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Historical criticism of the New Testament is somewhat out of fashion these days: the text has become the focus of interest and the question whether it points beyond itself to anything more important has faded right into the background. However, Professor Wedderburn argues that to adopt this approach is drastically to change the nature of the Christian faith, which finds its focus and starting point in a historical figure.
The chief problem raised by the historical approach is that it constantly threatens, by the results it obtains, to Undermine cherished and established beliefs, and nowhere is that more true than when the resurrection is being discussed. Of course many books have been written on the resurrection, some of them, like Gerd Liidemann's The Resurrection of Jesus, very radical indeed.
The focus of this new book, though, lies elsewhere. An investigation of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is only the first stage; following on from this an investigation is needed into the systematic and philosophical implications of the exegetical findings, and these may necessitate a reconstruction of traditional belief; there may be a need to go 'beyond resurrection'.
If, as all the evidence suggests, the founding event of Christianity was mysteriously inscrutable, the only adequate intellectual response is a form of agnosticism, of suspension of judgment. This raises many questions for the pastoral work of the church, but it may well prove in practice to come more closely to a form of belief which mirrors the activity of Jesus.
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