Lectionary Calendar
Monday, May 27th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Dictionaries
Resurrection of Christ (2)

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Search for…
Prev Entry
Resurrection of Christ
Next Entry
Resurrection of the Dead
Resource Toolbox


1. St. Paul’s summary of the Resurrection appearances (1 Corinthians 15) is, says Godet (Com. ii. 435), the most ancient and most official of the records we possess. If Harnack’s chronology be made our basis (Gesch. der Altchristl. Lit. vol. ii. (i.) 236 ff.), our Lord’s death was in a.d. 29 or 30; St. Paul’s conversion in 30; his correspondence with Corinth, 53. His visit to St. Peter at Jerusalem would be in 33. Thus he had known this tradition for nearly 20 years, and recorded it within 23 years of the Resurrection. On St. Paul’s list of the witnesses we note:—(1) That it is a list and not a narrative. It is the barest summary, expressed with the utmost conciseness (cf. Cambr. Theol. Essays, p. 331). (2) It is derived and not original (1 Corinthians 15:3 ‘I received’ [παρέλαβον], ‘I delivered unto you’ [παρέδωκα]). If we here possess a primitive tradition orally communicated to St. Paul by the older Apostles, then it would be uncritical to infer that St. Paul ‘knows nothing’ of any appearance which he does not record. (3) The order of the list is chronological. This is shown by the use of εἶτα, ἔπειτα: ‘then to the Twelve; then … to above 500; then … to James; then to all the apostles.’ (4) The purpose is not primarily apologetic (cf. Cambridge Theol. Essays, 395, 329, 330). The Resurrection of Christ was not disputed at Corinth. The introduction of the list here is due to that instinct for systematic completeness, that determination to go down to first principles, which is eminently characteristic of St. Paul, rather than to any apologist’s desire to convince men who do not believe that Christ is risen. (5) The selection is evidently official (cf. Knowling, Testimony of St. Paul, p. 301)—St. Peter as the first of the Apostles, St. James head of the Church at Jerusalem. ‘Peter and James were at the time of writing the two most prominent persons in the Christian Society, St. Paul himself not being excepted’ (Ch. Quart. Rev., Jan. 1906, p. 330). The same applies to the Apostles in a body. The other appearance is recorded for its numerical importance. Thus the omission of the Women from this official list is not surprising. It is noticeable that the Fourth Gospel, although recording the appearance to Mary Magdalene, yet omits it from the official enumeration (John 21:14). Thus the Fourth Gospel supports St. Paul’s procedure, and demonstrates that omission is not necessarily due to ignorance.

On St. Paul’s list of the witnesses, see, further, Ch. Quart. Rev., Jan. 1906, 327–331; Knowling, Testimony of St. Paul; Gess, Das Dogma von Christi Person und Werk, xvii.

2. The personal testimony of St. Paul to Christ’s Resurrection.—A comparison of the three accounts of St. Paul’s conversion in Acts 9, 22, 26, which may be respectively denoted A, B, and C, shows certain variations.

(1) The intervention of Ananias, contained in A and B, is omitted in C; the instruction given by him being in substance transferred in C to Christ. It may be, as Blass considers (Act. Apost. ix.), that the historic order is maintained in A and B rather than in C, since such instruction as to the Apostle’s duty would come more naturally under calmer circumstances and at a later time. It should also he noted that of these three accounts the first is the historian’s narrative in the course of the events, where Ananias would necessarily be mentioned. The second was spoken to the Jewish throng on the ascent to the Praetorium, where the mention of Ananias and his orthodoxy would be reassuring to the hearers (cf. Knowling, op. cit.). The third, spoken before the magistrates, omits him, because the reference would not in any degree strengthen the Apostle’s case, nor be desirable on Ananias’ account. Again, it is noteworthy that the incident of Ananias is, as Blass says, separable from the main event. Its omission by St. Paul in 1 Cor. shows this. It does, however, entail the important loss of reference to St. Paul’s baptism given in A and B. It may be psychologically difficult to separate Ananias’ instructions from St. Paul’s own reflexions. But this again is distinct from the momentous issue.

(2) The effect upon the attendants is recorded with variations. In A they are described as ἀκούοντες μὲν τῆς φωνῆς μηδένα δέ θεωροῦντες. In B, τὴν δὲ φωνὴν οὑκ ἥκουσαν τοῦ λαλοῦντός μοι. In C the attendants are not mentioned. It is usually said that the distinction of case after ἀκούειν implies that the attendants heard the sound (genitive) but could not distinguish the substance (accusative) of the message (cf. Grimm-Thayer, Lex.).

But, taking the extreme case that these details cannot be reconciled, do they vitally alter the central affirmation? Is not some confusion between the effect on St. Paul and that upon the attendants very readily accounted for on the religious principle that receptiveness varies with spirituality? Zeller (followed by Pfleiderer, Urchristentum, i. 61) has, indeed, made the most of these differences (Acts, vol. i. p. 287), on the ground that for the objective character of the appearance great importance must attach to the testimony of St. Paul’s companions. But the essential points are perfectly clear; that the attendants were bewildered and confused by an external incident whose nature they evidently took for supernatural but could not further explain.

On the three narratives in Acts, see, further, Knowling, Testimony of St. Paul; Sabatier, L’apótre Paul; Goguel, L’apótre Paul et Jésus Christ; Chase, Credibility of Acts; Rackham, Acts.

So far as to St. Paul’s personal testimony recorded in Acts. To this must be added the references in his Epistles. It is certainly remarkable that amid his courageous self-revelation no account of his own conversion is given in the Epistles. And yet any such account would obviously be necessary for his opponents rather than for his converts, who must have heard the story orally; and this is precisely what the allusions and inferences in the Epistles suggest. There are here three points to be remembered: (1) The external or objective character of the appearance outside Damascus; (2) the fact that this external appearance is not incompatible with intellectual preparation for the change; nor (3) with an inner revelation in the department of the intellect as to the significance and far-reaching character of the external revelation bestowed (cf. Maurice Goguel, L’apôtre Paul et Jésus Christ).

(a) Theologians were formerly disposed to confine the intellectual change in St. Paul to the period of reflexion subsequent to conversion. Modern writers place it chiefly in the period before. It may well have been in both. Consciousness of the impossibility of unaided compliance with the requirement of the moral ideal (Romans 7) may well have prepared the way for the acceptance of Christianity, although by no means necessarily even suggesting, still less involving, its truth. On this point the greatest caution is essential. We have no information. The elaborated hypotheses whereby St. Paul is supposed to have made the transition to Christianity in purely subjective ways are wonderful feats of critical ingenuity, but they have no necessary relation to history. What is certain is that he believed the transition to have been suddenly effected by the manifestation of the Risen Christ.

(b) Similarly with the question of the inner revelation of Christ within the mind of St. Paul (Galatians 1:15-16 ‘to reveal his Son in me’). Because St. Paul received a mental enlightenment, it cannot possibly follow that he did not see an outward vision or hear a voice. Rather that which he heard and saw formed the external data of his inward thoughts and convictions. The careful distinction drawn by St. Paul between inner visions of the Lord (2 Corinthians 12), as to which he cannot tell whether they were in the body or out of the body, and the event appealed to in 1 Corinthians 9:1 as the certificate of his Apostleship, show how vividly conscious he was of the external objective nature of that vision of the Risen Christ (see Goguel, p. 82). But that there was an inner revelation also as the result of the external vision is, of course, essential to the value of the vision. Indeed, it would not be easy to exaggerate the vastness of this inner revelation, to St. Paul, provided always that space is left for the external circumstance which created it.

As to the external, objective character of St. Paul’s vision of the Risen Christ, this and nothing less is required by the Apostle’s language. ‘The metaphor of an untimely birth, which he employs in regard to himself (1 Corinthians 15:8), implies a sudden, violent, abnormal change which brought him weak and immature into a new spiritual world’ (Chase, Credibility, p. 72). Moreover, St. Paul places the appearance to himself in the same category with those to the Apostles in general (1 Corinthians 15; cf. Galatians 1:13-14 and Lightfoot’s paraphrase).

3. Evidence of the Evangelists.—The Synoptic problem must, of course, be studied elsewhere. Nor do our limits allow an analysis of the various documents. (1) The original of Mk., so far as we possess it, ends with the vacant grave, but no appearance of the Risen Master. [On the question of the last twelve verses of the present Mk. see above, p. 131 ff.]. (2, 3) But what the original Mk. no longer gives us is supplied by Mt. and. Lk., who almost certainly wrote with Mk. before them; and whose agreements may partially supply the missing conclusion of the earliest narrative. To do full justice to the documents would require a careful analysis and comparison of the appearances given by Mt., Lk., and Jn., together with the existing conclusion to Mark.

From what source the distinctive features of the Resurrection narratives in Mt. and Lk. were derived is not known. Attention has often been drawn to their diversities. They are certainly difficult to harmonize. But the substantial identity as to the central fact is not less impressive because of the diversities. The peculiar difficulties as to locality will be considered presently.

(4) The existing conclusion of Mark.—‘We may say with confidence,’ writes Dr. Sanday (Criticism of the Fourth Gospel, p. 241), ‘that its date is earlier than the year 140—whether we argue from the chronology of Aristion, its presumable author, or from its presence in the archetype of almost all extant Manuscripts , or from the traces of it in writers so early as Justin and Irenaeus.’ ‘It belongs at the latest,’ says Dr. Swete, ‘to the earlier sub-Apostolic age’ (Apostles’ Creed, p. 66). (See, further, Chase, Syriac Element in Codex Bezœ, 1893, pp. 153–157).

(5) The Fourth Gospel.—The value set on this evidence will vary with critical estimates of the Fourth Gospel, into which it is impossible to enter here. Suffice it to say that a very marked tendency exists in more recent writers to return to older views. So advanced a critic as Jülicher, for instance, dates the Gospel between a.d 100 and 110 (Introd. N.T. p. 401). In no case is reception or rejection more influenced by philosophic and theological presuppositions than here.

We note then that the documentary evidence, while certainly less than we might desire, is adequate for its purpose. Partial discrepancies are not only compatible with, they may be confirmatory of, substantial veracity (cf. Gwatkin, Gifford Lect. ii. 48).

4. Canonical as contrasted with Apocryphal Gospels.—The Canonical narratives form but a small portion of the early accounts of Jesus Christ. And it is important to consider why we lay exclusive stress upon the Four. The Canonical Gospels, as their name implies, cannot be regarded merely as documents; they are the property, and indeed the product, of a community, the Christian Church. The documentary evidence for the Resurrection requires to be supplemented by the evidence of the existence of the institution and its principles. The Church gave its recognition to certain Gospels, and refused it to others.

‘It was not the prestige of an Apostolic name that made it canonical, for the “Gospel of Peter” was rejected. Great antiquity and respectful quotation by learned Church writers did not avail to include the “Gospel acc. to the Hebrews,” nor did philosophical thought avail the document commonly called the “Oxyrhynchus Logia” ’ (Burkitt, Gospel History and its Transmission, p. 230).

What was the principle which led to their exclusion? What was it that the Four Gospels had which these had not? The answer manifestly is, that the contents of the Gospels called Canonical were in harmony with the principles of the Christian community which received them. The Church recognized the Four as possessing characteristics in which the others were more or less defective. ‘And,’ says Prof. Burkitt, ‘it should not be forgotten that those of the non-canonical Gospels which we know enough of to pass judgment upon, show a sensible inferiority’ (p. 259). ‘Marcion’s Gospel is in every way inferior to Luke, and the Gospel of Peter to either of the Synoptic accounts of the Passion’ (ib.). Their extravagant wonder-workings and obviously fictitious character impress readers of any school of thought (cf. Pfleiderer, Urchristentum, ii. 121).

5. The empty grave.—This is witnessed to by (1) the Evangelists; cf. the original narrative of Mk. (Mark 16:1-8). ‘There is no reason to doubt,’ says O. Holtzmann, ‘that the women could not carry out their purpose [of embalming the body], simply because they found the grave empty’ (Life of Jesus, p. 497). According to the tradition accepted by St. Paul, the first manifestation was on the third day, and therefore in Jerusalem. This agrees with the Apostles’ visit to the grave, which should be contrasted with their visit with our Lord to the grave of Lazarus. That the grave was empty, would also seem to be required by Jewish contemporary ideas on resurrection (cf. Daniel 12:2).

Considerable thought has of recent years been bestowed on St. John’s description of the manner in which the grave-clothes were lying. As far back as Chrysostom’s time, attention was called to the fact that myrrh was a drug which adheres so closely to the body that the grave-clothes would not easily be removed (in Joan. Hom. lxxxv). Cyril of Alexandria suggested that, from the manner in which the grave-clothes lay folded, the Apostles were led to the idea of resurrection: ‘Ex involutis linteaminibus resurrectionem colligunt,’ as the Latin version renders it (Migne, vii. 683). Latham’s theory is that the word ἐντετυλιγμίνον implies that the napkin which had been wrapped around the sacred head still partially retained the annular form thus given it (The Risen Master, p. 43). The grave-clothes still marked the spot where the body had rested, and still retained the general outline of the human form (cf. p. 50). If this interpretation be correct, that St. John saw the napkin which had been about the head of Jesus, not lying with the linen clothes, but apart, twisted round, away by itself, then the suggestion would be not only the emptiness of the grave, but that ‘that which died had passed away into that which lived’ (Richmond, Gospel of the Rejection, p. 109).

On the evidence, so far, to the empty grave, we are constrained to say that the weight of the Evangelists’ united testimony is so strong that it cannot with any justice be rejected. (For critical acknowledgment of this see Our Lord’s Resurrection in Oxf. Libr. Pract. Theol. p. 87 f.).

(2) But it has been asserted that, whatever the Evangelists might think, at any rate St. Paul’s theory of the Resurrection was independent of all interest in the empty grave (O. Holtzmann, Life of Jesus). His theory of the spiritual body, so it is said, does not require the resurrection of the material elements of the buried corpse. And it is further remarked that St. Paul, in his evidences of the Resurrection, not only makes no appeal to the emptiness of the grave, but actually makes no reference to the subject at all in his teaching. This supposed indifference of St. Paul to the question of the empty sepulchre is based partly on the character of his theology, and partly on his omission of any reference to the fact. But here we must remember St. Paul’s antecedents. He was educated in the principles of the Pharisees, and doubtless held the prevalent theory of physical resurrection. As Schmiedel truly says, ‘His theology came into being only after his conversion to Christianity. When he first came to know of Jesus as risen, he was still a Jew, and therefore conceived of resurrection at all in no other way than as reanimation of the body’ (EBi [Note: Bi Encyclopaedia Biblica.] iv. 4059); cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. The suggestion in the term ‘rose’ (ἐγείρειν) as applied to the dead is that death is compared with sleep, and the resurrection out of the former to the awakening out of the latter. Moreover, the fact of the burial implies that the Resurrection was not merely of one who died, but also of one who was buried. Thus resurrection refers to an experience affecting the body, and not to an isolated experience of the soul; cf. Romans 8:11, where resurrection is described as quickening our mortal bodies. Thus the grave of Jesus cannot be considered by St. Paul otherwise than as empty (see Schmöller in SK [Note: K Studien und Kritiken.] , 1894, p. 669). St. Paul believed in ‘a highly objective resurrection, including a bodily somewhat, though of a non-fleshly order’ (V. Bartlet, Apost. Age, p. 4; Riggenbach, p. 7).

(3) There is the further evidence of the application to Jesus Christ of the passage in the sixteenth Psalm (Psalms 16:10): ‘Neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption’ (Acts 2:27). St. Peter sees an exact parallel between this language of the Psalm and the physical experience of the dead Christ. It is a reference to the Resurrection. ‘He [David] seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption’ (Acts 2:31). No contrast could be greater than between this and the ordinary experience as exemplified in David. David manifestly saw corruption. ‘He is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day’ (Acts 2:29). Corruption its sad work had done. The foul engendered worm had fed on the flesh of ‘the anointed one.’ But St. Peter’s contention is that, in the case of Christ, the physical frame saw no corruption. The fact of the empty grave is here involved, and is, moreover, thrown out as a challenge in the very city where our Lord was buried; and that within six weeks of the burial! It has well been asked: Was not St. Peter disturbed by the misgiving that the hearers might interrupt him with the crushing remark—We know where he was buried, and that corruption has begun its task (Ihmels, Die Auferstehung Jesu Christi, 1906, p. 26). The whole argument of St. Peter would be absolutely worthless, if any could refute the major premiss of the empty grave.

(4) The emptiness of the grave is acknowledged by opponents as well as affirmed by disciples. The narrative of the guards attempts to account for the fact as a fraudulent transaction (Matthew 28:11-15). ‘But this Jewish accusation against the Apostles takes for granted that the grave was empty. What was certain was that the grave was empty. What was needed was an explanation.’ So far as the present writer is aware, this acknowledgment by the Jews that the grave was vacated extends to all subsequent Jewish comments on the point.

Here, for instance, is a 12th cent. version of the empty grave circulated by the Jewish anti-Christian propaganda. The story is that when the queen heard that the elders had slain Jesus and had buried Him, and that He was risen again, she ordered them within three days to produce the body or forfeit their lives. ‘Then spake Judas, “Come and I will show you the man whom ye seek: for it was I who took the fatherless from his grave. For I feared lest his disciples should steal him away, and I have hidden him in my garden and led a waterbrook over the place.” ’ And the story explains how the body was produced (Toledoth Jesu; see Baring Gould, Lost and Hostile Gospels, p. 88). It is needless to remark that this daring assertion of the actual production of the body is a mediaeval fabrication, but it is an assertion very necessary to account for facts, when the emptiness of the grave was admitted and yet the Resurrection denied.

Substantially, then, St. Matthew’s narrative is corroborated by the admissions made by opponents of Christ. That the disciples removed the body was a saying commonly reported among the Jews ‘until this day’ (Matthew 28:15). And this admission by opponents is enough to show that the evidence for the empty grave was ‘too notorious to be denied’ (Cambr. Theol. Essays, p. 336).

(5) The grave, then, was assuredly empty. But the emptiness of the grave does not demonstrate resurrection. The alternatives are that this was a human work or a Divine. Either somebody removed the corpse, or the Almighty raised the dead. The momentousness of the alternative it is scarcely possible to exaggerate. The ultimate decision must be largely influenced by the entire range of a man’s presuppositions. Two antagonistic conceptions of God and the world and mankind meet at the grave of Christ. It will always be possible to construct naturalistic hypotheses to account for the vacant grave, but it is impossible to conceal the rationalistic assumptions upon which such constructions are based. We may here quote a recent and extremely independent critic.

‘It is admitted that with the Resurrection the body of Jesus also had vanished from the grave, and it will be impossible to account for this on natural grounds’ (Wellhausen, Das Ev. Matt. p. 150).

(6) If we keep to the evidence, it is certain that the empty grave was not the cause of the disciples’ faith. According to the Evangelists, the fact of the empty grave created no belief in the Resurrection in the case either of Mary Magdalene, or of the women, or of St. Peter. The only exception, and that under conditions of peculiar reticence and reserve, was St. John.

‘Thus the oft repeated expression that the faith of the Christian Church is founded on an empty grave is one which requires explanation. The Easter faith did not really spring from the empty grave, but from the self-manifestation of the risen Lord’ (S. Simpson, Our Lord’s Resurrection, p. 103).

6. The locality of the appearances.—The narratives present us with a double series of manifestations of the Risen Lord, distinguished by locality: the Judaean series and the Galilaean series.

(1) Any true criticism should start from the data of the original Mark. According to this (Mark 16:7), not only did the women visit the grave on Easter Day and therefore were still present in Jerusalem, but the message sent to the disciples, ‘He goeth before you into Galilee,’ implies the presence of the disciples also in Jerusalem on that day. Accordingly the theory that ‘they all forsook him and fled’ (Mark 14:50) means fled direct home to Galilee, is refuted by the implications of the same Evangelist (cf. Rördam, Hibbert Journ., July 1905, p. 781). On the other hand, the direction ‘he goeth before you into Galilee’ would seem to indicate that the lost conclusion of this Gospel must have contained a description of an appearance in Galilee. This may be true. But what we cannot determine is whether any Judaean appearance was also recorded.

(2) Mt. (28:9) relates that the first appearance took place to the women near Jerusalem, and then adds a manifestation to the Eleven in Galilee.

(3) Lk. contains an exclusively Judaean series of manifestations. He ‘knows nothing’ of appearances in Galilee. The significance of this must depend on St. Luke’s worth as a historian. Harnack has recently exhibited a profound mistrust of the Lukan account (Luke the Physician). St. Mark, who is assumed to have recorded nothing but a Galilaean series, is endorsed as correct. On the other hand, the high value of St. Luke as a historian is vigorously asserted by so critical a scholar as Ramsay, who came to the study greatly prejudiced against him. He places the author of the Acts ‘among historians of the first rank’ (Paul the Traveller, pp. 4 ff., 8, 14). Then, further, St. Luke cannot possibly, as St. Paul’s companion, have been ignorant of the Jerusalem tradition. How could he conceivably have written a version of the Resurrection manifestation which the Jerusalem Church could not receive? It is quite possible that he derived his information as to the 40 days at Jerusalem itself. St. Paul gives no locality, but the natural view is that he considered the first manifestation to have occurred in Jerusalem. Is it possible that St. Luke’s exclusive interest in the Judaean series is due to the purpose for which his Gospel was written? Writing for Greek believers, it would be natural that he should concentrate attention upon the Holy City. Is it not possible conversely that St. Matthew, as Palestinian and Jerusalemite, gives for that very reason the more distant and less known manifestations in Galilee?

Harnack seems reduced to the singular position that the only evidence for the Galilaean series is St. Mark’s conclusion, and that does not exist. For he lays all stress, for St. Mark’s value, on St. Matthew as his copyist. He depreciates the independence of St. Luke and rejects the authority of St. John. Thus, after all, the testimony to a Galilaean series is reduced to a solitary witness whose testimony is lost.

The first impression derived from Lk.—that the Ascension took place on the same day as the Resurrection—is partly corrected on further consideration of the Gospel itself. For there does not seem sufficient time to crowd all these events into a single day. Emmaus is reached towards evening when the day was far spent (Luke 24:29). The meal in the town must have taken some little time. And Emmaus is threescore furlongs (Luke 24:13) = 7 miles from Jerusalem. The whole journey would take the greater part of two hours. Then follows the conversation with the two and the Eleven. Afterwards, Christ Himself appears and gives them an instruction in the Scriptures—the Law and Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). This must have taken a considerable time. Finally is placed the journey to Bethany and the Ascension. This could scarcely be before midnight. Yet certainly (as Rördam says) the account gives the impression that the event was conceived as happening in the daytime (Hibbert Journ., July 1905, p. 774). If the incident has suffered condensation, the difficulty is at once explained.

In this connexion it is worth noting that Ramsay describes St. Luke as deficient in the sense of time. ‘It would be quite impossible from Acts alone to acquire any Idea of the lapse of time’ (Paul the Trav. p. 18). And the fault is not individual. It is the fault of his age. St. Luke ‘had studied the sequence of events carefully, and observes it in his arrangement minutely,’ but ‘he gives no measure of the lapse of time implied in a sentence, a clause, or even a word. He dismisses ten years in a breath, and devotes a chapter to a single incident.’ Thus ‘Luke’s style is compressed to the highest degree; and he expects a great deal from the reader. He does not attempt to sketch the surroundings and set the whole scene like a picture before the reader; he states the bare facts that seem to him important, and leaves the reader to imagine the situation’ (p. 17). These are said to be characteristics of the writer of the Acts. And they will explain some of the difficulties in his narrative of the Resurrection.

But it is asked, Since our Lord’s prediction was that He would meet the disciples in Galilee and the angel’s direction was in accordance with the same, is it not contrary to the logic of the situation, as well as to the original command, that appearances should occur in Jerusalem?—To this difficulty Rördam’s reply is:

‘This apparently insoluble difficulty is very easily explained. We learn (Luke 24:11; Luke 24:24) that nobody believed the women’s tale, and even those who had listened most to their words returned disappointed after having seen the empty grave. This fully explains why appearances followed in Jerusalem. For that such sceptics would not go to Galilee to meet Christ is obvious. Therefore, just as the original story was that Christ appeared to the women, because they doubted the angel’s words, so the narrative goes on to relate how Christ had to appear to the apostles and the disciples together with them, as they did not believe the women’s words’ (p. 778).

7. The nature of Christ’s resurrection body.—(1) The statements of the Evangelists are commonly classified as of two kinds: (a) Those which exhibit a purely materialistic view, the most impressive instance being Luke 24:39 ‘Handle me and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.’ (b) An immaterial series, illustrated in His vanishing and reappearing, in the difficulty of recognition and the alterations of form.

One school of criticism here endeavours to impose a dilemma, bidding us select between the two views, on the ground that it is impossible to accept both. Keim, for instance, says, ‘There is a capricious alternating between a subtle and a gross corporeity … which is self-contradictory’ (Jesus of Nazara, vi. 340). We may, however, decline the dilemma, and declare ourselves prepared to accept both series of statements, as forming parts of a perfectly conceivable and intelligible conception. This ‘alternating between a subtle and gross corporeity,’ to adopt Keim’s expression, is, to begin with, profoundly original. The contemporary Pharisaic, idea of resurrection had no subtlety about it. It was grossly and even repulsively animal. The martyred Maccabees expect to repossess the same physical organs and limbs in the same condition as on earth. This is expressed with a coarseness which cannot be mistaken in 2 Maccabees 7:11; 2 Maccabees 14:46 (see also Gröbler in SK [Note: K Studien und Kritiken.] , 1879, p. 682 ff.). It is resuscitation of the same body to the same estate as before. The Book of Enoch, it is true, speaks of the resurrection state as resembling that of the angels, but it describes the latter in such physical and animal terms as to deprive the resemblance of much value (cf. Enoch 51:4 with 15:1). The description of ‘revealing every thing that is hidden in the depths of the earth, and those who have been destroyed by the desert, and those who have been devoured by the fish of the sea and by the beasts, that they may return and stay themselves on the day of the Elect One’ (61:5, ed. Charles, p. 160), is equally suggestive of a grossly material view.

The exact antithesis to the Pharisaic conception, which was prevalent in the Apostolic age, was the Greek conception of emancipation from the body and continued existence as pure spirit. See preceding article.

The view given by the Evangelists is independent of both of the above conceptions. It certainly possesses a strongly materialistic side. Yet with equal certainty it is no mere resuscitation of the animal frame. It is anything rather than a return to life under the same conditions. The broadest distinction is drawn by the Evangelists between the revivification of Lazarus and the Resurrection of Christ. Lazarus is obviously represented as granted a re-entrance into earthly life under the same conditions as before, to become again the possessor of a corruptible organism, subject to the same fleshly necessities, and destined again to expire in a second experience of physical death (cf. Kruger, Auferstehung, p. 21 f.).

(2) The Pauline conception of the risen body.—St. Paul’s doctrine is condensed into the two crucial phrases, a ‘psychical’ body and a ‘pneumatical’ body. The psychical body is the organ and instrument of the animal force; the pneumatical body is the organ and instrument whose vitalizing principle is the spiritual personality. The psychical body is that which discharges the functions of animal self-maintenance and reproduction. It is the organ adapted to life under terrestrial conditions. The pneumatical is the organ adapted to life under non-terrestrial conditions. It is the best self-expression of spirit (Our Lord’s Resurrection, p. 164 f.). Now, St. Paul’s doctrine firmly maintains two points, of which the first is identity between the body which died and the body which rose. This is implied in all that we have seen of St. Paul’s interest in the empty grave; in his illustration of the relation between the two states of the body as akin to that between the seed and the perfected plant. It is further taught by his description of his vision of Christ under the idea of Christ’s Resurrection.

But if, on the one hand, St. Paul affirms identity, he no less emphatically affirms a distinction between the characteristics and qualities of the body on earth and beyond it. ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 15:50). ‘Thou sowest not that body that shall be’ (v. 37). The vastness of the distinction is so strongly asserted in the term the ‘spiritual body,’ that the identity might almost seem to be, what it never is, really obliterated. But the risen body of Christ was spiritual, ‘not because it was less than before material, but because in it matter was wholly and finally subjugated to spirit, and not to the exigencies of physical life. Matter no longer restricted Him or hindered. It had become the pure and transparent vehicle of spiritual purpose’ (Gore, Body of Christ, p. 127).

(3) A comparison of the Pauline doctrine with the Evangelists’ statements does not lead, then, to the conclusion that their principles diverge. There is an extreme improbability that St. Luke, for instance, considering his relation to St. Paul, should be in hopeless contradiction with the Apostle’s principles. But there is no manner of contradiction. The Evangelists are concerned with the historic manifestations of the Risen Christ, St. Paul with the intrinsic nature of the resurrection body. The former describe the body of Christ during the temporary periods in which its presence was ascertainable by the senses; the latter considers the body as it is in itself. The former say, This is what we touched and saw, and our hands have handled; the latter is concerned with the profound inquiry as to what constitutes the nature of the risen body. Thus the aspects are complementary not antagonistic.

(4) If we attempt, then, to formulate the Christian conception of the nature of Christ’s risen body, we shall affirm that, according to Christian doctrine, man consists of the personality or self together with a vehicle of self-manifestation. This vehicle is material. Under terrestrial conditions this vehicle must possess characteristics, properties, organs, adapted to such conditions. Otherwise it would be no self-expression at all. Such was the psychical body of Christ. But at death the self passed out of terrestrial conditions, leaving the fleshly condition of the body behind, but by no means continuing bodiless. The self is re-endowed with a vehicle of self-expression which is still material, only under the complete dominion of spirit. The self now exists under heavenly conditions. The fleshly organism would be impossible there, because hopelessly unadaptable to such conditions. Its whole system, construction, solidity, its parts and organs, its methods of self-maintenance, would be worse than meaningless under non-terrestrial conditions. We should suppose that the pneumatical or risen body of Christ was, in its normal state, as an ideally perfect utterance of spirit, imperceptible to the human senses as we now possess them. But the capacities of this ideally perfect self-expression are so great that it can manifest itself to persons living under terrestrial conditions. And we believe that this pneumatical body of Christ did temporarily assume such conditions of tangibility and visibility as to bring His ‘subtle corporeity,’ for evidential and instructive purposes, within range of our ‘grosser corporeity.’

This leads to the difficult subject of the relation between the psychical and the pneumatical body of Christ. That they are related, in the Apostolic conception, is clear. But the question is, To what extent? Does the existence of the pneumatical body require the disappearance of the psychical? or can they coexist? Can the one remain intact within the grave while the other is declared to have risen? Is the emptiness of the grave in Joseph’s garden essential to belief in Christ’s transition into the pneumatical estate? Since it is impossible for us to determine the precise relation between these two conditions of the bodily life, we must be prepared for the possibility of the coexistence of the psychical and the pneumatical body. Would it therefore follow that the emptiness of the grave in Joseph’s garden is indifferent to Christian thought? No, not in the very least. We must surely here distinguish between the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of mankind. It was clearly necessary for evidential purposes that the risen Lord should reappear within a terrestrial environment, and that for the same reason His grave should be vacated. Belief in the reality of His Resurrection in presence of the corpse was to that age absolutely impossible.

Max Müller expressed years ago a regret that the Jews buried and did not burn their dead. For in that case, he thought, the Christian idea of the Resurrection would have remained far more spiritual. And the question has been quite recently asked, What kind of Resurrection would your gospel have exhibited if the body of Jesus had been cremated? Max Müller’s regret is more than justified by the deeply materialistic conceptions which have heavily burdened the Christian mind. But it has no weight whatever in view of the teaching of St. Paul. The suggested cremation of the body of Jesus would not in the slightest degree have affected the Pauline conception of the pneumatical body. Nor would it have removed the necessity for visible and tangible manifestations under terrestrial conditions. Christ must in any case have reappeared with features and form as of old, whether His body had been buried or burned. The scars must have reappeared upon it. The facts of dissolution of ordinary human bodies have not altered the ordinary belief in their physical reappearance in the Resurrection. The disintegration of the body and its return to dust, the cremation of the martyrs, did not prevent mediaeval discussions whether one who died in childhood would appear full-grown in the future life. The Maccabees, at any rate, knew nothing of the Resurrection of Christ, but that did not prevent their holding the grossest ideas of a resurrection state. ‘As for cremation, Christian reverence shrinks from discussing the cremation of our Lord’s sacred body,’ says Dr. Liddon; ‘but cremation, had it taken place, could have made no difference except in the sphere of imagination’ (Liddon, Easter Sermons, i. 111).

If the account given by Sir Oliver Lodge, in the Hibbert Journal (Jan. 1906), of Christianity and science may be viewed as representative of modern thought, it would seem clear that contemporary thought ought not to have much difficulty in accepting the Pauline doctrine of the resurrection body. The question is, What is the relation between the spiritual personality and the material side of human existence?’ It is plain,’ he says, ‘that for our present mode of apprehending the universe a material vehicle is essential’ (p. 318). The only evidence of the existence of spiritual activity is the manifestation of that activity through matter. We are manifested to each other through the medium of the senses. ‘Now,’ argues the writer, ‘this dependence of the spiritual on a vehicle for manifestation is not likely to be a purely temporary condition: it is probably a sign or sample of something which has an eternal significance, a representation of some permanent truth’ (p. 319). ‘To suppose that our experience of the necessary and fundamental connexion between the two things—the something which we know as mind and the something which is now represented by matter—has no counterpart or enlargement in the actual scheme of the universe, as it really exists, is needlessly to postulate confusion and instrumental deception’ (p. 319). Consequently the conclusion is that, ‘though it by no means follows that mind is dependent on matter as we know it, it will probably be still by means of something akin to matter—something which can act as a vehicle and represent it in the same sort of way that matter represents it now—that it will hereafter be manifested’ (p. 320). Now, certainly this statement of the relation of mind to matter, of personality to the vehicle of self-manifestation, is one which St. Paul would find no reason to dispute. As the writer himself recognizes, ‘This probability or possibility may be regarded as one form of statement of an orthodox Christian doctrine’ (p. 320). Such advances of modern thought towards the Pauline conception are as hopeful as they are significant. ‘What is wanted,’ he adds, ‘to make definite our thoughts of the persistent existence of what we call our immortal part, is simply the persistent power of manifesting itself to friends, i.e. to persons with whom we are in sympathy, by means as plain and substantial in that order of existence as the body was here’ (p. 322). ‘We may surmise that any immortal part must have the power of constructing for itself a suitable vehicle of manifestation, which is the essential meaning of the term “body” ’ (p. 323).

For the nature of the resurrection body see Goulburn, Bampton Lectures; Skrine, Contemp. Rev., Dec. 1904, 870.

8. The sayings of the Risen Master are most significant. Their manner is perfectly distinct from that of the ministry. What Keim (Jesus of Nazara, vi. 354) describes as the ‘simple, solemn, almost lifeless, cold, unfamiliar character of the manifestations,’ calls attention to the striking aloofness and unearthliness of the Easter tone. Familiarity is altered into distance and awful dignity. Yet with this difference, which is inevitable, if the circumstances are historic, the Personality is just the same. And as with their manner, so with their substance. They occupy, very marvellously, an intermediate position between the teaching of the ministry which they presuppose, and the teaching of the Apostles which they account for and explain.

9. Christ’s Resurrection and modern thought.Non-Christian explanations of Christ’s Resurrection.—There are only two ultimate explanations possible: either the event was the action of God, which is the Christian explanation; or else it must be accounted for within purely earthly and human limits. Rejection of the Christian or supernatural account leaves the necessity of providing a naturalistic explanation; otherwise there would always be a danger that the supernatural, although cast out on principle, would nevertheless return again. Non-Christian theories of Christ’s Resurrection form a series. No one has summarized them better than Keim (vi. 327 ff.).

(1) There was the theory, now quite obsolete, which denied Christ’s death. He fainted away on the cross, and recovered in the grave. The valuable point in this theory is its recognition that the Apostles did really see their Lord alive again as a solid objective fact confronting them. Its monstrously irrational character lies in its impossible assumption that a half-dead form, with difficulty brought back to life, leading an exhausted existence, and finally dying over again, could ever have inspired in His adherents triumphant faith in Him as a risen conqueror and Son of God. The well-known sentences of Strauss have effectually disposed of this miserable fabrication, with all the wretched immoralities which it included. It is, says Réville, ‘un tissu d’invraisemblances matérielles et morales’ (ii. 455).

(2) Another theory was that the body was secretly removed from the grave—either by opponents or by friends. Imagination hovers between Pilate, or the Sanhedrists, or Joseph of Arimathaea, or the gardener, or Mary Magdalene. Of the attempt to account for the empty grave as an imposture, Keim justly remarks: ‘All these assumptions are repellent and disgraceful; they show that the holy conviction of the apostles and the first Christians … has not in the slightest degree influenced the hardened minds of such critics’ (p. 325). This theory also has passed away. Critics, says Keim, have left off seeking an explanation from external facts.

(3) But there is still a world of mental facts. The naturalistic explanations of to-day are sought through psychology. There is the Vision hypothesis—a self-generated appearance, the product of reflexion on the uniqueness of the Personality. Jesus’ followers, studying the Scriptures, came to the conclusion that it belonged to the vocation of the Messiah to pass through suffering to glory. From the principle, ‘He must live,’ they passed involuntarily to the assertion, ‘He does live,’ and to the further assertion, ‘We have seen Him’! Thus they took a leap from a conclusion of the intellect to a fact of history. Keim’s criticism is that reflexion requires time. Its advocates postulate a year—ten years. But the Apostolic evidence concurs in asserting that the interval between the death and the belief in the Resurrection was exceedingly brief. Strauss himself gave up the theory, and adopted another. ‘Not so much by way of reflexion, it is now said, as by the quicker road of the heart, of the force of imagination, and of strong nervous excitement, the disciples attained to belief in the living Messiah’ (p. 334). The invincible Jesus hovered before their minds (p. 343). When Mohammed died, his adherents swore to decapitate any one who dared to say that the Prophet had expired (p. 344). In reality Jesus was not dead to the disciples, since they had witnessed neither His Passion nor death nor burial. Back in Galilee the old associations revived, far from the disasters and the graves of Jerusalem—unbounded excitement, intensified by abstinence from food and by the feverish moods of the evening, caused the limits of the outer and inner world to disappear. They thought they saw and heard externally, while they only saw and heard within. Martineau adopted something of this subjective theory of emotion and reflexion combined. It is the most popular non-Christian explanation of the day. But Keim deliberately rejects it.

Keim admits that the Apostolic age was full of more or less self-generated human visions. But if these visions had been the same in kind as the appearances of the Risen Christ, St. Paul would certainly not have closed his list with the fifth or sixth manifestation. Why does the Apostle consider the manifestation to himself as last of a series (ἕσχατον, 1 Corinthians 15:8), obviously last of its kind, carefully differentiating it from the visions which may have come either to himself or to others? ‘Having made such a sharp and clean division, it is to be taken as proved that there lay between the first 5 or 6 appearances and the later often-repeated visions such a great and broad gulf of time, and indeed of character, as rendered it impossible to reckon the latter appearances with the former’ (p. 353).

A vision of departed persons does not necessarily imply their resurrection. If Moses and Elijah were seen at the Transfiguration of Christ, did the disciples infer their resurrection? Contemporary belief in the Apostolic age had assumed that patriarch and prophet and saint of OT times lived on in Paradise, but this did not involve belief in their resurrection. Visions were perfectly compatible with the continuance of the dead body in the grave, and no belief in their resurrection would ensue. Why then did the Apostle, having seen Christ after His death, affirm His Resurrection (cf. Schmöller in SK [Note: K Studien und Kritiken.] , 1894, p. 689)? Was it not because this ‘seeing’ Him was consciously different from the seeing in a dream, or from any kind of seeing except one involving physical identity? The idea of resurrection introduces an after-death experience as it concerns the body. It affirms that that which rose is also, however altered, that which died.

Keim’s judgment, then, upon the Vision theory, as a whole, is as follows: ‘All these considerations compel us to admit that the theory which has recently become the favourite one is only an hypothesis which, while it explains something, leaves the main fact unexplained, and, indeed, subordinates what is historically attested to weak and untenable views’ (p. 358).

(4) Keim then comes to his own explanation. ‘If the visions are not something humanly generated or self-generated, if they are not blossom and fruit of an illusion-producing over-excitement, if they are not something strange and mysterious, if they are directly accompanied by astonishingly clear perceptions and resolves, then there still remains one originating source, hitherto unmentioned, namely, God and the glorified Christ’ (p. 361). Keim accordingly propounds a theory of objective Vision created by Christ Himself. ‘If the power that produces the vision comes, as according to our view it does, entirely from without, and the subjective seeing is merely the reflex form of what is objective, the immediate cessation of the seeing and of the will to see, as soon as the operating power ceases to operate, becomes perfectly intelligible.’ ‘Even the corporeal appearance may be granted to those who are afraid of losing everything unless they have this plastic representation for their thought and their faith’ (p. 362). Thus, according to this view, the Resurrection manifestations are a God-created message of victory. To quote Keim’s oft-quoted expression, they are ‘a telegram from heaven,’ an evidence given by Christ Himself and by the power of God.

This objective Vision theory, although far beneath the Christian conviction, is nevertheless a very remarkable approximation towards it. It is a most significant recognition of the inadequate character of all purely subjective explanations of the Apostles’ belief. It acknowledges a God-created reality in the Easter faith. The theories of fraud and fiction and self-delusion are hereby deliberately set aside. The Almighty produced the Apostles’ faith.

On the objective Vision theory see, further, Steude, Auferstehung, p. 99; Lotze, Microcosmos, ii. 480 (English translation ).

The ultimate reasons for rejecting the Resurrection evidence are not historical. As Sabatier truly says, ‘Even if the differences were perfectly reconciled, or even did not exist at all, men who will not admit the miraculous would none the less decisively reject the witness. As Zeller frankly acknowledges, their rejection is based on a philosophic theory, and not on historic considerations’ (L’Apôtre Paul, p. 42). Strauss long ago fully admitted that ‘the origin of that faith in the disciples is fully accounted for if we look upon the Resurrection of Jesus, as the Evangelists describe it, as an external miraculous occurrence’ (New Life, i. 399). Nothing can be more genuine than Strauss’ acknowledgment that he was controlled by a priori considerations, to which the fact of a resurrection was inadmissible; cf. p. 397:—

‘Here, then, we stand on that decisive point where, in the presence of the accounts of the miraculous Resurrection of Jesus, we either acknowledge the inadmissibility of the natural and historical view of the life of Jesus, and must consequently retract all that precedes and give up our whole undertaking, or pledge ourselves to make out the possibility of the results of these accounts, i.e. the origin of the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus without any correspondingly miraculous fact.’

This is his conscious, deliberate undertaking—to give an explanation of the evidence on the presupposition of a certain view of the universe. It invariably amounts to this. At the grave in Joseph’s garden two antagonistic world-theories confront each other (cf. Ihmels, Auferstehung, p. 27; Luthardt, Glaubenslehre). Spinoza, it has been said, could not believe in the actual Resurrection of Jesus, because such belief would have compelled him to abandon his theory of the universe. Obviously the pantheist must account for the manifestation on naturalistic principles.

Those who are anxious to dissociate religion from facts will naturally resent the position which Christianity ascribes to Christ’s Resurrection. The relation between eternal truth and historic incidents cannot, of course, be treated in the limits at our disposal. But it must be remembered that a religion of Incarnation cannot possibly be dissociated from the facts of history. The objection, therefore, to the connexion between doctrine and history is fundamentally an objection to the whole principle of an external and specialized revelation, or to a progressive revelation which culminates in Divine personal entrance into history and self-manifestation within its limits (see Gwatkin’s Gifford Lectures).

Similarly, the attitude of individuals towards the evidence is affected by their conception of the relation of body and soul. There are, says Grützmacher (l.c. inf. p. 120), ultimately three conceptions. Either body and soul are both integral portions of a complete humanity; or man is only body, of which the soul is nothing but a transient function; or man is only soul, and the body is its entanglement and its prison. Of these three theories, says the same writer, the last is the least congenial to modern thought. Psychology is strenuous in its insistence on the intimate and necessary relationship of soul and body (p. 121). The second theory is materialism pure and simple; but its unsatisfying character is to modern thought sufficiently obvious. There remains, in the long run, only the first conception, which places upon the body a very high value indeed. Immortality without embodiment is not a theory which harmonizes with the deepest reflexions of the day.

10. The Apostolic teaching on the meaning of Christ’s Resurrection

(1) Evidential as to His Messiahship.—According to the prevalent interpretation of Deuteronomy 21:23, adopted by the LXX Septuagint , ‘cursed of God is every one that is hanged upon a tree’ (cf. Josephus Ant. iv. viii. 6), the crucifixion of Jesus had, in Jewish contemporary thought, finally condemned Him in the sight of God and man. ‘To a Jew the cross was infinitely more than an earthly punishment of unutterable suffering and shame; it was a revelation that on the crucified there rested the extreme malediction of the wrath of God. The idea was no theological refinement. It could not but be present to the mind of every Jew who knew the Law. Within a few years (1 Corinthians 12:3) it was formulated in a creed of unbelief—ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς. It found expression in the name by which in later days the Lord was known among the Jews—הַחִּלוי, “the hanged one” ’ (Chase, Credibility of Acts, p. 149).‘ “Whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree” (Acts 5:30). Here was a public, an impressive, a final attestation of what Jesus of Nazareth was in the sight of God. Here was an end’ (p. 150). There could be but one conclusion. Now here are appreciated the force and the meaning of the Resurrection. If ‘the God of our fathers raised up Jesus’ (Acts 5:30), then it was clear that the estimate inevitable from the hanging upon a tree had been mistaken, and must be reversed; that earth’s rejected was God’s accepted; then it was possible to believe of this Crucified One, ‘Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour’ (Acts 5:31).

Thus, on the basis of the Resurrection, St. Peter describes Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), Prince of Life (Acts 3:15), only source of salvation (Acts 4:12), ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead (Acts 10:42; cf. Acts 17:31).

‘It is the expression,’ says B. Weiss (Bibl. Theol. NT, i. 239), ‘of the most immediate living experience, when Peter says that they were begotten again unto a living hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3). Not till it took place was the dead Jesus manifested with absolute certainty as the Messiah.’

(2) Evidential as certifying the redemptive character of His death.—It required a new interpretation to be placed upon His death. The Resurrection showed the death to possess a Godward validity, affecting the Divine relations with mankind. It was the Divine response to the death, and the explanation to mankind of its meaning (see Gloatz in SK [Note: K Studien und Kritiken.] , 1895, p. 798; cf. Romans 6:4; Romans 6:10). The Resurrection, says Horn in a striking phrase, is the ‘Amen’ of the Father to the ‘It is finished’ of the Son (NK Ztschr. 1902, p. 548).

(3) Christ’s Resurrection is evidential of His Divinity.—St. Paul begins the letter to the Romans with this thought: R

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Resurrection of Christ (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​r/resurrection-of-christ-2.html. 1906-1918.
Ads FreeProfile