Author: Nicholas Thomas Wright
Publisher: Fortress Press, 2003
Reviewer: Ikenna Nwachukwu
Our faith as Christians is founded upon the historical fact of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Paul famously pointed out that if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, “we believe in vain”. But while we affirm that Christ did resurrect, skeptics seize upon perceived inconsistencies in the Biblical account of his return from the dead, and declare that it is difficult for any thinking person to accept the story. They say, in essence, that we ought not to believe in the resurrection, let alone build our lives upon it. As far as they are concerned, when people die, they stay dead. The story of the resurrection of Jesus is for them a wild myth, or even a fraud.
In The Resurrection of the Son of God, Nicholas Wright takes up the challenge of answering the unbeliever’s questions about the resurrection. Wright, who is regarded as one of the finest theologians (if not the finest) alive sets forth his argument in favour of the reasonableness and believability of the resurrection accounts in this scholarly work that has a quality that is hard to match. He systematically charts a course (gulping over 800 pages) that aims to point out that the conclusion reached by the ancient Christians about what happened to Jesus in the days following his crucifixion was the most reasonable of the alternative interpretations of the events, in view of the available evidence.
The book begins with a survey of the beliefs about death (and the possibility of resurrection) in ancient Judaism and paganism. Wright ploughs through the myths and traditions from the world before and in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and shows that the perception of a bodily resurrection in practical, real life terms by the cultures of the time would not have differed markedly from ours- they would have regarded reports of a resurrection with skepticism, even scorn. It was in that setting that the Biblical story played out, the one in which the disciples, going against the grain of popular commonsense, declared that their master had come back from the dead.
After reconstructing the cultural background of the resurrection story, Wright goes on to the detail of the actual event. He examines clues of the gospel account’s genuineness, addresses objections to the event’s historicity, and deals with doubts raised about the witnesses’ state of mind. The result of this exercise is more than just a rebuttal of old and new challenges to traditional Christian beliefs about the living Christ; it is a powerful restatement of our faith in him as the Son of the Living God.
The Resurrection of the Son of God is a brilliant book. However, it doesn’t lend itself to everyone- because not everyone is a fan of dense volumes that contain more than a handful of references to Greek myths and ancient Jewish traditions. But if you want more than just the regular diet about Jesus’ death and resurrection you get from Sunday school classes and Church sermons, this book is for you.