Easter, Circa 30. Easter, Circa 2017

studdard-james

James Studdard is an attorney. He would like to thank Paula Fredriksen, a Jewish/Christian scholar, for some of the information in this piece. Comments to studlaw2000@yahoo.com.

This piece assumes the reader has a better than elementary knowledge about the Passover in 30 A.D., and the death of the historical Jesus. In reconstructing the death of Jesus, by divorcing oneself from theological evolution, one can readily see that Pilate was probably correct, from his perspective, in allowing Jesus to be crucified, I.e., it quelled the turbulent holiday crowds  who were anticipating the coming of the Kingdom of God with its revelation of Jesus as his Messiah. Chastened and demoralized about the unthinkable notion that a Messiah could be crucified as a common criminal, they quieted down and the holiday passed without incident.
Jesus’ followers were not so easily swayed toward irenic behavior, in fact they were in a state of panic after Jesus’ arrest and death; most had fled, Peter included. One small group, upon accepting the inevitability of a failed Messiah, began to proclaim that Jesus lived again. What this small group saw or knew first hand can never be known. Remember the accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus was not put into story form until some 80 to 100 years later, vis a vis, the New Testament books of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, none of which were eyewitnesses to the event.
The dearth of information surrounding the first Easter should not, though, question the occurrence of the events described in the Easter story. The Resurrection story has many positives to unpack. It gives us a glimpse into the lives of some of Jesus’ disciples. It further solidifies the Jewish belief that the resurrection of the dead was a redemptive act that was anticipated in Jewish traditions about the End of Days. If Jesus’ disciples believed that they had seen Jesus raised—whatever it was they experienced—and however we choose to interpret it today, then they, the disciples, were continuing to function within the apocalyptic paradigm established by Jesus’ mission.
To illustrate the Jewish mindset about resurrection, one can refer to several passages in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), namely; God’s promise to the prophet Ezekiel, “I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, oh my people. I will bring you home into the land of  Israel (Ez. 37:12)  Or, in the book of Daniel, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake (Daniel, 12:2). Jesus’ resurrection thus confirmed for his followers that the Kingdom and the concomitant resurrection of the dead, was on the way. Their experience of his resurrection confirmed for them both Jesus’ own authority and the authority of his message.  The writers of the New Testament, as indicated, put the icing, so to speak, on the cake, by supplying their own interpretations of the Resurrection (each varied from the other) that would pass the scrutiny of skeptics to come.
Currently, there are a plethora of works on the Jesus of history, all containing some amount of competing interpretive narratives. For example, for an historian’s apocalyptic image of Jesus, might be another’s image as that of a social reformer, another’s, pious Hasid, another’s political critic, another’s cynic sage. All interpretations are created equal and the reasons for deciding upon who Jesus was are subjective but rarely arbitrary. Simply, the search for the historical Jesus must start with his first century audience, for Jesus wrote nothing down. Jesus of Nazareth, as with any person of his generation, lived intact and entirely within his own culture, innocent as to what the future held.
Albert Schweitzer, in his book, “The Historical Jesus,” said in poetic prose, that to regard Jesus historically requires releasing Him from service to our modern concerns. For Schweitzer, “Jesus comes to us as one Unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside.” Whatever your beliefs about the death and resurrection of Jesus, let your beliefs be mindful that the person (Jesus) we seek stands with his back turned to us; his face toward the others of his (not our) generation. Happy Easter!

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