I was very glad to have received "Putting Tradition on Trial" By Patrick Cavanagh because after reading the introduction, I felt that I was going to be reading a brilliant legal and theological examination of the author's apologetic for a non-traditional chronological placement of events in relation to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Unfortunately, from the first chapter I found it difficult to understand what the author was actually trying to achieve other than to prove that the traditional portrayal is wrong. The author's apologetic, while offering reasoned argument to refute other positions, did not from the beginning specifically state what position it was that he was defending.
It was not until halfway through the book that the author quite clearly and plainly stated the precise nature of his apologetic and outlined the chronological sequence of events. At that point, my confusion lifted and I truly understood what he had been doing. To use the courtroom analogy, I had up until that point, felt as if I was a juror required to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused without being informed of the charge.
The premise of the book was extremely interesting, but I feel that the apologetic should have been made clear from the outset, and not only the core issues to be addressed, but the importance of those issues. In this case, the importance for the average Christian before whom the case is presented, of understanding what the new perspective or truth is, and why that is important.
I think that most readers would probably not care whether Jesus was born in this or that year, had a ministry this or that long, or spent 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb or 3 days and 2 nights. I doubt that it would affect a Christian's faith. By this I mean that I felt that the author failed to convince me of the importance of recognizing this 'revelation' of truth. The real issue for me however is that I doubt the average reader would be able to follow the presentation in its current format.
I was well aware of many of the issues raised in this "Trial," and yet until halfway through the book I had a lot of difficulty wrapping my mind around the author's intention and perspectives. I would no sooner determine that he intended to indicate one matter, when I would find him overturning my perception of his intent. I kept asking myself: "What is he proposing?" It was in Chapter 11 that the author's actual position was clearly stated, indicating which day of the week it was upon which Jesus was crucified, how many days and nights he was in the tomb, and when he was resurrected. This is something that I feel was needed at the beginning of the book. For those who might think a discourse on the chronological order of events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ a bit pointless, it is worth noting that were the Christian Churches to adopt this author's conclusions, you would no longer be celebrating 'Good Friday' or 'Easter Sunday.'
That the author has a brilliant mind is quite obvious, but I felt that instead of 'revealing and demonstrating' his case from the positive evidentiary perspective from the beginning, that he offered up most of the text to presenting the 'incorrect' ideas, and then doing battle with them as though proof that one witness is wrong is proof that another is right.
The author's investigative methodology was great; his reliance on original Greek texts and adherence to what they rendered as opposed to how they were interpreted was excellent; his investigation into the reign of Tiberius (which tied into the ministry of John the Baptist) was enlightening and his calculations for the length of Jesus' ministry were solid. I do however think that he should have given more thought to that first Chapter and laid out clearly what he was going to demonstrate concerning his beliefs relating to the chronology of the ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of the Christ. Since the theme of the book was that of a 'Trial,' he ought to have clearly and deliberately stated the specific objective of the prosecution, namely, to prove what was, not disprove what was not.
This was a difficult read about an interesting topic and I feel that the author made it more complicated than it needed to be for general readership. But for those with the will and persistence to KNOW, then it certainly does provide very good argument to support a chronology for the life of Christ from birth to death and in particular for his death and resurrection which is quite different to the sometimes confusing arguments that accompany church tradition.
Although I found it a difficult read, I have already recommended it to a friend.
M. Wallace Johnson
Patrick Cavanagh is retired and currently resides in Auckland, New Zealand. He found inspiration for his writing by examining historical information as well as reliable astronomical calculations through the United States Naval Observatory.
"Putting Tradition on Trial"
By Patrick Cavanagh
Published Jan 7, 2015