A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity

by Paula Fredriksen

At a lecture promoting her new book (Sin: The Early History of an Idea), I asked the author if she believed in an afterlife. She answered, "I don't know." A better answer would have been, "God hasn't given me the gift of faith." There are two kinds of knowledge: faith and reason. In reason, we know something is true because we can see the truth of it. In faith, we know something is true because God has revealed it to us. Faith is both a decision and a gift from God.

The following quotes indicate to me that Professor Fredriksen has never even considered whether our freedom is before God and that God will gather up our past somehow when we die:

Such reasoning established only that traditions about Jesus' working miracles are early: They cannot answer the question—a modern concern, not evidently an ancient one—whether he actually did them.
Did Jesus of Nazareth, then, perform miracles? Here I as a historian have to weigh the testimony of tradition against what I think is possible in principle. I do not believe that God occasionally suspends the operation of what Hume called 'natural law.' What I think Jesus might possibly have done, in other words, must conform to what I think is possible in any case. (location 2268 )

Asking whether Oral Roberts (1918–2009) actually cured people is an intelligent question because it is possible to get an answer by studying medical records before and after the faith healings. It is not intelligent to ask whether or not Jesus actually cured people because there are no such records. Not only does Fredriksen ask the question, she comes up with an answer.

She makes the same kind of mistake about the Resurrection of Jesus. The parenthetical phrase "however we choose to interpret them" in the following paragraph shows that Fredriksen thinks people who believe Jesus is in Heaven are interpreting the Resurrection of Jesus:

Paul's list of witnesses to the resurrected Christ suggests, however, the designation's origin in pre-Diaspora days. Christ 'appeared first to Cephas, then to the Twelve, then to almost five hundred…'(1 Cor 15:5–6). But if Jesus as Christ dates to the Resurrection events—however we chose to interpret them—we still have no understanding of the reason for the claim. (location 2708)

She also uses the same word "interpret" in this paragraph:

If his disciples believed that they had seen Jesus raised—whatever it was that they experienced, however we choose to interpret it now—then they were continuing to function within the apocalyptic paradigm established by his mission. (location 5144)

And again in this quote:

If modern believers seek a Jesus who is morally intelligible and religiously relevant, then it is to them that the necessary work of creative and responsible reinterpretation falls. (location 5293)

I believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God for a large number of reasons. I am not making any attempt to interpret the Resurrection of Jesus, which is just one of the reasons. Another reason, just as important in my mind, is the Shroud of Turin with its mysterious blood and body images that depicts the passion of Jesus as related in the gospels. Another reason is the modern cosmological argument for God's existence. Just as important is the fact that people who don't believe in Jesus generally don't even understand the argument. I don't think Fredriksen has ever asked the question: Is there life after death? The only question she ever asked is: How can we interpret the Resurrection of Jesus?