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In Jesus, The Final Days, N. T. Wright and Craig A. Evans set out to bridge the gap between academic and devotional discussions of the Passion. The third — and last — chapter of the book is based on a lecture Wright gave at Crichton College. He discusses the "Surprise of the Resurrection," including four unusual features of the Gospel accounts.
First, as we read the Easter stories, we note the strange absence of Scripture in them. When you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus' last days — of his arrest, his trial, and his crucifixion — you find Old Testament echoes, quotations, and allusions all over the place. The Psalms, Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and other books have provided material that has then been woven into the structure of the narrative.
Turn over the page to the Easter accounts, and what has happened to all that scriptural allusion and echo? It is just not there. John tells us that the two disciples who went to the tomb "did not yet know the Scripture that he must rise again from the dead," but he does not tell us which Scripture he is talking about.
Luke has Jesus expound the Scriptures to the two on the road to Emmaus, but even in that story, he never actually quotes or mentions one of them. This is extraordinary because as early as Paul (e.g., 1 Cor. 15), we can see a very sophisticated hermeneutic of several biblical texts already firmly embedded in early Christian theology. But in these Gospel narratives there is no mention of particular passages, scarcely even an echo of the Old Testament.
One could suggest, I suppose, that this scriptural absence has come about because the people who wrote down those narratives in the second generation had gone through the stories and taken out all of the biblical allusion and echo. That won't work when we have four independent narratives telling the story in different words and different ways.
It is much more plausible to argue that these stories, though written down later, actually reflect the very, very early, pre-reflective eyewitness accounts in which people had not even begun to wonder whether or not this strange set of events fulfilled certain Scriptures. They were, it seems, too eager to tell their friends and neighbors and families the extraordinary things they had just seen and heard.
I therefore regard that as one piece of evidence indicating that the stories, though written down later, must go back to very early oral tradition fixed in that form. Once you tell a story like that (and believe me, if you had experienced something like that, you would tell it over and over again), the story would very quickly acquire a fixed form, just as when you repeat an anecdote two or three times, you tend to settle down into one particular way of telling it.
Though the Resurrection stories have been lightly edited by the different evangelists, they reflect quite closely four of the ways in which that story was told right from the start.
The second strange feature of the Resurrection stories is the presence of women as the primary witnesses. Whether we like it or not, women were simply not regarded as credible witnesses in the ancient world.
Now when the tradition had time to sort itself out, as we see reflected in the first paragraph of 1 Corinthians 15, the women have been quietly dropped. When it came to public apologetics, in that world, it would have been very embarrassing to think that your main witnesses to this extraordinary event were women, not least someone with the extraordinary reputation of Mary Magdalene.