“The Jesus Inquest” is in interesting concept and format for a book. Written by Charles Foster (“Writer, barrister, tutor in medical law and ethics at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Green Templeton College. He has written, edited, or contributed to over thirty books…” –back cover author bio), “The Jesus Inquest” immediately establishes that this isn’t going to your typical book about whether Jesus was real or not. This book is about the most popular (absurd, logical, plausible, and religious) views on whether the death, burial and resurrection of Christ happened.
The book is laid out with Foster acting as both “Witness X” and “Witness Y”. “Witness X” aims to essentially discredit the Christian view of the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and “Witness Y” is essentially an apologist arguing the Christian view and having to bear the burden of proof to the validity of the Christian view. In court, “Witness X” would be the prosecution, simply tasked with casting doubt and “Witness Y” acting as the defense and having to prove “beyond a shadow of a doubt” the facts and arguments laid out.
Interesting premise? Yes, definitely. But at the same time, I had a hard time really getting into the discussion. From the very beginning, each chapter is very formulaic. It’s obvious by Chapter 2 that X is going to present a lot of anecdotes and stories and examples from non-Christian sources. X is also going to make some pretty wild claims about the death and resurrection account in the Gospels and attempt to confuse the reader (the jury) with a lot of information that is never very sound evidence. Witness Y will get a turn after several pages and immediately begin discrediting all of X’s positions. X uses often-unreliable sources, and Y makes sure the reader is aware of that. At the same time, Y’s arguments against X become worn out ofter just a couple of chapters. Instead of spending more time on really providing evidence in support of the Christian view of Christ’s death and resurrection, we’re given a lot of “this is why X’s argument fails” and only a little of “here is better evidence that is academically/historically/religiously sound.
I suppose that is to be expected since Y is the defense attorney and the defense often has to spend an inordinate amount of effort discrediting the prosecution to make sure the jury is aware of why the evidence presented is wrong, and doesn’t have the full benefit of being able to just present their own side of the story on its own merit. Doubt is much easier to establish than belief is.
As much as I would like to recommend this book to a general audience, the writing style and techniques employed are much to complex and wordy to really be a book you’d want to spend a lazy afternoon reading. For those interested in apologetic discussions or having a wider understanding of some of the counterpoints to the beliefs Christians have about the death and resurrection (and how it became so important to the Church) then this is a good resource.
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