Re: [XTalk] What Wright was apparently reacting to ...
- Jeffery wrote:
The use of Festinger is pretty common in religious
studies courses, I think. It was used at Berkeley when
I was there -- the professor that I graded for used it
to 'explain' resurrection beliefs of early Christians.
I don't have Wright's book here, and I don't recall
whom he cited on this.
Most of Wright's argument is based on Festinger "A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance" (1957), but he also refers to Festinger, Riecken and Schachter "When Prophecy Failed" (1956). He cites Festinger (1957) as explicitly attempting to use CD theory to explain the missionary activity of the early Christians, as the more converts they could make, the more dissonance reduction they would achieve. On p699 n34, he notes that the 1956 book was "aware of the serious methodological flaws involved in this project, but one would not guess that from anything in Festinger 1957, the flagship work of the overall hypothesis for which this particular project functioned as the final, and supposedly most telling, example."
Wright cites Hugh Jackson "Resurrection Belief of the Earliest Church: a Response to the Failure of Prophecy?" in the Journal of Religion 55:415-25 as supporting the theory, and quotes C S Rodd's review of JVG in Expository Times 108, 1997,225: "the challenge which Festinger presented ... still has to be met."
Wright also cites Schillebeeckx in "Jesus: an Experiment in Christology" (1979): "The burial naratives were circulated by pious Christians unable to bear the idea of Jesus' being buried dishonourably."
James Barr "The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality" (1992) suggests "the more expectation that a great religious leader should come alive again after death, the more that same expectation goes to explain the claims that it had been fulfilled." (p.109) Wright refers in the same note to De Jonge "Visionary Experience and the Historical Origins of Christianity" in "Resurrection in the New Testament" eds Bieringer, koperski and Lataire (12002, 35-53).
Wright's parting shot (p.700) is that "similar theories continue to crop up from time to time, evidence ... of the desperation of the critic rather than of serious historical thought", and aims that shot at Goulder "The Baseless Fabric of a Vision" in Resurrection Reconsidered" ed Gavin Da Costa (1996). He notes O'Collins "Resurrection: the State of the Questions" in "The Resurrection: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Resurrection of Jesus" eds Davis, Kendall and O'Collins.
So Wright is evidently responding to something which he considers a current and live argument about the resurrection traditions which is based on unsafe foundations.
Rev Tony Buglass
Upper Calder Methodist Circuit, W Yorkshire
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