Book Review – “The Jesus Inquest” by Charles Foster
(1st Corinthians 15:17)
Over the years I have read many books that focus on the resurrection of Christ, coming from both sides of the theological spectrum, those that support the historicity of the resurrection of Christ and those who deny it. My most recent read on the subject, The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster has been quite an interesting one to say the least. Instead of being from a decidedly “pro” or “con” standpoint this work takes the form of a formal judicial argument, offering both sides of the story and then requiring the reader to draw the final conclusion. This in itself is one of the most interesting aspects of the book. Most books that concentrate on historical facts, especially those dealing with religion are often presented in such a way as to ‘persuade’ the reader to accept the given author’s specific point of view. I’ve never seen this topic presented in such a way, it was a refreshing change of pace, I’m now wondering what the next controversial topic of discussion will be (hint to Charles Forster to produce another book)
The unique and fascinating layout of this book takes the following form…
When the skeptic (X) introduces one of his positions there is a small annotation next to the heading which indicates on which page the believer (Y) gives his response. For example, the discussion on the death of Jesus you find this heading:
The possibility that Jesus was crucified but did not diei
The superscripted “i” refers you to the page where Y directly responds to X’s positions. Likewise the heading for Y’s positions has a notation referring you to X’s objection.
Foster is to be commended in the fact that he didn’t shy away from what many would call ‘unorthodox’ perspectives concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He tackles such issues as the “Shroud of Turin,” the “Jesus family tomb,” “the James Ossuary,” and a host of other relics, shrines, and intriguing aspects connected to the story. Throughout the book the author endeavors to tell both sides of the debate from as objective a standpoint as possible, but we all know that complete objectivity on any subject is something that eludes us all, for we are all in some way or another shaped and influenced by our environment.
For a book that openly questions ‘orthodox beliefs’, it does so in a way that is respectable to the other party involved and foments open academic discussion. Writers like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, who are known for their belligerent opposition to Christianity would do good to take a lesson from Foster on how to engage those with whom you disagree.
This is a book that, while not what I would call a “page turner,” is one that is especially useful in the study of Christ’s resurrection. This is especially true as our culture becomes more and more hostile to the exclusive claims of Christianity. In the time in which we live it’s a necessity that Christians not only be well grounded in their faith, but have the ability to present persuasive arguments concerning those beliefs. I’ll admit that I initially had a hard time getting into the book because of its format, but once I got used to it I was hooked. Now if you’re a person who enjoys a scholarly type read, (which I do) then this book will be right up your ally. I was also appreciative of the fact that Foster was diligent in citing his sources, and taking it one step further by including several appendices at the end of the book. On the other hand if you’re more into books that take more of a narrative format, this book will be a difficult read.
Did Jesus come back after he died on the cross? It is a totally legitimate question that each of us must answer, for how we answer this question will in some way influence how we answer all other questions we’re faced with in life. This book challenged me to re-examine ‘what’ I believe and ‘why’ I believe it. I enjoyed the book and hope he writes another.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their “booksneeze program.” I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions and views expressed here are my own.