Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 28:1 (March 1985) p. 81
Easter Enigma: Do the Resurrection Stories Contradict One Another? By John Wenham. Exeter: Paternoster, 1984.
For those of us who are even mildly interested in detective stories, Wenham’s new book should provide some fine reading. His study is designed to provide one possible model of the passion and resurrection events based on a careful study of the gospels and I Cor 15:3–8. Studies of this nature are often held up to ridicule, and even strong evangelicals would prefer to stay away from forced or artificial harmonizations. Most of us are content to believe that while the different accounts are historically accurate we cannot piece together a complete story with only the available clues.
This book will probably convince the reader that with a few reasonable assumptions a picture of these events will fall together that does full justice to the texts while throwing light on seemingly casual details. The investigation centers on the identity of the participants (for example, he identifies Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany), the topography of first-century Jerusalem (with which the author is intimately familiar) and the viewpoint of the evangelists. To give one example, Wenham speculates that after Good Friday Peter, John and Jesus’ mother stayed in John’s house in Jerusalem, while Joanna and Susanna lodged in the Hasmonean palace. Mary Magdalene, “the other Mary” and Clopas returned to Bethany on Saturday night to regain contact with the rest of the apostles. The other nine apostles had fled from Gethsemane to their friends’ house, and so Matthew accurately writes from the point of view of one who saw the two Marys leave for the tomb on Easter morning (Matt 28:1). The different appearances to different people on Sunday can be explained by their different routes of travel and the specific gates they used to enter and leave the city.
Wenham also gives some helpful information about the rather faceless women mentioned in the gospels. He concludes, although his reconstruction does not depend on this, that Alpheus/Clopas/Cleophas and “the other Mary” were brother and sister-in-law to Joseph the father of Jesus. Salome, wife of Zebedee, was the virgin Mary’s sister. This hypothesis shows a reason why these particular women traveled with Jesus and went to the tomb: Both were mothers of apostles.
Wenham concludes that at one time he did not have such faith in these details of the gospel accounts but was in fact convinced by his own research. In fact this book was originally recommended to the present writer by one with a lesser view of inspiration but who was seriously rethinking his estimation of gospel history because of...
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