Item description for Resurrection: Myth or Reality? by John Shelby Spong...
Overview The controversial bishop who authored Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism draws on biblical evidence as well as contemporary thought to take a daring look at the very foundation of Christianity--the Resurrection and the story of Easter.
Using approaches from the Hebrew interpretive tradition to discern the actual events surrounging Jesus' death, Bishop Spong questions the hitorical validity of literal narrative concerned the Ressurection. He asserts that the resurrection story was born in an experience that opened the disciples' eyes to the reality of God and the meaning of Jesus of Nazareth. Spong traces the Christian origins of anti-Semitism to the Church's fabrication of the ultimate Jewish scapegoat, Judas Iscariot. He affirms the inclusiveness of the Christian message and emphasizes the necessity of mutual integrity and respect among Christians and Jews.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.08" Width: 5.38" Height: 0.93" Weight: 0.8 lbs.
Release Date Mar 10, 1995
ISBN 0060674296 ISBN13 9780060674298 UPC 099455014007
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More About John Shelby Spong
John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000. As a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches throughout the English-speaking world, he is one of the leading spokespersons for liberal Christianity. His books include Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, Jesus for the Non-Religious, A New Christianity for a New World, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Why Christianity Must Change or Die and his autobiography, Here I Stand. He has initiated landmark discussions of controversies within the church and has become an outspoken advocate for change.
John Shelby Spong currently resides in Newark, in the state of New Jersey. John Shelby Spong was born in 1931.
Reviews - What do customers think about Resurrection: Myth or Reality??
Making sense of the resurrection Feb 18, 2008
Spong presents reasons why he believes the resurrection of Jesus became literalized gradually after his death. Spong proceeds through the letters written by Paul to argue why he does not find good evidence that Paul regarded Jesus' resurrection as bodily. He then proceeds through the Synoptic Gospels in the order in which they are believed by most scholars today to have been written (Mark, Matthew, and finally Luke) to show what he believes are signs of increasingly literalized presentations of the resurrection. After reviewing all the Gospels including John, Spong speculates boldly to try to capture some sense in which Peter and the others who had known Jesus might have had a transforming Easter experience after the death of Jesus that led them to proclaim that he had been raised. Spong explains what it was about Jewish beliefs and the conditions of the times that would have influenced their response to Jesus's death.
Is it plausible? Probably not if you believe to begin with that the resurrection was bodily. It will seem that Spong is certainly reverse-engineering this book's arguments to fit his own rejection of a supernatural resurrection. Will it be plausible to other Christians? Perhaps but it may seem one set of speculations among many. Spong has not carefully graded his speculations as to which seem most likely and which least so he may have weakened his presentation by making it seem dependent on too many speculations. As for non-Christians, they may note that however "radical" Spong may seem to Christians in questioning the Gospel accounts, he seems not to question much, if at all, Jesus himself. One might compare Elaine Pagels' speculations in The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics or those of Bart Ehrman in Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium neither of whom seem to hold as closely to the Jesus of the Gospels as Spong does. It may seem baffling that Spong would question so much but not Jesus, especially given that Spong accepts that Paul, who had such a powerful response to Christ, seemed to know little about Jesus's life and especially given that Spong believes the Gospels were constructed by those not directly familiar with Jesus with heavy appeal in a midrash-like way to Old Testament writings. So who was this Jesus? Spong's faith seems to rest in a belief that Jesus had at the least earned the deepest love of those close to him, that he had taught them profoundly and that they had believed he had given himself for their sake. But it is the very Gospels that Spong calls into question which seem to provide Spong most of reasons for faith: Spong's attention to Paul seems secondary, mostly to convince himself that the resurrection was not bodily.
It seems a good idea to read Spong's books in the chronological order in which they were written. His theologizing evolves but whatever his skepticism of specific New Testament passages, his acceptance of the image of Jesus he derives from the New Testament seems not to be called into question by him in either of the later Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile or A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born. In rejecting literal aspects of Jesus, Spong seems to hold tight to idealized aspects. But which came first, the Jesus Spong met or the New Testament texts through which Spong has freely speculated to arrive at the Jesus he proclaims?
We can't know what happened but I think I do. Dec 10, 2007
In Resurrection: Myth or Reality, John Shelby Spong argues against the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. His argument rests on two foundations: the Jewish interpretive method called midrash, and linguistic subjectivism. . Rabbi Iscah Waldman, in an article entitled Filling in the Gaps: How Midrash Functions available at MyJewishLearning.com explains, "Midrash is commonly defined as the process of interpretation by which the Rabbis filled in `gaps' in the Torah." Spong argues that this method should be applied to the New Testament as well. But I see nothing in this definition of midrash that requires non-literal interpretation of the words that are in the text. Speaking of the events that produced the Easter tradition, Spong himself agrees that something did happen. "So we look at the writings we have and seek to understand what they point to, what they reveal, what truth they convey. They all point to one consistent conclusion. Something Happened! Whatever that something was, it had power! Incredible power!" But even if a literal interpretation were excluded by midrash, Spong's argument ultimately falls to a fatal logical error. . In chapter III, titled The Vehicle of Words, an Unsteady Ship, Spong lays his second foundation. "No word is subjective; hence no word ever passes from the lips of one person into the hearing of another without being changed in meaning." "Identical words, therefore, are never passed on with identical meaning to two different persons, even in the same tribe." "Words are never neutral or objective...words are never THE truth...so it is that no words employed by anyone at any time can be objective, infallible, inerrant, or strictly literal." "Above all, words must be recognized as symbolic pointers to truth not objective containers of truth." Spong repeats this theme throughout the book. . Spong's argument falls on its own sword. If we cannot know what words mean, how can Spong be so sure that he knows what the Bible's words about Jesus' resurrection cannot mean? He, too, uses words to argue for his spiritualized view of the resurrection of Jesus. Even his understanding of Midrash must sail on the "unsteady ship" of words. Based on his own view of the subjectivity of words, I do not find Spong's position on the resurrection of Jesus very convincing. Any conclusion he draws ends up in the inescapable quagmire of its own subjectivity.
Superb Analysis of the Gospels Dec 8, 2007
If anything in the New Testament is reliable historically, it is only by accident. Virtually every word, phrase, and verse comes from midrash (Jewish for "recycling old stories") from the Old Testament, was adapted from mythology, or was fabricated to prove a theological point. Retired Episcopalean Bishop Spong presents data along these lines about as well as I've ever seen, along with ideas I have not read before. My question to him is the same question I had after I finished three other of his books - that is "how are you going to make a religion out of this?"
This time he answers the question. Although he doesn't believe in a physical resurrection of Jesus, he believes in a spiritual resurrection that can be accomplished as a life event in anyone. He spends better than a hundred pages on this and talks as well as any PR man I've ever heard - but to me, he's grasping for "sky hooks." He is unwilling to let go of the spirituality that has been his life's work, even though his extensive study has convinced him it is mythology.
Is Spong's book a myth or reality? Oct 12, 2007
John Shelby Spong asks the question, "Can something be real, yet not occur in history? This of course is in reference to the resurrection of Jesus. The answer is a resounding, no. He believes this is a possibility that every Christian should inquire about. He adds that the experience is real, but should not be taken literally. Why does Spong make such a strong assertion? Where does he obtain his information? Will the evidence be credible? Spong believes that the origin and destiny of Jesus was derived countless times from every religious system. He gives one example of the Egyptian god, Osiris as a parallel to what happened to Jesus. However, when carefully examining his claim, we have excellent reasons to believe and know this cannot be the case. Osiris was killed by his brother and chopped up into fourteen pieces, which were scattered throughout Egypt. Concerning Osiris' apparent resurrection, the goddess, Isis, found only thirteen pieces and put him back together. Secondly, it is extremely questionable as to whether or not anyone saw Osiris. Third, he was given the status of the god of the underworld. Fourth, Osiris is not even the hero of the story, Isis or his son Horus was given this title. In no form whatsoever can the story of Osiris be considered a parallel to Jesus. First, Jesus (his full body) appeared to as many as five-hundred people after his resurrection. Second, Jesus was given authority over heaven and earth, not the underworld as Osiris. Third, Jesus is the hero of the story where people worship him as their Lord and their God. Fourth, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus far surpasses any evidence that other religions claim. Therefore it is easy to see that the resurrection of Jesus cannot be considered a parallel to other ancient religions or mythologies. In chapter 19, Spong asks, "But what actually happened?" Spong believes that Jesus being crucified on the cross is a historical fact, but no one actually knows how he died. If this is the case, then how does Spong know Jesus was crucified? Where is the data he uses to promote this idea? Spong surprisingly offers none. There are an ample amount of resources, both Christian and non-Christian to historically show the death of Christ as an indisputable fact. Non-Christian sources include Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion, and the Jewish Talmud. From a medical standpoint, it is much more difficult to assume that Jesus didn't die on the cross, than to logically conclude crucifixion as the cause of his death. After Jesus had 5"-7" nails driven through his hands and feet, and then being raised on the cross, he would have to push up on his feet in order to breathe. Most crucifixion victims would eventually become exhausted and would lose the energy to push them up for the precious oxygen. Fluid would build up around the heart and the lungs therefore Jesus would have died from asphyxiation. Spong attempts to avoid Jesus' death by cruxifixion on page 241 of his book that everyone close to Jesus would have fled, therefore they wouldn't have known what happened (How does Spong know the disciples fled, yet question the disciples didn't know? No data is provided). However, John 19:34 states that blood and water came from Jesus when his side was pierced by the Roman soldier (Roman soldiers made sure their victims were dead, or they would be put to death). Only an eyewitness account could confirm what happened given the limited medical knowledge of the ancient world. Probably the most amazing statement concerning the death of Jesus comes from a non-Christian source. The Journal of the American Medical Association said, "Clearly the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right rib, probably perforated no only the right lung, but also the pericardium of the heart and thereby ensured his death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appears to be at odds with Modern Medical Knowledge" (March 21, 1986, 1463). The evidence clearly shows that Jesus was killed by crucifixion, but did he rise from the dead? Spong says on page 228 that if there was a tomb, it was not empty. This begs the question once again, how does he know? Once again no evidence is provided. The Jewish authorities wanted to demolish Christianity. Wherever Jesus was buried, all they had to do was to produce the body to show there was no resurrection. The new religion would have ceased to exist. Instead they had to invent stories in order to hopefully explain away the resurrection. Unbelievers such as James and Paul were transformed upon the visits of the resurrected Christ. Critical scholars of the Jesus' resurrection claim the improbability of that the early church would have included such unbelief from one of their leaders such as James. Concerning Paul, Jesus Seminar critic, Roy Hoover says that Paul's testimony is the earliest and most historically reliable evidence for the resurrection. The rest of the disciples went from being cowards, to boldly and confidently proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus Christ and salvation for the world. Spong even admits this, but he asks the question on page 27, "Why?" Thus, by identifying tremendous support for what he hopes to refute! Eleven of the twelve disciples died horrendous deaths for their beliefs. They were in the position to have first hand knowledge as to whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. It is commonly known that many will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know is false. In conclusion, Spong offers no real historical evidence of his theory. I'm afraid all he can offer is "Spong-speculation."
Essential Reading Jan 4, 2007
John Shelby Spong is an Episcopal Bishop and the author of several books, among them Born of a Woman, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, and This Hebrew Lord. In the current book Spong examines the most minute details about the Resurrection in an attempt to re-visit the "Easter" story that is at the core of Christianity. Spong's unique contribution to this analysis is his deep familiarity with Hebrew literature and the midrash tradition, the lens through which the all Jewish people of the first century interpreted the gospels.
Part One (Chapters 1-3) is a 40+ page introduction to the study of the gospels, the use of words, and the midrash method. Part Two (Chapters 4-9) is a detailed study of each of the gospels as well as the epistles of Paul. Part Three examines some of the major images present in the Resurrection story (e.g., the suffering servant, the son of man. In Part Four (Chapters 14-18) Spong provides his own interpretation of what the gospels really say, and in Part Five he provides us with an idea of what the resurrection story means to him on a personal level.
This book is a monumental work of scholarship and it will completely revise your idea about biblical research as well as the story of the resurrection. Literalists beware, this is not the book for you. But anyone with an open mind who has ever questioned the inconsistencies in the gospel accounts (e.g., did Jesus appear to the disciples in Galilee or in Jerusalem? Did one, two,three or more women go to the tomb?) or wondered about the strange and impossible to explain issues (e.g., cursing the fig tree, the cowardly disciple who becomes the Rock upon which the church is founded) will find this book a true eye opener.
The book is well written, but the notes are sketchy and far too few. There is an extensive bibliography and a detailed index of topics. The book will appeal to beginning students as well as the most advanced scholars.
Bottom line - there is no more engaging or provocative book on the resurrection. This book belongs in everyone's library.