This review first saw the light of day way back in 2004. I was reminded of it when I saw a new book with a similar premise mentioned by someone on GoodReads. I was really pleased to see that it is now reprinted and easily available. It is a terrific read and I highly recommend it.
Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison
In attempting to unravel the tangled skein of passions, prejudices, and political intrigues with which the last days of Jesus are interwoven, it has always seemed to me a sound principle to go straight to the heart of the mystery by studying closely the nature of the charge brought against Him.
I remember this aspect of the question coming home to me one morning with new and unexpected force. I tried to picture to myself what would happen if some two thousand years hence a great controversy should arise about one who was the center of a criminal trial, say in 1922. By that time most of the essential documents would have passed into oblivion. An old faded cutting of The Times or Telegraph, or perhaps some tattered fragment of a legal book describing the case, might have survived to reach the collection of an antiquary. From these and other fragments the necessary conclusions would have to be drawn. Is it not certain that people living in that far-off day, and desiring to get at the real truth about the man concerned, would go first to the crucial question of the charge on which arraigned? They would say: “What was all the trouble about? What did his accusers say and bring against him?” If, as in the present instance, several charges appear to have been preferred, they would ask what was the real case against the prisoner.
Strongly influenced by late 19th century skeptics, Frank Morison decided to discover Jesus’ true nature by looking critically at the facts surrounding his death and resurrection. He wound up being convinced of Jesus’ divinity but it is a fascinating read even if you had no doubt of that fact. I have never read anything quite like this book which still holds up even though it is over 70 years old. Morison evaluates things that I never thought to question such as why Judas chose that particular night to turn Jesus over to the Pharisees, whether the Pharisees and Pontius Pilate worked hand in hand in Jesus’ case, and where the apostles hid out (and why) during the trial and subsequent events. In some ways this reads like a “true life” murder mystery as the author reconstructs events and traces people’s actions.
I didn’t agree with every conclusion Morison made such as the identity of the young man at the tomb. Nor did I approve of every reference that was used, such as the Gospel of Peter and Gospel of Hebrews, although he did use many reliable sources such as the works of Josephus, the Jewish Historian and the few historical writings on the character of Pontius Pilate. However, those quibbles aside, this is a classic apologetics work and one well worth seeking out. You definitely will examine the facts surrounding Jesus’ death with a more analytical eye.