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Holy Week has left its sweetness while I give thanks for the experience, enriched by prayer and Reza Aslan’s study of the resurrection in Zealot – The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (2013).His historical focus upon this mystery in first-century Palestine rehabbed my outdated faith.

Critical to this study is the oral tradition in which Jesus and those who knew him lived. From the very beginning, the collection of stories, in Aramaic, began inflaming imaginations and drawing countless followers. Yet, his failed mission did not extinguish his title, messiah: he was different than the others and they would find out why.

So deepened the ferment of those following his ignominious death on 30 C.E., on Golgotha. Initially, grief bleared their perception, but his memory buoyed spirits, and hope in his message lightened steps. Soon, more stories circulated—Jesus was still around.

Not until 50 C.E. did the first scriptural reference to the risen Christ appear. In Paul’s letter to the Greek city in Corinth, (15: 3-8) he alludes to an older liturgical formula drawn up by Jesus’s followers when gathered together.

About the same time, the Q Source, an early collection of Jesus’s sayings appears, followed by Mark’s first gospel, written in rough Greek, ten years later; neither contains accounts of the resurrection, but that would change. More ferment by the first believers eventually produced differing gospel accounts by Luke and Matthew, writing in different cities between 90 and 100 C.E. John’s gospel appears between 100 and 120 C.E., again with differing resurrection accounts—all intended to rebut disbelief and gain followers. It worked for centuries.

Aslan, the author, also reminds us that the gospels are not biography, but serve as manuals of faith to be practiced by believers. That’s the rub: sloth prefers the easier, softer way.

But faith in Jesus’s resurrection adds élan to this practice that prepares spirits for reasonable joy in this life and for an eternity of communion in the one following. It can’t be too much longer …

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