early Christian interest in the suffering servant of Isaiah (e.g. Acts 8:32-5) canbe traced back to Jesus himself.89 Possibly the symbolic actions and words of the Last Supper (1 Cor 11:23-6; Matt 26:26-9/Mark i4:22-5/Luke 22:14-20) reflect his way of indicating what meaning might be put upon the crisis about to face them. In roughly contemporary texts, the Maccabaean martyrs were being depicted as offering a redemptive sacrifice for their people (4 Macc 6:28-9 and 17:20-2; cf. Mark 10:45). Whatever the answer to that specific question, the fulfilment of prophecy seems deeply embedded in the gospel traditions, not to mention traditions embedded in the Pauline epistles (e.g. 1 Cor 15:3-4).
Jesus was a complex figure, appearing now like a sage and holy man, now like a prophet, now like a seer or visionary - in many and various ways he fits such analogies from his first-century Jewish world. He had a charisma that divided people for and against him. But he probably died quite specifically as a messianic pretender. Subsequently, his followers asserted the truth that he had fulfilled the prophecies, while many of his own people rejected their claims and treated them as blasphemers90 because they by now regarded him as worthy ofreceiving the honour and worship due to God alone. The gospels reflect the viewpoint of those who believed in him. But the crucial question is: how did they sustain such claims in the light of his apparent failure to achieve anything - indeed, his despicable death on the cross?
The answer must lie in the resurrection. Few would begin an investigation into the historical Jesus with the resurrection - it is not easy to assess either the evidence or the validity of a claim to a unique event. Yet given the multiple attestation provided not merely by the gospel traditions but by all the other documents that now make up the New Testament, it would be hard to dispute the fact that, whatever actually happened, his followers believed that he had been raised from the dead, that his tomb was empty and that some had seen -even touched - him. It might be possible in principle to establish that the tomb was empty, a matter accepted as fact by the Jewish scholar Geza Vermes91 - for a natural explanation can always be surmised. It might in principle be possible to establish that Jesus was resuscitated, but that would imply further life and subsequent death for which we would require evidence, and there is none, despite some novelistic speculations. The New Testament beliefin resurrection is not in any case simply about resuscitation. What it was about could well provide further clues to Jesus' message and activity; for the claim that Jesus
89 Though Hooker, Jesus and the servant, offered a critique of that view.
90 Note the implications of e.g. Matt 9:3; 26:65; Mark 14:64; Luke 5:21; John 10:33, etc. Also Justin, Dial 17.
91 Vermes, Jesus the Jew.
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