Chapter

Biblical Criticism and the Resurrection

William P. Alston

in The Resurrection

Published in print September 1998 | ISBN: 9780198269854
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600517 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198269854.003.0007
 Biblical Criticism and the Resurrection

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This paper is a defence of the (by and large) historical accuracy of the resurrection appearance narratives in the Gospels. The defence is carried out not by giving positive argument that this or that feature of the narratives is accurate, but rather by displaying the failure of attempts by NT scholars to show that a particular feature of the narratives (the appearance of the risen Jesus in embodied, perceptible form) is not of historical value. That argument takes the form of a detailed critique of the contentions of one scholar, Reginald Fuller. To the extent that Fuller's treatment can be taken as representative, this essay, if successful, will have removed a crucial obstacle to the rational acceptance of the appearance narratives as factually correct in the main. The essay ends by identifying certain disqualifying features of Fuller's treatment that, it is claimed, are pervasive in twentieth‐century gospel criticism.

Alston presents, in Coakley's view, a convincing case against the dogmatic scepticism of Reginald Fuller's treatment of the bodily resurrection, though he overstates his case, she suggests, in denying significance to the redactional strands of the Gospel‐writers’ thinking. There is also a puzzling continued appeal to the objective historical ‘facts’ of the case granted that Alston explicitly disavows at the outset anything other than an intra‐Christian approach. His overriding concern to support a ‘literal’ bodily resurrection leads him, she believes, to understress some important dimensions of the resurrection accounts on which she urges him to further explication: the ‘atypical’ nature of the risen body, the consequent importance of metaphorical speech in discussing it, the epistemic transformation required in recognizing it, and the gender dimensions possibly implicit in such recognition.

Keywords: Alston; appearance narratives; atypical; bodily resurrection; Coakley; disqualifying features; dogmatic scepticism; epistemic transformation; factually correct; Fuller; gender dimensions; Gospel writers; metaphorical speech; redactional; twentieth‐century gospel criticism

Chapter.  18926 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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