latter. But details are destined to remain elusive, as Stephen Finlan’s recent book has made plain, illustrating the complex and often contradictory ideas behind martyrdom, atonement, scapegoat, and ransom redemption.

Freyne’s book has been out since December, and I’ll need to read it, especially given its healthy attention to archaeology and the social world of Galilee (Context Group member Halvor Moxnes is cited in strong doses). Then too we should remember Scot McKnight’s impending work which argues that atonement ideas (no less) trace back to Jesus. It will be interesting to see how such a case is presented.

On the same day Scot’s book is being released (Sept 30), Dale Allison’s formidable Resurrecting Jesus will appear. I’m excited about this book, which is definitely the best study of the resurrection. (I know from proof-reading a part of it.) It steers between the poles of Wright and Ludemann, using the best of both worlds while eschewing dogmatism from either side. Dale makes a good case for historicity of the empty tomb, though differently than Wright, and with sanity by recognizing the variety of possibilities which could account for an empty tomb — an actual resurrection being but one of them. He dabbles into grief-induced visions, though again, better than Ludemann does, and with less dogmatic surety. Dale well understands that Jesus expected to suffer and die (probably expected some of his followers to die too) as a necessary prelude to the apocalypse. That apocalypse, about which our Galilean friend was obviously mistaken.


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