Wednesday, September 07, 2005
The risen Jesus, Dale C. Allison and Mike Bird versus the Seven Headed Dragon
Dale C. Allison’s new book on the resurrection looks like an important contribution to the debate, aptly noted by Loren Rosson at The Busy Body .
I like Allison’s ICC commentary on Matthew (which is largely his work), Allison's book on Jesus traditions in Q (assuming there was a Q) is a good alternative to Kloppenborg, and his book on Jesus as Millenarian prophet is well worth digesting (although I favour Witherington’s book Jesus the Seer on how Jesus relates to apocalypticism).
It will take an awful lot of argument for me to swing away from my preference for Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God. I was not impressed with Ludemann’s idea of Paul and Peter having visions of Jesus based upon a projection of their grief and guilt stricken state, and (although I haven’t read Allison’s new book yet) I was disappointed that Allison is arguing for a grief-vision theory. For me it doesn’t work for a variety of reasons:
Proving that the disciples had grief stricken visions of Jesus is impossible anyway. This is data simply beyond our bounds. But even if they did, why, oh why on earth did they use the language of resurrection to describe it? When I was in the Army many moons ago I was on a training activity called the “Hydra” (named after the dragon) and I got so exhausted and dehydrated that I began hallucinating that I was fighting a seven headed dragon. In reality I was repeatedly punching a tree, but the thought of cracking all seven-heads of the Hydra with one left-hook was too much to resist so I did it anyway. Afterwards, in hospital, I knew that I had had a hallucination and I did not think that the Hydra was real. I knew what language to use to describe it. By analogy (and all analogies do break-down I know) there were oodles of visionary type language the Christians could use to describe a vision, but the repeated and insistent reference to resurrection, bodily resurrection at that, is an oddity in desperate need of explanation and I don't think grief/guilt visions make the grade.
If someone out there wants a non-supernatural explanation for the belief in the resurrection, I reckon your best bet is to say that something happened to Jesus’ body (thrown in a beggars grave, eaten by scavengers etc) but we don’t know exactly what; and to say that something happened subjectively to a group of the disciples, though again we just don’t know what. It is when you start trying to fill in the blanks with theories like the body was stolen, grief-visions, etc that you create more problems and questions than you solve. Sander's position is the best to take for those in this camp - something created a 'transformed situation' after the cruxifixion but we don't know what!!!
As for me, I reckon ton estaurōmenon, ēgerthē (Mk. 16.6). So in sum:
1. I’m sticking with Wright
2. I don’t think grief/hallucination theories work
3. The scoreboard reads: Mike Bird one, Hydra – nil!