Book Plunge: Resurrecting Jesus

What do I think of Allison’s case? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Resurrecting Jesus is a book by Dale Allison that contrary to the title, only spends about half the book talking about the resurrection of Jesus. The rest of it is spent on various other topics. These others will be helpful to the student of the NT, but the main case is still the last half.

Allison does believe that Jesus did bodily rise from the dead, but he doesn’t think we can really make a strong case for it, at least certainly not as much as Habermas and Licona do. In fact, it can be a downside to Allison’s approach that he decides to list his personal reasons why he would want the resurrection to be true throughout.

Before really getting to that, I would also like to explain that reading Allison is a mixed bag. When he does great, it’s something really good that’s a helpful insight, but there are times that he seems to make a basic mistake that can make one wonder about how much some questions were really considered.

For instance, Allison tells about the passage where Jesus says to hate your father and mother several times, but it never seems to dawn on him that Jesus is making a comparison statement. He is telling us that in comparison to our devotion to Jesus, our other obligations, including family obligations, must be secondary.

Also, Allison in discussing the chapter on Hell says that it is hard to reconcile the view in Paul of salvation by faith and judgment by works. I find these quite easy to reconcile in fact. If you are in Christ, then you stake your identity in Him and His righteousness becomes yours. If you are not in Christ, then God can only judge you on one basis, your works. If those are not perfect, then they do not add up.

Moving to the resurrection, Allison’s desire to be humble could be getting in his way of really wanting to make a stand here or there. He does side with the resurrection being real, but it is in a sense reluctantly. Could it be that if he did not have any personal desire at all, which could be difficult to think about of course as none of us approach Jesus neutrally, then he would not want to make a stand?

This is not to say that there are no valid insights in Allison’s work. Allison has much on the nature of the body in Paul as well as the fact that we shouldn’t assume the disciples would be grieving after the death of Jesus. Could they not just as much be angry? After all, they’d followed this guy for around three years and now he’s been crucified and thus shown to be a fraud! They would have been shamed greatly in their society having put all that they had in the following of this one man who they had every reason to believe to be the Messiah.

I find this to be an excellent point as we usually in the introspective conscience of the West look at the people in the Bible and think that they would have thought just like us. In reality, they didn’t. Now of course, it could be the disciples were grieving but in reality, we just don’t know. We can safely say there was a change in their behavior by looking at how they preached afterwards in contrast to knowing that they could meet the exact same fate as their proclaimed Messiah.

Allison does state which sides he thinks are stronger, but at the same time doesn’t seem willing to really enforce it strongly as he has a “What if?” approach in that there are some things that could possibly be. Of course there are possibilities, but we’re interested in seeing actualities and what the evidence itself really has to say.

Thus, I recommend this one, but I don’t recommend it for beginners. I think it’s far better for those who have sharpened their skills some on other areas as Allison will give you a lot to work through and think about. While I wish he would make a stronger case, we can be thankful for the case that has been made.

In Christ,
Nick Peters