Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Study of Early Christianity: Physical Resurrection


Physical Resurrection - "He rose again" 
The Old Testament bears witness to the fact that Israel expected a resurrection (Job 14:14; 19:25-27; Psalm 16:10; 49:15; 73:24; Isaiah 25:8; 26:19; Daniel 12:2). As the time of Christ’s arrival drew near it appears that God’s people became even more focused on the resurrection (Wisdom 2:23-24; 3:1-4; 4 Ezra 7:32-35; 2 Maccabees 7:10-11; 14:46). The Jews expected everyone (or at least all the righteous) to be resurrected all at once – at the end of time.
End-time resurrection came sooner than expected. It came, or at least began, in the midst of time.[1] After the crucifixion Jesus physically raised from the grave, being seen and touched by his disciples who report that he even ate and drank after his resurrection (Matthew 28:2-7; John 20:17; 21:1-14; Acts 10:39-42; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Following his crucifixion his once fearful followers began to boldly and publicly proclaim, with miracles confirming their testimony, that Christ was alive and seated in royal power on God’s throne (Matthew 26:73-75; Acts 2:33; 3:14-16; 4:5-22, 29-33; 5:30-31; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3; 1 Peter 3:22). The last days had begun (Acts 2:16-17). The final judgment was about to take place (Acts 17:31 James 5:9 1 Peter 4:5; Revelation 22:12).
 The resurrection of Christ was one of the most essential features of apostolic preaching (Acts 1:3, 22; 2:24-32; 3:15; 4:10, 33; 5:30; 10:40-41; 13:30; 17:2-3, 31; 26:23-26).[2] Though some, perhaps seeking to preserve the divinity of Jesus, denied the physicality of his earthly body, Christian preaching in the following centuries continued to stress the physical resurrection of Christ.[3] He rose from the grave bodily, giving us a confident hope that we too will be physically resurrected in the last day.[4]

He was truly crucified, and [truly] died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life.
-       Igantius, Epistle to the Trallians[5]  


[1] “…the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which he has rendered the Lord Jesus the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead.” 1 Clement XXIV, ANF I p. 11
[2] Also: Romans 1:4; 4:24-25; 5:10; 6:4-10; 8:11, 34; 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:3, 12; 2 Corinthians 4:10-14; 5:15; 13:4; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:18; 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:14; 2 Timothy 2:8; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 1:3, 21; 3:18-21; Revelation 1:5, 18
[3] One form of the heretical denial of the physicality of Christ was known as Docetism. “Yet the very existence of Docetism is also a testimony to the tenacity of the conviction that Christ had to be God, even at the cost of his true humanity” Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, 174.
[4] “Now, He suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved. And He suffered truly, even as also He truly raised up Himself, not, as certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be [Christians]. And as they believe, so shall it happen unto them, when they shall be divested of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits.” Ignatius Smyrnaeans II, ANF I p. 87
 “For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now.” Ibid. III, ANF I p. 87; “…you will also allow that it was in the flesh that Christ was raised from the dead. For the very same body that fell in death, and which lay in the sepulcher, did rise again…” Tertullian On the Resurrection of the Flesh XLVIII, ANF III p. 581
[5] Ignatius Trallians IX, ANF I p. 70