In this four-color illustrated journey that is part travelogue and part theological investigation, bestselling author and acclaimed Bible scholar John Dominic Crossan and his wife Sarah painstakingly travel throughout the ancient Eastern church, documenting through text and image a completely different model for understanding Easter’s resurrection story, one that provides promise and hope for us today.
Traveling the world, the Crossans noticed a surprising difference in how the Eastern Church considers Jesus’ resurrection—an event not described in the Bible. At Saint Barbara’s Church in Cairo, they found a painting in which the risen Jesus grasps the hands of other figures around him. Unlike the Western image of a solitary Jesus rising from an empty tomb that he viewed across Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the Crossans saw images of the resurrection depicting a Jesus grasping the hands of figures around him, or lifting Adam and Eve to heaven from Hades or hell, or carrying the old and sick to the afterlife. They discovered that the standard image for the Resurrection in Eastern Christianity is communal and collective, something unique from the solitary depiction of the resurrection in Western Christianity.
Fifteen years in the making, Resurrecting Easter reflects on this divide in how the Western and Eastern churches depict the resurrection and its implications. The Crossans argue that the West has gutted the heart of Christianity’s understanding of the resurrection by rejecting that once-common communal iconography in favor of an individualistic vision. As they examine the ubiquitous Eastern imagery of Jesus freeing Eve from Hades while ascending to heaven, the Crossans suggest that this iconography raises profound questions about Christian morality and forgiveness.
A fundamentally different way of understand the story of Jesus’ rebirth illustrated with 130 images, Resurrecting Easter introduces an inclusive, traditional community-based ideal that offers renewed hope and possibilities for our fractured modern society.
John and Sarah Crossan biblical scholar and photographer, respectively collaborate on this profound, radical work labeled by them as "a debate about ideas presented in and by images." The husband and wife team collect illustrations of Christ's resurrection from France, Italy, Romania, Syria, and Turkey, among other places, that demonstrate the divide between the Eastern and Western churches' interpretation of the resurrection of Christ. Sharply photographed by Sarah and keenly described by John, many of the oldest frescoes, illuminated scrolls of music, and embossed coins show Jesus reaching out to all of humanity a view still honored by the Eastern church. However, the Western church later favored iconography of an individual resurrection, wherein Jesus rises to heaven alone. The Crossans theorize that, by breaking from the concept of universal resurrection, the evolving artwork from Western masters (such as Piero della Francesca, Raphael, and Rubens) reflects an emphasis on the individual that becomes central to Western thought after the Renaissance. Without attempting to provide answers, they openly wonder what such a transition means to Western Christianity's approach to understanding good and evil. This important book provocatively considers the ways Christian iconography surrounding the Resurrection has evolved over centuries and continents in response to cultural changes.