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The Resurrection of Jesus, A Jewish Perspective

From Pneuma Review Spring 2004

The Resurrection of Jesus, A Jewish Perspective. Pinchas Lapide. Wipf and Stock Publishers (Eugene, OR: 2002).

I first encountered Rabbi Lapide in the mid-1980s in a televised debate with noted Christian theologian Walter Kaiser, Jr. I was dumbfounded to hear this Orthodox rabbi state that Jesus “might be the Messiah” but that the Jewish community would not know for certain until His return. I learned that this rabbi had been one of only a handful of Hebraic scholars permitted to examine the gospel texts, and that he had been permitted to author a book on his findings. At that time, this book was only available in German. When I learned it had been reprinted in English, I was quick to request a copy and I was not disappointed with its contents.

Lapide does not question the fact of Jesus as a man who literally existed. He notes that apart from the testimony of several Jewish men, his reality is noted in both secular and Jewish literature of the day. Nor is Jesus’ crucifixion in question—as it was Rome’s punishment of choice in Jerusalem.

At issue is Jesus’ resurrection. Did it or did it not occur? Lapide is quick to state that this un-provable point is strictly a matter of faith. But faith not withstanding, Lapide makes a strong case that the theology of “resurrection” is Jewish through and through. As the Psalmist writes, “to God, the Lord, belongs escape from death” (Ps. 68:20).

Lapide does not shirk from the historical criticisms of the resurrection. The pagan similarities of Attis, Adonis, Isis and so forth have often been used to defend a resurrection “myth.” But these arguments present no challenge to Lapide. “The resurrection of Jesus can be proved—or refuted—only from Jewish sources since the Nazarene, both in his lifetime and after Good Friday, has ministered only within his homeland and his people Israel” (p. 46). This Talmudically reared scholar stridently asserts, “in whatever way one wants to understand [the resurrection], it was primarily and chiefly a Jewish faith experience” (pp 45-46). While Lapide never professes that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, he makes it perfectly clear that the context of his resurrection fits within the overall framework and contemporary messianic expectation.

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Spring 2004

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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