When considering Crossan’s hypothesis, several critiques immediately come to mind. First, and in spite of some interesting contentions, Crossan has not established his socio-political schema as a central theme in the early church. Interpreting references in light of a secondary construction is far from proving it to be the original intent of the authors. His account remains an unverified hypothesis.
2.The resurrection and early church authority
Second, even ifhis theme of power, authority, and leadership is important to some extent,^37 his de-emphasis of the facticity of Jesus’ resurrection simply does not follow. For Paul, it was not merely receiving “revelation from Christ”^38 that even made one an apostle in the first place, but specifically having seen the resurrectedJesus (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8).
33 Ibid., pp. 169–170; Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 404. For other texts that carry on this theme, see The Historical Jesus, pp. 396–404; Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, pp. 175, 181, 186, 190.
34 Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p. 186.
35 Ibid., p. 190. (The emphasis is Crossan’s.)
37 I am not agreeing with his suggestion here. I simply think that, at this point, whether or not his socio-political theme is crucial to our central thesis is moot.
38 Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 397.
In fact, without this event, what is the basisof the claim to authority on behalf of the other two leaders specified by Crossan, namely Peter and James? In both of these cases, as well, the resurrection provided the rationalefor their authority. It might be said that Peter’s influence came at least in part from Jesus’ appearance reported in the extremely early tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:5, and confirmed by another ancient confession in Luke 24:34. Numerous scholars have agreed, noting the link between Jesus’ appearance and Peter’s authority.^39
But to say, as Crossan does, that the authority structure was the chief point of these narratives, with “nothing whatsoever”^40 being learned about Jesus’ appearances and origin of the church is certainly mistaken. As Joachim Jeremias asserts, the “decisive event” here is that “the Lord appears to Peter.”^41 While Reginald Fuller also characterizes the appearances as hierarchical in the early church mission, agreeing to some extent with Crossan, he still insists on definable appearances.
The same is also true of James, in that the Lord likewise appeared to him (1 Cor. 15:7). Fuller concludes rather strikingly that even if the appearance to James was not recorded in the pages of the New Testament, “we should have to invent one in order to account for his post-resurrection conversion and rapid advance.”^43 Thus, the texts insist and most scholars agree that it is unjustified to separate the appearances from the early church power structure.
3.Centrality of resurrection
Third, while the truth of the resurrection may precede and determine church authority, to attempt to circumscribe it almost totally within this latter, narrow parameter is certainly misplaced. In other words, the resurrection is absolutely centralto the New Testament as a whole. It is related to far more than just sociopolitical factors in the early church, but this does not justify making any one of these other themes the chief focus, either.