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4/28/09

The Resurrection and Belief

I find a mystery novel by Maggie Hamand, The Resurrection of the Body, interesting because it explores the theme of Christ's resurrection on several levels, theological, psychological, sociological, and faith.

Its main character, Richard Page, is vicar of a parish in a seedy part of London. On Good Friday a man stumbles into his church and dies there in a pool of blood. Nobody knows who he is and he is taken to the morgue. Early Sunday morning, his body disappears. People start seeing him, or think they do. He trims roses in a public garden. He eats fish in a restaurant. He pays a prostitute and follows her up the stairs to her flat. The reviewer has this to say:

" If we had lived in Jerusalem in the first century of the common era, would we have believed Mary Magdalene when she said she saw Jesus in the garden? Thomas when he said he saw Jesus' wounds? Peter when he said he had breakfast with him on the beach?

And even though we know those stories well, how do we relate to the tales told by Rev. Page and his parishioners? Has an odd event triggered mass hysteria? Is an overworked pastor losing his grip? Is physical resurrection possible? Is it OK to go to church—to pastor a church, even—when one's faith is shaky? What is faith, anyway?

Such are the mysteries evoked by this strange little story, and to [Maggie] Hamand's credit, she does not neatly solve them. Ask a book group what point this author is trying to make, and you may get three or four mutually exclusive answers. This, I think, is the book's chief charm: it re-creates some of the bewilderment people surely felt in Jerusalem during the weeks following Jesus' crucifixion."

Elsewhere in the review we find, "Readers hoping for a conventional whodunit or thriller will be disappointed as the story unfolds. The mystery here is theological and psychological, not procedural." The review's subtitle is what caught my eye. Here it is: "The aftermath of a Good Friday murder raises disturbing questions for an Anglican vicar who doesn't believe in the physical reality of the Resurrection" More

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