I will simply give up the charade of objectivity and indulge in first person singular. This is a difficult annotation to write, for many reasons. Dale Allison is one of my dearest friends, so my sense of awe at the monumental scholarship on view here is utterly compromised (if you are seeking more objective opinion, go to the website for Continuum International, and read an effusion of scholarly praise like I've not seen in seventeen years of selling books and looking at thousands of book-blurbs). Factor in also his scholarly output: a three-volume commentary on Matthew in the International Critical Commentary, major contributions to the study of the historical Jesus-The New Moses: A Matthean Typology, The Intertextual Jesus: Scripture in Q, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet, The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination
, and much more. This book is a collection of six essays, including ''Secularizing Jesus,'' a deconstruction of the commonly accepted schematic of ''three quests'' for the historical Jesus; ''The Problem of Audience,'' grappling with the interpretation of the some of the ''difficult sayings'' of Jesus; ''The Problem of Gehenna,'' a biblical and historical catalog and critique of interpretations of the doctrine of everlasting punishment of the damned in hell, and the book-length centerpiece of the collection, ''Resurrecting Jesus.'' It is here that the historical convictions of the author and those of his readers might collide. Dale Allison is the epitome of intellectual honesty-he explores the purely historical-critical approach to Jesus to its limits, and to the limits of his own profoundly moving experience of death and its aftermath. In a context other than this book he relates in summary fashion that he believes ''Jesus lives, historical-critical research is quite limited (more limited than what I once thought, and more limited than a lot of others think), some traditional apologetical arguments are surprisingly shallow, and while we may be embodied in the afterlife, it won't be because of physical continuity with our present bodies, so the (historically probable) empty tomb, while it works well to vindicate Jesus, whom I wanted vindicated, is philosophically puzzling.'' Dr. Allison is not willing to grant, using only historical tools, the exultant ''Christ is risen!'' for which our hearts yearn and the liturgy grants vision. But he admits that other tools are necessary to more fully comprehend the Resurrection, an admission the poignance and eloquence of which compel quotation at length: ''When the mundane historical work is done, the results are disappointingly scanty, severely circumscribed. Most of the important questions have eluded our capture, and harder tasks remain. At this point, then, the discussion has to be handed over to the philosophers and theologians, among whose lofty company I am not privileged to dwell... lthough ignorance should not be the mother of devotion, true religion nevertheless involves realms of human experience and conviction that cannot depend upon or be undone by the sorts of historical doubts, probabilities, and conjectures with which the previous pages have been concerned. For myself, all I have to do is look up at the night sky or look into the face of my neighbor, and then I know that there is more to life and faith than this.''
An Eighth Day View:
Jesus remains a popular figure in contemporary culture and Allison remains one of our best interpreters. He speaks around the country in a variety of venues on matters related to the study of the Historical Jesus. In his new book, he focuses on the historical Jesus and eschatology, concluding that the Jesus was not a Hellenistic wonder worker or teacher of pious morality but an apocalyptic prophet. In an opening chapter that is worth the price of admission, Allison astutely and engagingly captures the history of the search for the historical Jesus. He observes that many contemporary readings of Jesus shift the focus away from traditional theological, Christological, and eschatological concerns. In provocative fashion, He takes on not only the Jesus Seminar but also other Jesus interpreters such as N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg.