Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

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Charles Foster is a writer, barrister, and tutor in medical law and ethics at the University of Oxford. This book is part of his journey to silence nagging doubts and an examination of one of the greatest claims in history. This is more than a journey though this is an in-depth debate by Foster, as a practicing trial attorney, unyieldingly presenting the case for and against the Resurrection of Jesus. 

John Lennox, professor of Mathematics also at Oxford, has high praise for this work. He says, “By focusing his inimical, lateral thinking, forensic mind, both to the case for and to the case against the resurrection of Jesus, Charles Foster has managed to achieve what should be legally impossible: to combine the roles of defense and prosecution...As one member of that jury, I found Foster's book providing me with yet more evidence in support of my conviction that the central claim of Christianity is true: Jesus rose from the dead."

There are eight chapters: 1) Does all this matter? 2) The sources 3) The death 4) The burial 5) The Empty Tomb 6) The Post-Resurrection Appearances 7) Did the Early Church Believe in the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus? 8) Where Did the Christians Get Their Idea of Resurrection? There is an epilogue, 4 appendices, notes, select bibliography and index. The appendices include statements on The Cause of Death; The Turin Shroud; The Jesus Family Tomb Statistics and The Gospel of Peter. The book also includes 45 illustrations that reflect various evidences referred to throughout the debate, e.g. Shroud of Turin, flagrum, patibulum, or ossuaries. 

In the epilogue we see Foster’s conclusions. His comments on Luke and Paul’s connection to the Resurrection are salient: 

First Corinthians 15 is important for these purposes because it’s early…so too are the accounts…in Acts. Luke, who wrote Acts, was Paul’s companion and very much Paul’s man…if the early chapters of Acts indicate a belief in the physical resurrection Luke must have thought that belief was shared by Paul too. Read First Corinthians 15 through the lens of Acts, and you’ll see it properly. And what you’ll see is a clear and very early belief that the body of Jesus had vanished from the tomb and then, three days later, appeared again in a form that was in fact rather more than physical.” 

The format of the book is unique. Foster records this debate by using two characters: X and Y. X presents the non-Christian view while Y follows in the discussion presenting the Christian view. Using this format it is easy to compare the arguments for X and Y. For the sake of this review I would like to focus on the chapters 6, 7 and 8. They cover the Post-Resurrections Appearances, Did the Early Church Believe in the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus? and Where Did the Christians Get Their Idea of Resurrection?

The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster : The paperback copy I received was provided to me at no charge by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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