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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earnest but flawed argument, 9 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Who Moved the Stone? (Paperback)
This book was recommended to me by a Christian friend and, as a non-believer, I would thoroughly recommend it to others: believers and non-believers alike. The book is an earnest attempt to understand, in secular terms, the days up to and following Jesus' death. The thrust of the book is that everything at that time, except the resurrection of Jesus, is explainable in secular terms, therefore the resurrection must be true. For me, however, there are a number of flaws in the argument:

1. The author often has recourse to the 'truth is stranger than fiction' argument; or, "if the Gospel writers were going to make this up, they wouldn't have made this up". My issue with this is that the argument is made through the lens of the 20th century, not the 1st century.

2. The author makes a lot of the abrupt change in the disciples following the resurrection as evidence of the cathartic event they had experienced. In fact, he makes much of the 7 week gap between the crucifixion and the disciples first speech at the Feast. Anyone with children who have left home or even moved from junior to secondary school will know that seven weeks is plenty of time for a "sudden" change to occur.

3. The author often looks at the actions of the players (disciples, priests, etc.) in the immediate days following the crucifixion in terms of what Christianity became many years later. I can well imagine the immediate reaction of the priests being one that it was all nonsense (Jesus has risen but won't present himself) and would blow over. Think David Icke or Sabbatai Zevi for example.

4. Much is made of the women visiting the tomb and their inability to move the stone. It is never explained why when they knew they wouldn't be able to move the stone, they went at a time when they could not have expected anyone to be there to help them.

5. This is my biggest criticism, the author does not fully explore the argument that Jesus was a mortal human. Although the book predates C.S. Lewis' Signature broadcasts, the author does appear to think that we must admit the divinity of Jesus because to think otherwise means Jesus was either a conman or a madman. It is not possible to think of Jesus as just an exceptional social reformer. I have never accepted the Lewis argument because there are lots of other exceptional social reformers whose mortality is never questioned (Moses, the Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed). This is not the place to express my own views, but there are facets of Jesus' mortality that could and should have been addressed in the book. Much is made of the delay in the Garden of Gethsemane - was Judas 'negotiating' on Jesus' behalf? Was the timetable set by Jesus - he was convicted by his own words after all? Was it imperative that Jesus died on the Friday because the needed to know the tomb would to be undisturbed for a day. Jesus' statement on the cross "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" is never examined. I contend Jesus says that not because he has not been saved, but because he is not dead yet.

Nevertheless, whilst not accepting the author's deductions -the book does raise some very interesting questions. The location of Jesus' body was not known to anyone - I agree with the author that this is a secret that could not be kept. Any discussion around the mortality of Jesus, must accept that Jesus' plan had him dying on the cross. Why did a Church whose promise of bodily resurrection was so palpably false (except for one, supposed, exalted individual) survive to become the dominant religion? The answer for me has always being that Christianity was as much a political movement as a religious one.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Jan 2014 00:38:24 GMT
I fell over laughing at 'exceptional social reformers'. Moses is a character in a collection of Iron Age legends; he cannot be shown to be historical. He is a fictional character; that excludes him from any claim to mortality. Siddhārtha Gautama I understand was primarily interested in helping the individual achieving negation. Mohammed appears to have been a warlord who had a religion retroactively projected upon himself. Only Confucius seems to warrant the description; but can an essentially conservative philosophy be seen as reform? I will leave to one side the historicity of either the Buddha or Confucius. Whatever the reality of the person, the Jesus of the Gospels is a construction from a whole cloth of biblical misinterpretation, prompted in part to rival and surpass competing and equally incredible mythologies. What I have never understood is why a professor of English and celebrated author of fiction could not recognise fiction when he saw it.

Posted on 23 Jan 2014 00:40:30 GMT
I fell over laughing at 'exceptional social reformers'. Moses is a character in a collection of Iron Age legends; he cannot be shown to be historical. He is a fictional character; that excludes him from any claim to mortality. Siddhārtha Gautama I understand was primarily interested in helping the individual in achieving negation. Mohammed appears to have been a warlord who had a religion retroactively projected upon himself. Only Confucius seems to warrant the description; but can an essentially conservative philosophy be seen as reform? I will leave to one side the historicity of either the Buddha or Confucius. Whatever the reality of the person, the Jesus of the Gospels is a construction from a whole cloth of biblical misinterpretation, prompted in part to rival and surpass competing and equally incredible mythologies. What I have never understood is why a professor of English and celebrated author of fiction could not recognise fiction when he saw it.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jan 2014 17:16:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jan 2014 17:20:46 GMT
Literally or metaphorically? The comment about social reformers was with regard to their lack of divinity, not their historicity, and a counter to the argument 'Jesus must be divine because the alternative is unthinkable'. I am well aware of the Jesus Myth Theory but did not feel it relevant to this review. These are meant to be reviews to help others rather than platforms for our own views.

BTW I think your reference to ' ... professor of English...' (C.S. Lewis) may be confusing to those who think this is a discussion about the book written by Frank Morison (advertising agent and freelance writer).

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Nov 2014 11:50:01 GMT
Picking up on your point 5, isn't the difference between Jesus and the others mentioned (whether considered real people or fictional characters) that he was the only one to claim to be God? (Indeed, this was the primary reason the Jews demanded his crucifixion - blasphemy, setting himself up on an equal par with God). I think this is a key part of C.S.Lewis's argument and does make a difference to the various options available to us as to who he was (or is if you believe in his resurrection).
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