Friday, May 22, 2015

The Genesis Of Belief In The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ (Part 3)

AP: This is now Part 3 in the present series. If you'd like to see the first installments, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

This double way of expressing the new life of Jesus–(1) resurrection of Jesus' physical body, and (2) exaltation– leads me to a consideration: It is very possible that the early beliefs about the resurrection of Jesus were not precisely beliefs in the resuscitation of his body, but simply beliefs that God transferred him to a new area of life. In other words, they were not thinking about a bodily resurrection, but a different spiritual life in heaven. How that new life is expressed and differences in the way it was communicated are small. There is talk, on the one hand, that is simple. For example,  and expressions, and differences in the expression was the resurrection of Jesus are small. On the one hand, the expressions are simple, while, on the other hand, they can be rather theological and intellectual. Those who think that way would insist on the more spiritual understanding of the resurrection–i.e., the exaltation and elevation of Jesus to the right hand of the Father. This understanding is represented mostly in the texts of New Testament outside the Gospels.

And I think it is possible that the idea of ​​a bodily resuscitation of Jesus came about only at a later date. And here, where the idea of Jesus' physical resurrection comes into play, is where we see the different narrative accounts. This is where we get the contradictions. This explains the disparity of traditions on this "event." After a series of doubt narratives, the idea that the master was still alive somehow took over and was soon adopted by the group in Jerusalem. The experience was the same in all who thought of this second type (the belief in the bodily resurrection), but the expression of that experience (the traditions that speak of it) was made by different people and in different places by those who were believed to have enjoyed an appearance of the risen Christ . . . in Emmaus, in Jerusalem, later in Galilee . . . .

The experience was the same, but the expression distinct. Why is this so? Because the experience was a common experience. Jesus is risen bodily. But very different traditions were generated because each communicated his experience as it seemed to him, which gave rise to various lines of traditions and legends to go along with them. Why are the accounts of the appearances so different and contradictory. The answer is because they are personal. And subjective manifestations of very different appearances arise. Some said that Jesus had appeared before them as having an ethereal body and almost transparent. Remember Luke 24:36-37 where it says he could walk through walls. Others had seen Jesus in what looked like a real, physical body. Remember when he ate fish on the sea of Galilee (John 21:12). Little by little these stories were joined with other stories–different in their content and offered by different persons. So gives rise to the legend.

Such traditions are reflected especially in the Gospels because these writings insist primarily on the "biographical" facts about Jesus. Such contradictions make many historians of early Christianity seriously doubt that the genesis of belief in the resurrection originated in Jerusalem. A cohesive small group could not result in such disparaging and conflicting accounts. But the same argument applies to the denial of its genesis elsewhere, for example in Antioch. So, it is not impossible that these traditions concerning Jesus' resurrected body should have their origin in the very place where Jesus died.

Returning to where we started, I suggest in conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus–from the point of view considering the psychological possibilities of reconstruction permitted by us New Testament scholars–was not intended by the early Christians in the exact same way across the board.
1. Some probably did not think of a bodily resuscitation, but in a spiritual transfer of the soul or spirit of Jesus to the realm of God. 
2. Others, to the contrary, in  a more popular and less theological understanding, imagined the resurrection in a totally physically sense (i.e., the body and soul of Jesus were raised). 
And I maintain that the second above is only what we find in the Gospel accounts. And it is from those that legends arose. And they cannot be taken at face value. The ancients themselves believed them to the very letter. But today we can interpret them as symbols of a belief expressed by cultural patterns of one's own psychology or environment. Those who had a "higher" way of understanding things expressed the event in a more theological manner. Those with a "lower" way of understanding things expressed the event in more popular ways.

For the historian today, all that matters is to note that without the firmest belief in Jesus' continued life among his disciples (i.e., by way of his resurrection), we cannot explain the origin of the Christian movement, a religious movement that in just a few decades would develop into a theological constellation and would soon be considered a religion different than the Judaism from which it emerged.

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