Sunday, April 4, 2010

How Did the First Christians Understand Jesus' Resurrection?

New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado addresses this question in an article for Slate:

Easter Sunday represents the foundational claim of Christian faith, the highest day of the Christian year as celebration of Jesus' resurrection. But many Christians are unsure what the claim that Jesus had been raised to new life after being crucified actually means—while non-Christians often find the whole idea of resurrection bemusing and even ridiculous. ...

The ancient Jewish and early Christian idea of personal resurrection represented a new emphasis on individuals and the importance of embodied existence beyond the mere survival or enhancement of the soul, although there was debate about the precise nature of the post-resurrection body. ...

In the earliest expressions of their faith that we have, Christians claimed that Jesus' resurrection showed that God singled out Jesus ahead of the future resurrection of the dead to show him uniquely worthy to be lord of all the elect. ...

Historically ... how Christians have understood Jesus' "resurrection" says a lot about how they have understood themselves, whether they have a holistic view of the human person, whether they see bodily existence as trivial or crucial, and how they imagine full salvation to be manifested. Does salvation comprise a deliverance from the body into some sort of immediate and permanent postmortem bliss (which is actually much closer to popular Christian piety down the centuries), or does salvation require a new embodiment of some sort, a more robust reaffirmation of persons? This sort of question originally was integral to early Jewish and Christian belief in the resurrection. In all the varieties of early Christianity, and in all the various understandings of what his "resurrection" meant, Jesus was typically the model, the crucial paradigm for believers, what had happened to him seen as prototypical of what believers were to hope for themselves.

Read it all.

And watch Dr. Hurtado address the question, "How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?"

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