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Jesus, the Final Days

Jesus, The Final DaysJesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened

Authors: Craig A. Evans and N. T. Wright
Paperback: 116 pages
Publisher: Westminster John Knox
ISBN-10: 0-664-23359-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-664-23359-4

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Thank you, Westminster John Knox, for allowing me the chance to read through and review this book.  I truly appreciate the experience and look forward to reviewing more of your titles in the future.

Jesus, the Final Days is a work put together from lectures and other titles by Craig Evans and N. T. Wright.  Dr. Evans’ portions contain information on the death and burial of Jesus, while the Rt. Revd. Wright produced the last section on the resurrection.  Together, they attempt to reach a correct view of what really happened in these three important events.

In the first chapter, Evans starts by explaining that no “serious historian” doubts that Jesus lived and died.  This is affirmed by not only the New Testament, but also by early Jewish and Roman writers.  Evans says of Jesus’ death:

It was known to non-Christians, and it was a demoralizing event for Jesus’ followers – at least initially – and an ongoing embarrassment as the church proclaimed Jesus as Savior and Son of God throughout the Roman Empire.  [5]

After this, he proceeds to explain the reasons for the death of Jesus, which he sums up in the ruling priests’ desire to keep the status quo rather than have a potential political threat that they felt Jesus posed.  Through the rest of the chapter Evans goes step by step through Jesus’ trial, possibility of a pardon, his mockery, and his actual crucifixion and resultant death.

The second chapter of Jesus, the Final Days focuses on Jesus’ burial.  Here Evans discusses burial practices of the time (especially among Jews).  We learn that while the rest of the Roman Empire left their crucified criminals on the cross to rot, Jews were allowed to take down their dead and bury them before nightfall.  Evans also briefly discusses the claim that a tomb found between Jerusalem and Bethlehem was Jesus’ family tomb.  He points to images of a gable over a circle (which some have claimed as being early Christian) at the tomb as being Jewish alone and originally pre-dating the time of Christ.  After this, the author turns to the short bit of passages on the burial and walks his readers through it.

Finally, the chapter on the resurrection is put forth by N. T. Wright.  Right away we learn that “resurrection” was a non-issue in the ancient world.  For the most part, they believed that once dead, always dead.  Of course some Jewish thinkers at least held out hope as they looked at Daniel 12 among other passages.

Wright also suggests that the variations in the telling of the resurrection actually help support it’s occurrence.  He points to the story of Wittgenstein’s Poker, in which something unexpected happened and none of the witnesses could completely agree on the order or the level of dramatics involved.  Wright believes that with something as unexpected as the resurrection of Jesus, the stories of it should contain these variations.  He says of the relation of Wittgenstein and the resurrection:

Exciting and dramatic things often happen, but eyewitnesses disagree about them.  However, to reemphasize, that does not mean that nothing happened.  Rather the reverse.  This, I believe, is what we should conclude from our puzzled initial readings of the Gospel stories.  [81]

Jesus, the Final Days is a good read.  It is refreshing to take a step back and reinvestigate the Gospel tellings of these three key events in Christian belief.  Evans and Wright work together well in providing backgrounds to every aspect of these events, giving their readers information to investigate further outside of this title.

There is not much about this book that I can mark as negative.  It is concise and to the point throughout.  I do wish that there were some additional references provided at the end of each chapter (more than they already provide).  Also, the flow from the sections by Evans to the one by Wright seems uneven.  Evans dealt with the backgrounds and the events.  Wright dealt mainly with the background.

Other than the need for Wright to present the actual event more clearly, Jesus, the Final Days is a good book to pick up.  If you have a little extra time and feel the need to refresh yourself on the ins and outs of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, I would suggest getting a copy.  This title could certainly be used by any pastor about to preach on the subject.

Grade: A

MSE

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