The Bedrock of Christianity: The Unalterable Facts of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection by Justin Bass. Lexham Press. 2020, 272 pp.
Justin Bass is professor of New Testament at Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman, Jordan. Before moving to Jordan, he and his family lived in Frisco, TX, where he was a pastor of a church for six years and an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and Dallas Christian College. He has a PhD in New Testament Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.
Bass has debated skeptics such as Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier, and others. When I heard of the title I remember Michael Licona who mentioned what is called “The Historical Bedrock” in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.
These three facts about the Historical Jesus are held by most critical scholars and historians.
1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion
2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.
3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul converted after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.
Licona is more than aware that just because there is a list of agreed upon
Bass takes a similar approach except that he expands the list to include the Rise of the Nazarenes (Ch 7). He also spends great time discussing the burial and empty tomb and does a wonderful job on explaining what happened to Paul (Ch 2). This book is goldmine because Bass discusses so many historical and cultural details. His chapter on Rise of the Nazarenes (Ch 7) is exceptional in that he is aware of the messianic movements and why the Jesus movement is different. Of course, no Jew follows any of these other messianic leaders that have long died off. The Jesus movement has continued to influence the world up until this very day. No, that doesn’t make it true. But what got the movement started and continues to keep it going? A hoax, a hallucination, or something else? Bass argues that 1 Cor. 15: 3-7 is a bedrock source for the death, burial and resurrection appearances (Ch 3). Bass has several quotes by Ehrman.
After all, Ehrman isn’t disagreeing with the facts. He just doesn’t think the bodily resurrection is the best explanation for what happened to the appearances to the disciples. Also, Ehrman doesn’t think history can tell us whether a miracle has occurred. So as Bass rightly notes, presuppositions play a huge role in whether one will accept the physical resurrection as the best explanation for what gave rise to the Nazarenes. Bass doesn’t scoff at historical agnosticism towards the resurrection. But he weaves in some very effective cultural anecdotes to try to get people to get out of agnosticism and and consider the relevance of the resurrection of Jesus. As Bass notes, James Dunn once said if God has indeed created, God has already intervened and that means one will probably be more open to see if God has intervened into human history with the resurrection. Bass does mention one of the most popular naturalistic explanation (the hallucination hypothesis) and why it fails. In the end, there is so much in this book that is so good. Yes, I had heard of many of the arguments here and I wrote my own book on the resurrection of Jesus. But this book filled in even more gaps in my knowledge of history and why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. I highly recommend it!