The Resurrection of the Son of God
(Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3)
N. T. Wright
Fortress, 817 pages, $49
N. T. Wright wrote his most recent book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, while canon theologian at Westminster Abbey. He is now the bishop-elect of Durham, a providential irony, given that in the 1980s newspapers trumpeted (inaccurately, it turns out) that his predecessor David Jenkins had called the resurrection a conjuring trick with bones.
Unlike Jenkins, Wright takes the bodily resurrection of Jesus literally, though he is not woodenly literal-minded. He could never be mistaken for a "fundamentalist" (with all the connotations of unimaginative flatness carried by that f-word).
Resurrection language is used metaphorically in the Bible, but Wright is eager to point out that those biblical metaphors are grounded in concrete historical referents. For example, Ezekiel's vision of the valley of the dry bones is, in Wright's view, a metaphor for God's restoration of Israel as a nation. But to recognize it as a metaphor for a concrete historical hope is not to regard it as a symbol for some hazy religious experience. Likewise, the rich interplay of resurrection language with the church's rite of baptism and the believer's entrance into the life of the age to come is not a free-floating metaphor for just any religious thrill. It has a concrete referent in a particular kind of new life imbued with the power of a specific Spirit, bringing with it new ethical demands for life in this world.
Wright argues that all of this metaphorical richness can only make sense if we understand the Bible writers to mean what they say when they write about the bodily resurrection ...