Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What did the first Christians mean by the word "resurrection?"

In my blog post on resurrection I got carried away with the post on the physical resurrection of Jesus (as opposed to some other kind of resurrection that isn't physical, even though that would seem to be an oxymoron). But here is the short summary of my blog post. For more details and back up for the stuff here go to the long post at:

The apostles believed in bodily resurrection of Jesus for several reasons:

1) The empty tomb - if the scholarly majority (70%) is right about the empty tomb, then the disciples would have necessarily believed in bodily resurrection.

2) The meaning of "raised" in Greek is often the same word for to "stand up" or to "wake up" or to "arise" to a certain occasion. Greek for "resurrection" also has the root for "to stand up." The word itself corresponds with the traditional view of resurrection.

3) The Old Testament portrays resurrection as dead people waking up from the dust of the earth. Since the disciples frequently cite the Old Testament as such a high authority, one would think they would share the Old Testament view of resurrection.

4) Second Temple Jews had many sub-groups including Pharisees, Sadduccees, and Essenes. However, it was known that the Pharisees disagreed with the Sadducees, not on the nature of the resurrection, but on whether or not it actually happened. So Jews in 1st Century Palestine who affirmed resurrection were affirming a bodily notion. We shouldn't expect any different from a Pharisee like Paul or Jews like the disciples.

5) Greco-Roman revulsion at resurrection. Many pagan beliefs actually repeatedly repudiate the notion that a dead person can return to life. This is often due to their Platonic view of afterlife. So resurrection is a bodily notion for the Greeks as well. The only difference is that they disagree with it.

6) Proclaiming Jesus as raised from the dead is like shouting "fire" in a movie theater. The disciples would know how people would interpret the phrase "raised from the dead," but chose to use that phrase anyway, despite the negative (and positive) reactions.

7) "Resurrection" in New Testament writings other than Paul clearly affirm a bodily notion, especially because the Gospels report an empty tomb and Acts strongly implies one.

8) Resurrection and "raised from the dead" in Paul (outside Corinthians) very clearly enunciate the traditional Christian belief of bodily resurrection.

9) Resurrection and "raised from the dead" concepts in Paul (in 1 & 2 Corinthians) work strongly against alternate interpretations but work best with the traditional resurrection. Furthermore, only an anachronistic reading of these passages would lead us to believe in a non-bodily resurrection.

10) Resurrection belief in apostolic fathers is very consistent with the traditional Christian view of bodily resurrection. This is significant because many of these people are purported to have spoken with or learned under the apostles.

11) Most arguments against a non-bodily resurrection depend on the idea that every single one of the traditional authorships for the Gospels is false. However, in many cases good arguments can be made for traditional authorship. Furthermore, arguments against Paul believing in a non-bodily resurrection collapse with an early dating of Acts, which is very likely.

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