Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Gary Anderson reviews Wright

Also alerted in Bible and Interpretation, who are on top form today, is a review by Gary Anderson of Tom Wright's latest massive tome on the resurrection. It is taken from the journal First Things 137 (November 2003): 51-54:

Books in Review: The Resurrection of the Son of God

Anderson makes some useful observations but I am troubled by the conclusion of this paragraph:
I believe that Wright has shown with utmost clarity that the doctrine of the resurrection was deeply embedded in the fabric of the early Christian movement. The tendency among certain scholars to claim that a wide swath of early Christianity, represented by the circle of “Q” (a presumed common source of the synoptic Gospels) and the Gospel of Thomas, advanced a view of Jesus bereft of crucifixion and resurrection is just not tenable. Whatever one makes of “Q,” it should be clear by the close of this volume that the thought-world of the Gospel of Thomas is a late development and best understood against the backdrop of second-century Gnosticism. Indeed, most serious scholars of Gnostic sources have been saying this for some time. The explanation for why the books of Crossan and Elaine Pagels have such currency lies within the realm of the sociology of knowledge, not the history of early Christianity. That story has yet to be told.
I think one has to be careful of remarks about "serious scholars of Gnostic sources" lining up behind one particular view. This approaches polemic and is unhelpful. Though I don't always agree with them, and although I was disappointed by Pagels's recent Beyond Belief, I regard Pagels and Crossan as serious, imaginative, exciting scholars whose work is not so quickly dismissed. As it happens, I don't think that Wright does that with Crossan, at least not in Jesus and the Victory of God, but I've yet to read the latest book on the resurrection. I'll get round to it at some stage but it is so long. Why have all the recent books from British scholars all been so long -- Dunn, Hurtado, Wright? How do they expect us to find time to plough through them when we have books of our own to write?!

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