resurrection centrality (was Re: Thomasine dating)
- I gotta agree with Yuri here.
Stevan Davies wrote:
This is "canonical bias". The resurrection oriented Christians who
wrote NT stuff are a dangerous source for the inference that all
Christians were that way. Even on Crosstalk you have Mahlon's
notion of Jesus' importance (cynicish sage) and Davies' notions
of what Xianity mainly got started from (spirit experience) neither
of which have anything to do with the resurrection... this is not to
say that the resurrection was thought important by some, but to say
that the resurrection didn't have to be particularly important to
others. I'll say again: "people appearing to others after death is
>>Perhaps not just "people appearing", but you have to remember what this was.
This was a resurrection body which Paul & the gospels spoke of.
The Jews of the time did not have a concept of a full resurrection (not just a
simple reanimation/resuscitation of a mortal being, but a resurrection to
glory, immortality, etc. [eg Phl 3:21]) which happened within history--it
always happened at the end of time. (The oddity of this concept is not some
apologetical fodder--Meier writes,
"Moreover, there was nothing in the OT or Jewish belief in the 1st century
that tied together the resurrection of an individual within ongoing
history--certainly a novel concept at any rate--with Davidic Messiahship. That
the individual should have been a crucified criminal makes the royal title all
the stranger. [A Marginal Jew, vol. 1, pp. 218-219]
This all led Paul & co. to find quite a theological implication out of
Christ's resurrection: "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the
_firstfruits_ of those who have fallen asleep"--i.e., Jesus' resurrection
necessitated that we are living in the final period before the general
resurrection. (He hoped/expected it would occur during his lifetime--cf. 'we
who remain' in ITh 4:15.)
We know that Paul could not have emphasized the resurrection more than he did.
He was only reminding the Corinthians of what he already told them (ICor
15:1). The good news of Christ's resurrection was brought salvation (v.2) and
was 'of first importance' (v.3). The whole Christian faith/preaching was
worthless without the resurrection in Paul's view (vv.14, 17). If the
resurrection did not happen, Christians would be false witnesses against God
(v.15). If Christ is not risen, there is no resurrection. "Then those who have
fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in
Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all" (vv.18-19). Those to whom Paul
wrote in ITh 4:13-18 would have lost their consolation.
Another issue to reckon with is that without the resurrection, Christ was
pretty much just a condemned bad guy. Besides the shame associated with
crucifixion among the Romans, they were also subject to criticism from the
standpoint of Jewish law (Dt 21:23)--it could be said that God's curse was
upon Jesus (inverted by Paul in Gal 3:13). A crucified
and...well...crucified...messiah would have been a difficult concept for the
early Christians to defend.
Paul received his resurrection tradition during his early days as a Christian,
with many, if not most, scholars placing the tradition in the mid-30's (though
many I speak with are uncomfortable with the implications of this), likely
coming from when he conferred with Kephas/Peter in Jerusalem (Gal 1:18).
Thus, in all probability the earliest representation of Christian belief stems
with Paul & co. So it seems to me that the burden of proof lies squarely on
the shoulders of those who claim that the resurrection was _not_ central to
the early Christian faith.
BTW, I believe Mahlon stated earlier that ICor 15 was evidence that some
Christians denied Christ's resurrection. I don't think this is so. Paul wrote
to _remind_ them of of the resurrection (ICor 15:1), which he already told
them of (v.3), to leave them with no room to doubt. What Paul seems to be
directly addressing is not the denial of Christ's resurrection (which is a
pillar of a larger argument), but the denial of the general resurrection at
ICor 15:12-15a But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some
among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no
resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ
has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty too, your faith. Then
we are also false witnesses to God....
So when we unravel Paul's argument, it goes sequentially more like this:
1. If there is no general resurrection, then Christ wasn't raised.
2. Christ's resurrection is undeniable, and without it, your faith would be
3. Therefore, there is a general resurrection.
A moment later, Christ's resurrection is denied on the false premises that the
resurrection wouldn't happen. It is only then that Paul argues the other way:
if Christ isn't risen, there's no hope for *you* to rise. So you're hopeless
(see vv.16-20). But the deal is, Christ IS risen we'll follow suit (v.20), so
all is well. So long as the general resurrection is held to, Christ's
resurrection can be believed in, and if Christ's resurrection can be believed,
than they can believe they will rise as well. And the troubles/logical
in the ancient world or anywhere else and so the claim
that Jesus did so could NOT have been the main deal for his cult."
>>Tell that to Paul.
Jesus was the 'firstfruits,' not commonfruits. They saw something very
different in Christ's glorious resurrection, which made it central to their
No it wasn't. Core was experiences called spirit (or the teachings of
Jesus, if you're Mahlon).
>>I don't see how one can reasonably detach the rest of early Christianity so
far from Paul's "If Christ is not risen, then your faith is in vain; you are
still in your sins." It remains to be established that the resurrection was
not central/integral to the earliest Christians.
Paul would agree, Mark too. Certainly not John. Nor Q or Thomas.
>>This comment is too vague. As for John, it seems obvious that the conclusion,
following the resurrection account of ch.20, would include the resurrection as
relevant when he writes, "But these are written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may
have life in his name" (20:31). As for Q, this is a _sayings document_, the
extent of which is unrecoverable to us, so we shouldn't expect resurrection
material. As for Thomas, the beginning refers to the "living Jesus"...this
could be seen as a vague reference to the resurrection, but I would agree with
the consensus that GThom is in some meaningful sense gnostic, and the phrase
is easier to interpret that way. The point is that this Jesus wasn't 'dead'.
As for whether there was a _specific_ appearance (not necessarily a subjective
"vision" as hinted above) to Peter, this is recorded by Paul (15:5), who
personally knew Peter, and by Luke 24:34. Both are believed to be early
Christian hymns. Outside of that, Lk/Jn record his discovery of the empty tomb
hope this helps....