The book, The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity, is a historical analysis of primary documents and evidence concerning the death of Jesus in the Christian tradition. The authors examine historical evidence about this event and propose a unique approach and interpretation of primary texts. The New Testament finds the meaning of history revealed. Jesus preached the hope of the coming judgment in which God’s sovereignty would be revealed, the wicked overcome and punished, and the good received into eternal fellowship with God.
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In the book, Carroll and Green (1995) claim that Jesus taught that the kingdom of God was purely future and would be ushered in by his apocalyptic return upon the clouds of heaven, after which he should overthrow all the forces of evil. Jesus taught a realized eschatology, that is, that the Kingdom had already come with himself and his actions. The only way in which we can do justice to all the facts seems to be to accept elements of both views.
Carroll and Green pay special attention to the place of Jesus Christ in a religious and historical tradition. The disciples found in Jesus the assurance that God had entered decisively into history, illustrated particularly by the miracles with which Jesus overcame the forces of evil. The resurrection of Jesus was seen as the assurance that the first fruits of the age-to-come had appeared. In some sense, then, the kingdom of God was already here as a result of the coming of Christ. Henceforth history could be dated B.C. and A.D., for the event which revealed the meaning of all history had occurred.
The advantage of the book is that it analyzes and discusses other trends and researches on this topic proposing to readers a careful and accurate analysis of the pros and cons of hypotheses. Special attention is paid to discussions and analysis of anti-Judaism. The twofold idea of the state in the New Testament is often seen as a confusion of thought or a contradiction. Sometimes it is suggested that in the days of Paul the Church was protected rather than persecuted by Rome, so Paul taught submission to rule powers; while in the time of Revelation the Church was being persecuted, and so it attacked the state. This neat solution of the double view of the state overlooks a very important point.
Even in the teachings of Jesus, there is implicit the later tension between the ideas of submission to and defiance of the state. Jesus fought an almost continuous battle with the respectable morality of his day as he found it represented by the Pharisees. The Church that bore his name, however, was not so true to its mission of criticizing later forms of pharisaical respectability. In due time the Church itself became respectable, a bulwark of law and order. It forgot that Jesus was a deviationist from the popular way, that he attacked the pretensions of respectability, declaring that the harlots and sinners would precede the respectable Pharisees into the Kingdom. It also forgot the radical love ethic which Jesus put into the place of respectability.
I would like to ask the authors about historical evidence concerning the moment of resurrection.
- Can we trust this part of the narration? What are the drawbacks and limitations of the historical texts?
- What was the most difficult part of narration to prove and reconstruct?
- What sources are the most reliable and why?
Carroll, J. T., Green, J. B. The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity. Hendrickson Publishers 1995.
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