Risen: A Roman Investigates the Resurrection

Lent begins early next month, and with it comes a season to reflect on the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But have you ever wondered what the empty tomb looked like from the point of view of the occupying Romans?

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That’s the concept behind the upcoming film Risen. I had a chance to see an early preview of the film and really enjoyed the perspective it gave on both the life of Jesus and the witnesses to his resurrection who became the leaders of the early church.

The reason I got that sneak-peek look at the movie is because Bethany House is publishing the novelization, written by Angela Hunt!

The novel follows the story of Roman Tribune Clavius who is assigned by Pilate to keep followers of Yeshua from starting a revolution by claiming their lord has risen from the dead. It also includes the point of view of Rachel, a Jewish woman, who had to be cut from the film due to length, but whose story, I think, adds depth to Clavius’ search for truth.

Although the book is fiction, Angela put in hours of careful research, which she explains in the author’s note, to make sure that her story is an accurate portrayal of what might have gone on in the investigation of Jesus’ death…and his disappearance from the tomb three days later. The entire plot is an intriguing what-if: What if the original witnesses of the resurrection had some of the same questions and doubts people have today?

As Clavius searches for the truth, he wrestles with the following objections:

  • The disciples stole Jesus’ body and lied about it.
  • Jesus wasn’t really dead when they took him down from the cross, but actually revived later on.
  • The guards were hallucinating or lying in their second report about angels.
  • Jesus’ followers imagined Jesus was alive because they so badly wanted him to be.

Risen
And a number of others as well. If you or someone you know wants to think critically about the resurrection and get a more complete view of the life and times of Jesus that we kind of skim over sometimes when reading the Bible, Risen is a great choice. You can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover of the book above.

Be sure to check out the movie’s website to watch the trailer and get tickets!

Question for you, readers: what is your favorite tradition around Good Friday or Easter to remember the crucifixion and resurrection?

6 thoughts on “Risen: A Roman Investigates the Resurrection

  1. We stop everything from 12 pm – 3 pm on Good Friday and use that time to pray, read and/or watch Christian programming about Good Friday or Easter.

  2. Pingback: Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, February 2016 | Karen Collier

  3. Two of the biggest assumptions that many Christians make regarding the truth claims of Christianity is that, one, eyewitnesses wrote the four gospels. The problem is, however, that the majority of scholars today do not believe this is true. The second big assumption many Christians make is that it would have been impossible for whoever wrote these four books to have invented details in their books, especially in regards to the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection appearances, due to the fact that eyewitnesses to these events would have still been alive when the gospels were written and distributed.

    But consider this, dear Reader: Most scholars date the writing of the first gospel, Mark, as circa 70 AD. Who of the eyewitnesses to the death of Jesus and the alleged events after his death were still alive in 70 AD? That is four decades after Jesus’ death. During that time period, tens of thousands of people living in Palestine were killed in the Jewish-Roman wars of the mid and late 60’s, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem.

    How do we know that any eyewitness to the death of Jesus in circa 30 AD was still alive when the first gospel was written and distributed in circa 70 AD? How do we know that any eyewitness to the death of Jesus ever had the opportunity to read the Gospel of Mark and proof read it for accuracy?

    I challenge Christians to list the name of even ONE eyewitness to the death of Jesus who was still alive in 70 AD along with the evidence to support your claim.

    If you can’t list any names, dear Christian, how can you be sure that details such as the Empty Tomb, the detailed resurrection appearances, and the Ascension ever really occurred? How can you be sure that these details were not simply theological hyperbole…or…the exaggerations and embellishments of superstitious, first century, mostly uneducated people, who had retold these stories thousands of times, between thousands of people, from one language to another, from one country to another, over a period of many decades?

    • Thanks for joining in the conversation on this one! I agree that scholars come to different conclusions on dating the gospels, which is a highly controversial subject. Since I’m not an archeologist or linguist, but an everyday sort of Christian, I won’t get into a debate on that (except to say that I have read research on both sides of the issue). For the record, I still believe the gospels were written by eyewitnesses or people who interviewed eyewitnesses. However, even if I were to concede your point and say that the gospels were written after eyewitnesses to Jesus were dead, there are other factors that are strongly in favor of the gospels’ accuracy.

      One is that Jewish culture at the time put a high value on oral tradition and precision in memorization. It wasn’t uncommon for even boys to have large portions of the Torah memorized, and because of their religious devotion, word-for-word accuracy was required. This creates a culture where the teachings and actions of Jesus would have been passed on to churches with astonishing accuracy. Even a 70 AD timeline, putting the death of Jesus in the 30s is only a gap of 35 years. Historically, legends and exaggerations don’t spring up that quickly. It would take deliberate out-of-nowhere lies from people in the generation after Jesus for this to happen. Which leads me to another point.

      There is well documented record of early church leaders dying for their beliefs—beliefs that were dramatically different from Jewish teachings. Not the sort of cult you’d make up in 1st century Israel if you wanted to gain a following, because its claims made you a target both of the Romans and of the Jewish religious leaders. It promised no material gain (instead, it promised hardship), elevated the status of women to a shocking degree, and inverted the traditional religious structure that Jewish people had been anticipating for centuries. (For example, even resurrection at the end of the age was a doctrine believed by only a small religious minority, and a physical resurrection of a Messiah in the present age was unheard of and considered heresy.) The fact that so many were willing to die for this strange, new faith tells us that these people were at least not intentionally deceiving anyone (why pay for lies with their lives?) and, I think, strongly indicates that their religion was not the sort man would invent or embellish from their own heads.

      Obviously, I’m not going to change your mind on this, and that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to contribute additional thoughts to the discussion by placing in its original cultural setting, just as you did.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

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