Recensions et comptes rendusThéologie

Pascal Genin, Le testament du tombeau vide. Disparition, enlèvement ou résurrection ? (Donner raison – Théologie, 73). Bruxelles-Paris, Éditions jésuites Lessius, 2019, 14,4 × 20,5 cm, 306 p., ISBN 978-2-87299-374-1

  • Ayodele Ayeni

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  • Ayodele Ayeni, C.S.Sp.
    Newman Theological College, Edmonton

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Cover of Histoire vécue / Histoire écrite, Volume 75, Number 3, September–December 2023, pp. 317-471, Science et Esprit

This tripartite monograph – historical, exegetical and dogmatic – from its three subtitles (disappearance, theft and resurrection), makes evident what is both at stake and defended in it. The author (henceforth, PG), in a general “introduction,” presents his hypothesis and thesis. PG hypothesizes rhetorically, whether it is worth the effort, in the third millennium, to still be preoccupied with the question of the “empty tomb” because of the new interests in the subject (p. 9)? The thesis of his monograph leaves no one in doubt as to the answer he provides to the problematic: “this monograph […] [treats] essentially the resurrection of Jesus from a historical perspective” (p. 15), with a suggestion that the “exaltation” of Jesus is integral to the resurrection story (p. 96). There is a sub-thesis, though: “The intention of this study is to show the extraordinary originality of Jesus’ resurrection narrative in accordance with the gospels.” (p. 11) There is also a “sub-hypothesis”: “the ignorance of the resurrection in the Old Testament […] . This hypothesis [of ignorance] guides this study and proposes an interpretative key for reading the resurrection narrative in the New Testament” (p. 91); the hermeneutic “key”, for PG, is that of “rupture” between the two Testaments on the question of the “resurrection” (pp. 91-92, 138). PG contends the claim of “disappearances” and “theft” of corpses (pp. 148, 150, 151-153) in non-Christian religions vis-à-vis the resurrection saga, and how that impinges on the biblical argument about the meaning of the “empty tomb” (pp. 17-92); then, towards the end of the monograph, he investigates archeological discoveries that confound the denial of the empty tomb claims (pp. 219-287). The question of the “theft” of the corpse of Christ and its relevance for the proof of the resurrection of Christ occupies the exegetical perspective of the monograph (pp. 93-185). The final part of the monograph, the dogmatic perspective, reconstructs the Roman Catholic stand on the “empty tomb” (p. 187-218). With this overview of the architecture of the monograph, let us delve deeper to unravel some of the treasures of the monograph. After the “introduction,” PG begins his monograph with a historical account in two stages: first, an exposé on the bones of contention on the semantics of the “empty tomb” (p. 17-92) and, second, he articulates a historico-archeological rebuttals to the problematics outlined (pp. 219-287). PG argues that the religions that predated Christianity present reality in a three-fold manner: the world of human beings, the world of the dead and the world of the gods or God (p. 22). The list of the religious phenomena PG explores include Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Canaanite, Jewish, Greek and Roman (pp. 17-67). Grosso modo, people do not pay attention to the differences that exist among these religious beliefs, which accounts for the blurring of the uniqueness that should be accorded to Christianity, he asserts. According to PG, comparative religious phenomena, not excluding Judeo-Christian proximity, is akin to historical confusion in the differences among world religions because of the fallacy of generalization with which the interpretation of the “empty tomb” is suffused (p. 92). He considers this fact (confusion) and the dawn of modernism and enlightenment hermeneutical turns (pp. 147, 149, 159, 164) as the first problem regarding the debate on the “empty tomb,” besides the intra-biblical one of Matthew’s gospel (pp. 115-116): Christianity viewed from other religious beliefs, rather than being evaluated on her merit. This is where the questions of “disappearance” and “theft/enlèvement,” two of the subtitles to PG’s monograph, become crucial concepts. Since most world religions talk about the immortality of the soul, as well as “disappearance” as …