This thesis, Jewish scholarship on the resurrection of Jesus, is meant to contribute to the wider body of literature on the Jewish study of Jesus. The resurrection is deemed the most important event in the New Testament (1 Cor 15:17), yet it is often neglected among Jewish New Testament scholars. There are two main goals to this dissertation. The first is to determine the potential reasons for this aversion, particularly among scholars who are studying the historical Jesus. The second is to examine the findings of the Jewish scholars who have interacted with the resurrection. There are five main chapters.
Chapter 1 presents the background issues for this study. These include the evolving nature of the Jewish study of Jesus, the relationship between historiography and the supernatural, the factors that have contributed to the Jewish-Christian schism, and the historic Jewish views of the resurrection of Jesus. This dissertation focuses on scholarship from 1900 to the present. Chapter 2 surveys the books and articles that have documented the Jewish study of Jesus as a whole. This too serves as a prelude to the present discussion, and it also helps expose the deficiency of scholarship on the resurrection.
Chapter 3 is the longest, and it considers the potential reasons why Jewish scholars may assume that the resurrection is either not historical, or that it is of no consequence for Jewish people. This chapter is subdivided into six topics of discussion. These include miracles, the New Testament texts, anti-Semitism, resurrection in general, the messiah, and the means of atonement. For each, it will be demonstrated that alternative viewpoints exist within mainstream Judaism, and also that these presuppositions, in themselves, do not present a barrier to the study of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.
Chapter 4 addresses the writings of Jewish scholars who have made at least some comment on the resurrection. The first section examines the books that have attempted to offer a biography of the life of Jesus. The next section includes the authors who have specifically addressed the resurrection. The remaining two sections of this chapter survey the comments about the resurrection of Jesus that appear in works of Jewish history, and in a few works that fall just outside the parameters of this study.
Chapter 5 synthesizes the conclusions from the previous chapter. The overall level of interaction with the resurrection was, indeed, quite limited. For example, only one of the eleven biographies included more than a passing comment or a quick dismissal of the event. The scholars who addressed the subject more directly approached it from a variety of angles. But, the alternative suggestions ranged from incomplete to untenable. None of them successfully provided a plausible alternative to the canonical narrative.
The Jewish study of Jesus has come a long way in the last century. But, until this all-important topic is adequately confronted, the scholarship remains incomplete. The ultimate purpose of this dissertation is not to prove the historicity of the resurrection, but rather to promote further study.