"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Crossan on the Resurrection

I well remember the commotion caused in Chicago in 2012 at the annual AAR/SBL meeting there, when John Dominic Crossan, president that year of the latter organization, spoke appreciatively about learning from the Christian East and its iconography of the resurrection. A lot of people were talking afterwards, asking "What does it mean when the founder of the Jesus Seminar starts re-examining some of his past claims and seems to be veering towards.......Orthodoxy??"

That presidential lecture from 2012 seems to have been re-worked into a book with his wife just released: Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision, by John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan (HarperOne, 2018), 224pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In this four-color illustrated journey that is part travelogue and part theological investigation, bestselling author and acclaimed Bible scholar John Dominic Crossan and his wife Sarah painstakingly travel throughout the ancient Eastern church, documenting through text and image a completely different model for understanding Easter’s resurrection story, one that provides promise and hope for us today.
Traveling the world, the Crossans noticed a surprising difference in how the Eastern Church considers Jesus’ resurrection—an event not described in the Bible. At Saint Barbara’s Church in Cairo, they found a painting in which the risen Jesus grasps the hands of other figures around him. Unlike the Western image of a solitary Jesus rising from an empty tomb that he viewed across Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the Crossans saw images of the resurrection depicting a Jesus grasping the hands of figures around him, or lifting Adam and Eve to heaven from Hades or hell, or carrying the old and sick to the afterlife. They discovered that the standard image for the Resurrection in Eastern Christianity is communal and collective, something unique from the solitary depiction of the resurrection in Western Christianity.
Fifteen years in the making, Resurrecting Easter reflects on this divide in how the Western and Eastern churches depict the resurrection and its implications. The Crossans argue that the West has gutted the heart of Christianity’s understanding of the resurrection by rejecting that once-common communal iconography in favor of an individualistic vision. As they examine the ubiquitous Eastern imagery of Jesus freeing Eve from Hades while ascending to heaven, the Crossans suggest that this iconography raises profound questions about Christian morality and forgiveness.
A fundamentally different way of understand the story of Jesus’ rebirth illustrated with 130 images, Resurrecting Easter introduces an inclusive, traditional community-based ideal that offers renewed hope and possibilities for our fractured modern society.
I confess to finding the title tedious in its triumphalistic tone, but I suspect that is a marketing ploy by what is after all a major commercial publisher not known for its restraint when there's lots of money on the line. When I've had a chance to read it, I'll post some further thoughts.

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