The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, 09:25 WIB
The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives
Name of Book :  The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives
Author :  Reginald H. Fuller
Publisher :  London, SPCK., 1972.
At Chapter One, "Introduction: The Riddle of Easter", Fuller says that "a generation ago the greatest New Testament scholar of this century Rudolf Bultmann, in an epoch-making essay entitled "New Testament and Mythology", spoke of the "incredibility of a mythical event like the resuscitation of corpse". He did not himself think that this was the major problem of the Easter Faith, but it is certainly the problem that looms largest in the eyes not only of the man in the street but also the man in the pew he follows up saying that "Bultmann did not wish to eliminate the resurrection from the Christian faith, but rather to interpret it correctly. According to him, the real meaning of the resurrection message is not that a certain incredible event occurred on Easter Sunday morning, but that the cross is permanently available to us in the church's preaching as the saving act of God". Fuller comments that we need not concern ourselves about the adequacy of this interpretation of the resurrection to the intention of the New Testament.
The book has eight chapters, after outlining "The Riddle of Easter" in the first chapter, Fuller goes through the various New Testament texts in a roughly chronological order. A detailed analysis of I Cor. 15:3ff. is followed by analyses of the resurrection narratives in Mark, Matthew, Luke, John 21, and pseudo-Mark (16:9-20). Another chapter raises the question, whether certain miracle stories in the Gospels are not really "transposed resurrection narratives" (Lk. 5:1-11; Mk. 4:35-41; 6:45-52; 6:32-44; 8:1-10; 9:2-8; 16:17-19). Finally, the matter of "The Resurrection Narratives in Contemporary Faith and Proclamation" is brought up.
The strength of this work is that it covers all of the New Testament sources of the resurrection narratives, meaning Paul's letters as well as the canonical Gospels. There is also an appendix that discusses the resurrection appearances in some of the apocryphal gospels. Fuller is obviously competent and familiar with the material. He finds redactions, exaggerations, conflations, and invention at every turn. In fairness, though, he also reaches conclusions more traditional, such that Luke had an independent source beyond Mark, that the Emmaus Road Story is based on earlier tradition, and that at least the report of the empty tomb by a woman or women is historical.
The greatest weakness of this book is the leaps that Fuller takes to reach conclusions that will appear to the reader as speculative, at best. The book has less than 200 pages of text. Fuller often provides insufficient information and discussion for us to form an opinion one way or the other.
One example is Fuller's conclusion that the "third day" reference in 1 Corinthians 15 "is not a chronological data, but a dogmatic assertion". Why the disciples would have found "on the third day" to be dogmatically necessary is gleaned from much later apocalyptic writings in the Talmud. But not only are these sources much later than the resurrection narratives, they are not discussed or even cited (Fuller provides a secondary reference). Nevertheless, Fuller assumes that these apocalyptic beliefs about the significance of the "third day" must have been powerfully active during the time of Jesus. So powerful that the early Christians had to invent a reference to "on the third day" to meet that expectation. But apparently not powerful enough to have left any contemporary evidence of its existence. This seems unlikely and needs much more evidence than is cited.
Fuller shows an attempt to provide a better place in the history of the Easter traditions for the story of the empty tomb (Mk. 16:1-6, 8). Rather than interpreting the story as a legend, based upon the appearance stories, he connects it with the traditions about Jesus' burial (Acts 13:29; Mk. 15:42-47) and reconstructs an incident in which, after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene visits Jesus' tomb and finds the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Fuller prefers to use the Matthew's version, which has the opposite order, "He is not here, for he was raised . . ." (for example, pp. 179f.).
For a different understanding of the resurrection I suggest to read Ahmed Deedat's books: Resurrection or Resuscitation?, Who Moved the Stone?, What Was the Sign of Jonah?, and Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction?