RESURRECTION

Back in 1968, an archeological dig in Jerusalem unearthed what almost seemed the fulfillment of a sick joke about calling off Easter. The bones of a young man were found carefully laid in a first century tomb, but with a large spike lodged through one of the heel bones. This man had obviously been crucified! Only the inscription found on the tomb bore the name "Yehohana" or as we pronounce it, "John". But just suppose that inscription had read "Yeshuah" that is "Jesus". What would we have made of that?

       Today, the majority of tbeologians and scripture scholars seem united only on one point -- that an empty tomb, or a missing corpse in itself, proves nothing. (No one for example claims that Jimmy Hoffa has risen from the dead!) But beyond that point these same experts seem sharply divided. Some insist that the resurrection of Jesus is a physical, historical "fact", upon which the credibility of Christianity either stands or falls.

       Others point out that for Palestinian Jews there was no other way of expressing belief in the possibility of life after death except in terms of a "resurrection" - that is, God's life-giving spirit coming back into the body again and raising it up from the grave. In fact the Hebrew language even lacked a word for "soul" -- a concept that first appears in the Greek translations of the Bible, most clearly in the Book of Wisdom. Think of Ezekiel's famous vision of the dry bones coming back to life and you've got the picture.

       These more "liberal" scholars seem to side with the Russian philosopher Berdyaev who insisted that the resurrection of Jesus is a "meta-historical" fact, and that any attempt to reduce it to a historical event in the usual sense of the term runs the risk of degrading a transcendental truth existing beyond the categories of space-time to the realm of the ordinary nuts and bolts of everyday life. They also point to the fact that St. Paul, whose experience of the risen Christ seems to have been of a visionary, perhaps only auditory, nature, yet who did not hesitate to defend his credentials as a witness to the risen Christ along with the other apostles.

       My own point of view is that we need to strike a balance between both positions - a balance between the physical appearance and the spiritual reality. On the one hand, if God needs to produce a more tangible proof of Jesus' victory over death to convince the doubting Thomases or the others among the original apostles who feared they might be hallucinating or seeing a ghost, who can deny God that power?

       On the other hand, I would also tend to side with St. Paul, who tells us that the resurrected body is not a mortal body but a "spiritual" body, entirely unlike the body we possess here in this life and that it is only when we die to the kind of life that is entirely ruled by our present body (its passions, lusts, etc.) that we are liberated to rise to a new life with and in Christ.

       So, when you come down to it, the only real bottom-line "proof' of Christ's resurrection - a proof that will convince the world today -- is how Christians live right here and now and that unless we ourselves "rise" this way, that Christ's resurrection (and our faith) is useless or in vain.

R W Kropf 4/9/2001 (updated 4/26/2001)                                               Resurrs.doc  01-04-26.html