Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Genesis Of Belief In The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ (Part 2)

AP: Picking up where we left off . . . from where did the belief in Jesus' resurrection come? As I shared in Part 1, I think a viable option is it arises out of the intense affection for Jesus among his female disciples. I think we can trace back the idea that Jesus was resurrected to one of these women, who had a personality that was much more emotional than Jesus' male followers. All of the canonical Gospels–the Synoptics and John–all feature women in the stories about the empty tomb or the first appearance of Jesus (John 20). What began as something they felt in their heart became something like Jesus was alive spiritually among those who had loved and admired him so intensely!

Please, please, please don't take this the wrong way. I'm not affirming anti-feminism or pro-feminism either way. All I'm saying is we should consider the psychological origin of belief in Jesus' resurrection as an option. I'm just saying that emotions play a very important role, in my opinion, when it comes to this idea that Jesus was raised from the dead. From there, I'm just stating the obvious: Emotions are at play in life's transcendent moments, and this is manifest more powerfully in women than in men. It's a simple, easily verifiable observation in everyday life. And, secondly, I'm proposing that this understanding helps to explain why there are such divergent traditions concerning the resurrection.

In first-century Palestine, one of the ways of expressing this sentiment was to assert that the dead had risen. Among people who believed in continuous miracles, celestial travel, abductions of the soul, apparitions of supernatural beings, missions of angels, etc., the idea of a resurrection was perfectly plausible. It seems clear that the feeling that Jesus still alive eventually morphed into the idea that he had risen from the dead. That idea has its genesis in the group of Jesus' female disciples. We can see that since the Gospels indicate how the male disciples did not believe the women concerning the idea that Jesus had risen. In fact, they resisted the idea, not even leaving the door open a little for the possibility of such a thing to have happened.

Now, if the accounts and explanations offered by the New Testament concerning the resurrection are given a more in-depth look, one can see that there are two fundamental ways to describe it. When it comes to interpretation of this data, the views are many and across the spectrum. One view is that Jesus' physical body was raised. Consider what Peter says in Acts 10:39-41:
"We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead."
The metaphor behind this general view of the resurrection from the dead is that Jesus awoke from a sleep and got up. The central meaning of this symbol is the restoration of life to Jesus. The symbol announces that he is alive with new life by the power of God. "This symbol means complete restoration to life of Jesus of Nazareth on every level of your being."

The second view of what happened to Jesus in his death is quite different. It is expressed with the words of "exaltation" or "glorification" and this idea is also found in various texts of the New Testament. Thus, in 1 Timothy 3:16, we read:
"By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: he who was revealed in the flesh, was cvindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory."
Jesus was "exalted to glory." Or, as we see in the Christological hymn of Phil. 2:6-10, which is widely known: Jesus' exaltation is contrasted with his humble descent, and his fate is described as resurrection, glorification, and exaltation. In other words, these expressions are not concerned with the resurrection of the body–which is almost never mentioned–but, rather, the glory of Jesus after God raised him after his death.

If you compare these two ideas concerning the resurrection, we see that the only thing that matches is Jesus did not remain as a normal being in the power of death. The belief in a physical resurrection emphasizes how Jesus is restored to life in his own body; for example, he can even eat with the disciples (John 21:12). On the contrary, belief in his exaltation takes Jesus out of this world to another world, not speaking of body or appearances.

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