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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 8 reviews
on October 11, 2011
Beyond Resurrection presents itself in the foreward (posted on the back cover) as a work where "Wedderburn scrutinizes [...] the resurrection of Jesus--and he does so through the cold hard lense of historical criticism. [...] strives to apply strenuously the methods of historical criticism to the question of Jesus' resurrection". In the end, however, it feels like Beyond Resurrection is supposed to be the 2nd volume in a two-part work, the first volume of which actually presents and critiques the historical case for Jesus' resurrection as described above, such that in this second volume he can flesh out his opinions regarding their implications, try his hand at philosophy, and ostensibly gives 150+ pages of advice to theologians, with only parts of a couple chapters actually sounding like a scholarly investigation of the relevant issue.
Coming off the heels of serious and articulate historical investigations into the subject with relevant lines of thought, heavy footnotes, and a commanding bibliography (like that of Licona [Christian], and Ludemann [atheist], Allison [deist] etc.), Wedderburn's contribution sounds largely New Age-ish and frequently comes off as Oprah Winfry exegesis. His relatively small bibliography is woefully lopsided, which is reflected in his almost absolute failure to interact with people who disagree with his controversial historical conclusions (ignoring altogether the most prominent opponents of his position [e.g. Licona, Habermas, Craig] and their arguments). As an enthusiast philosopher, I'd love to comment on Wedderburn's extensive but generally naive foray into philosophy and recommend reading material (particularly Claremont Professor of Philosophy Stephen Davis's "Making Sense of the Resurrection", for his resurrection continuuity complaints) but I didn't save enough quotes or page numbers. There are better books out there, here are links to the three above:
Mike Licona's "The Resurection of Jesus": [...]

Dale Allison's "Resurrecting Jesus": [...]

Gerd Ludemann's "What Really Happened to Jesus" [...]

(Note, also good is Ludemann's published debate with Craig "Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment?" [...]
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on September 17, 2006
Wedderburn's premiss is that historians can only establish a likelihood that an event has occurred. In his exploration of the resurrection of Jesus, he finds that significant questions remain unanswered and hence concludes that his premiss is confirmed. The book is well researched; however few arguments contrary to his thesis are presented or refuted.

His initial assumption is that "it is unlikely that the state of the evidence is often going to be such that the verdict upon it is ever going to be `beyond all reasonable doubt.'" He then limits the possible outcomes to being more or less probable. He concludes that one should not base one's life or faith upon a maybe. On the contrary, we routinely base our lives upon `maybe' when we drive on the freeway or fly. The real question regarding the resurrection doesn't concern certainty but probability.

Wedderburn's primary technique is to propose numerous questions to raise doubts about an issue, but he seldom develops answers or critically addresses a topic. He merely proceeds through the issue as if his merely asking questions prove his point. The standard he has established is that in the case of doubt one should not have faith. He presumes this is enough.

Through the use of historical criticism, he establishes doubts about the resurrection of Jesus. He questions whether the body was stolen, points out minor inconsistencies in the Gospel accounts, and questions whether we can believe in miracles. He fails to provide the answers which are readily available by such authors as N. T. Wright or Gary Habermas, but rather jumps to the conclusion that the biblical accounts are no longer reasonable in our modern world.

From there he proceeds to dilute the issue to one of `resurrection faith' rather than an actual bodily resurrection of Jesus in order to explain the actions of early Christians and beliefs of modern Christians. He concludes from this that "a historical investigation into the traditions of Jesus' resurrection seems to yield little that is of much use for Christian faith," yet this conclusion is reached solely upon "unsatisfactory uncertainty" by page 95 of the book.

It is at this point that the real purpose of Wedderburn's book becomes evident. Although he utilized his view of history to disprove not only the resurrection but also traditional Christianity, the objective becomes that of making Christian faith compatible with our modern world. This presumption is stated by him as a "necessity to refashion theology for another age and for a world that has become far vaster." He also finds that this is "a good reason for resisting the idea that truth is somehow encapsulated in those first-century writings." By removing the resurrection as a validation of a message from God and revelation of Truth through the authors of the New Testament, Wedderburn is free to modernize the message and translate it in light of human reason and empirical science.

Finally he raises more questions, such as the problem of the existence of evil in a world created by an omnipotent God, to discredit the foundations of Christian theology. He infers that theologians are dependent upon `satisfied customers', that pointing to "an after-life as a panacea" is not "appropriate or healthy", and hence we should restructure the Christian faith. This is his personal path and he thinks the only rational path given the historical evidence.

Wedderburn likes a `vulnerable' faith detached from the resurrection or the Christian God. He wants to modernize Christianity consistent with the worldview of science. He states that given his findings regarding Jesus' resurrection and life after death "if an agnostic `Not proven' is the most that we can say about either of these, then I think it better to acknowledge that clearly and unambiguously, and then to work out one's Christian theology and practice accordingly." However he has approached the resurrection, life after death, and the theology of Christianity superficially making and attacking straw men and has reached his conclusion utilizing a historical standard which needed only to establish doubt.

Wedderburn's problem with the Christian faith is a real problem faced in our modern society where truth can only be found in empirical science. He claims that history is a science and hence the truth of the resurrection cannot be established with certainty. Since many of the claims of Christianity, such as miracles, creation and sin, are not the subject of empirical verification they must belong to the realm of myth or fiction. The tension between free will and determinism, good and evil, and the laws of nature and the existence of God all drive Wedderburn to trust in human reason and scientific facts and hence deny the Christian God in favor of John Hick's `Real'. Based upon his assumptions he has created a god consistent with what he thinks is right.
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on September 11, 2006
A.J.M. Wedderburn, who is a professor of New Testament at the University of Munich, wrote Beyond Resurrection in 1999, with the express purpose of examining the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the viewpoint of historical criticism. It is divided into 2 parts and 10 chapters, and 226 pages, with the first part dealing with what he sees is a lack of historical evidence to validate Jesus' resurrection, and the latter part counseling the reader on how to "come to terms" with the lack. The problems, though, with his analysis and conclusion are too many to list here, so a brief critique of a couple of his errors should prove to be fruitful.

Let me say, first of all, that the words of Ecclesiastes 1:9 ring ever true when it comes to Beyond Resurrection: there is nothing new under the sun. For Wedderburn offers a mish-mash of antique criticisms and bad theology which are consistent with the ramblings of a Rudolph Bultmann, of days gone by, or the subjective skepticisms of the contemporary Jesus Seminar. In other words, one is not going to find anything new that has not been sufficiently rebutted elsewhere, and one will certainly not learn anything of theological beneficence by considering his revised theology at the end of his book.

For example, Wedderburn starts his book by questioning the historical veracity of the biblical writers. In fact, he accuses theologians of playing some kind of "game" that no one else can play, simply because they can offer plausible explanations to the resurrection event, as found in the Bible, that he somehow feels slighted and cannot participate himself, because of his "historical" perspective. What he fails to acknowledge, though, is that the resurrection event is not just something has been dealt with by theologians, but by historians, medical professionals, and those in the world of psychology, as well. And in each discipline there are a growing number of scholars who are willing to state that the gospel records are reliable, and that what the disciples saw was not just an illusion or figment of their imagination. Therefore, if the gospels are reliable, and they are, then Jesus did come forth from the grave as reported, all games aside.

Second, in liberal/critical fashion Wedderburn, when he is done attacking the veracity of the Bible, turns his focus on one of the primary witnesses of the resurrected Jesus: Paul, the apostle. Rather than accepting Paul's testimony, he attempts to cast doubt upon it by making it sound as if Paul was so unclear as to what he wrote as to be indiscernible. "Paul's experience seems too mystical, too other-worldly, too visionary, to provide this assurance," states Wedderburn. In other words, Paul probably never really saw Jesus as a living entity, but perhaps it was just a mental state or Paul was just wishing that he saw Jesus, for personal reasons. What this "scholar" conveniently fails to mention is that Paul was no average person willing to just give up his high-standing in the Jewish religion just because he thought he saw something. In fact, prior to Paul's conversion, he was a zealot for Judaism and had people either tortured and imprisoned for believing in the same thing he would later report as true, or he would have them put to death! He was a hard-liner, in other words, and no patsy, when it came to his religious stand in life. Therefore, when all of the sudden we see a completely different Paul, who was now willing to die for something that was that antithesis of his previous Jewish claims, clearly that is an indication that he did not see just a phantom, or that his mental faculties had slipped a gear. And his testimony is equally clear that the change was directly related to his encounter with the bodily risen Jesus.

Finally, as is the case with everyone who has a poor outlook upon biblical revelation, their theology is equally poor. Perhaps the one bit of consolation in Wedderburn's case is that he openly admits that he cannot accept the biblical or traditional view of God that has been accepted, and that he wants to advocate "an alternative." In fact, he spends nearly 20% of the book (the longest chapter, 9) trying to convince the reader that his view of God more aptly explicates the event called the resurrection than the one found in traditional, conservative, theology. Sadly, though, Wedderburn's "alternative" is more reminiscent of pagan theology than biblically theology, given that the God he wishes for all to accept is either so mysterious that he cannot be known, or so impotent that instead of overcoming death through actual resurrection, he suffers right along with everyone, and is "vulnerable."

In short, this book is trash. It says nothing new that has not already been said before by others of the historical-critical tradition, and has not already been addressed elsewhere by the Gary Habermas', N. T. Wright's, and Craig Blomberg's. And perhaps what makes Wedderburn's book worse than some is that he spends so much time making up a theology that even he admits toward the end that "is scarcely a stringent argument that [he has] advanced or can advance; [it is] more a matter of a groping after understanding" (217). So, if you want groping, Wedderburn is for you. If you want understanding, pick one of the other aforementioned authors.
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