To probe why Christianity began, and why it took the shape it did, renowned New Testament scholar N. T. Wright focuses on the key questions any historian must face: What precisely happened at Easter? What did the early Christians mean when they said that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead? What can be said today about this belief? This book, third in Wright's series Christian Origins and the Question of God, maps ancient beliefs about life after death in both the pagan and Jewish worlds. It then highlights the fact that the early Christians' belief about the afterlife belonged firmly on the Jewish spectrum, while introducing several new mutations and sharper definitions. This together with other features of early Christianity, forces the historian to read the Easter narratives in the Gospels not simply as late rationalizations of early Christian spirituality, but as accounts of two actual events: the empty tomb of Jesus and his 'appearances.' How do we explain these phenomena? The early Christians' answer was that Jesus had indeed been bodily raised from the dead; that was why they hailed him as the messianic 'son of God.' Facing this question ourselves, we are confronted to this day with the most central issues of the Christian worldview and theology.