A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The New Testament Word/Phrase of the Week

The New Testament bible scholar, Dr. Tom Wright, has produced a glossary of New Testament words/phrases that is really helpful for the study of scripture. What I like most about his definition of New Testament words is that he helps us to know what a Jewish person from the 1st century would have understood these words/phrases to mean. Too often, we allow our 21st century world view to get in the way of the original meaning.

Here is the New Testament word/phrase of the week: Resurrection

In most biblical thought, human bodies matter and are not merely disposable prisons for the soul. When ancient Israelites wrestled with the goodness and justice of YHWH, the creator, they ultimately came to insist that he must raise the dead (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3) - a suggestion firmly resisted by classical pagan thought. The longed-for return from exile was also spoken of in terms of YHWH raising drying bones to new life (Ezekiel 37:1-14). These ideas were developed in the second-Temple period, not least at times of martyrdom (e.g. II Maccabees 7). Resurrection was not just 'life after death', but a newly embodied life after 'life after death'; those at present dead were either 'asleep', or seen as 'souls', 'angels' or 'spirits', awaiting new embodiment.

The early Christian belief that Jesus had been raised form the dead was not that he had 'gone to heaven', or that he had been 'exalted', or was 'divine'; they believed all those as well, but each could have been expressed without mention of resurrection. Only the bodily resurrection of Jesus explains the rise of the early church, particularly its belief in Jesus' messiahship (which his crucifixion would have called into question). The early Christians believed that they themselves would be raised to a new, transformed bodily life at the time of the Lord's return or parousia (e.g. Philippians 3:20f.).

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