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Biblical Exegesis: The Resurrection of Christ

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Alexander concedes that among the approved “canon “ of Scripture, in the New Testament, Paul’s ten major letters were collected first. In AD 200 other books of the New Testament such as 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus were included. There were Christian writers who supported the argument that these collection of letters had scriptural authority. During AD 200 the Egyptian Christians had no doubt about including Paul’s letters in their collection (Alexander, 70-71).

The 14 Pauline letters (Hebrew being accepted as Pauline), whereas the western church placed Paul’s letters immediately after Acts, and followed them with the Catholic letters (McGrath, 13). McGrath concedes that for the writers of the New Testament, the term “Scripture” meant primarily a writing of the Old Testament. However, within a short period, early Christian writers (such as Justin Martyr) were referring to the “New Testament” (to be contrasted with the “Old Testament”) insisting that both collections of works were to be treated with equal authority (12).

INTRODUCTION

Approximately AD 55 near the end of Paul’s ministry, during his third journey. Paul began writing letters to the church of Corinthians. Paul wrote letters to the Corinthian Church concerning the problems of idolatry, and immorality. Paul setup this church during his second missionary journey. The church consisted of gentiles. The passage under investigation addresses the gentiles of the Corinthian church concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There were people during that time period who denied that Christ was raised from the dead. To the Greeks the idea of resurrection was preposterous.

Paul is concerned about those who do not believe in the resurrection, therefore, he continues to argue his point and give instructions to the Corinthian church. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 Paul begins to defend the gospel by pointing out three important truths: (1) Christ died for our sins (2) He was buried (3) He was raised on the third day. Paul explains in 15:1 that by this “gospel you are saved, otherwise, you have believed in vain.” Paul further assures the Church that there will always be people who do not believe. Paul points out that he was an eye witness of the risen Christ, as many others witnessed Christ’s resurrection.

In 15:12 Paul validates his plan and tells the Church that the Greeks at Corinth believe that there was no resurrection. In 15: 12-17, Paul then asked questions to prove the reality of the risen Christ. “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection from the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.”

Paul concludes his flow of arguments by stating that “if Christ have not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Paul asserts in 15:29 that “if there is no resurrection, what would those do who are baptized for the dead?”

Wedderburn concedes, In the former case we really cannot say why they denied the resurrection; there is not enough evidence and some of the possibilities are not all that plausible in a Christian congregation in Corinth. Or if, as seems to me more satisfactory, we try to treat this problem in the light of other beliefs reflected in the letter, the evidence there seems to be at variance with that evidence in which suggests that no resurrection for them meant that death was the end of everything. There is, of course, the possibility that the Corinthians were inconsistent and incoherent in their beliefs, indeed outrageously so, and perhaps, if either the Corinthians or Paul has to be accused of such inconsistency and muddle-headedness, then we would prefer to level this charge at the Corinthians. But perhaps a failure of communication somewhere is a more likely solution of this dilemma.

Now we saw at the start that Paul was probably correctly informed of what the Corinthians said there is no resurrection of the dead (240).

Paul concedes that the resurrection of Christ is a guarantee that all believers will be raised from the dead. Paul further describes the kind of body that believers will have after the resurrection. In 15:35-49 Paul affirms the process by which the body is resurrected by using descriptive words like, “Splendor,” to describe the various kind of bodies that are sown. Paul further describes the transformation process of the resurrection in 15: 44, telling how the natural body is transformed into a spiritual body.

The definition of resurrection is “rising again.” The Greek word for “Resurrection,” is “Anastasis,” meaning a (moral) recovery (of spiritual truth), raised to life again, resurrection, rise from the dead, that should rise, rising again.

Theologically – The Resurrection of Christ

During the Enlightenment the resurrection was considered a “non-event.” Gotthold Ephraim Lessing provides an excellent example of this attitude. He confesses that he does not have personal first-hand experience of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: So why, he asked should he be asked to believe in something which he has not seen? (McGrath, 309). On the other hand, there are those who believe the resurrection to be an historical event, as did Karl Barth (1886-1968) who argued that the empty tomb had minimal importance in relation to the resurrection (McGrath, 311 ). David Friedrich Strauss (1808-74) who believed the resurrection to be a myth and an “imaginary risen Christ “ – a “mythical risen Christ.” During this time period Friedrich’s views made sense In first century Palestine, the culture was dominated by mythical world views (McGrath, 310).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this point with particular clarity: “The Resurrection above all constitutes the confirmation of all Christ’s works and teachings. All truths, even those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification if Christ by his Resurrection has given the definitive proof of his divine authority, which he had promised.” It must be appreciated that the resurrection of Jesus serves an additional function within Christian theology. It establishes and undergirds the Christian hope. This has both soteriological and eschatological implications. At the soteriological level, it enables the death of Christ upon the cross to be interpreted in terms of God’s victory over death and a coalition of allied forces and powers. At the eschatological level, it gives both foundation and substance to the Christian hope of eternal life (McGrath, 314).

According to McGrath the Christian conception of heaven is essentially that of the eschatological realization of the presence and power of God, and the final elimination of sin. The most helpful way of considering it is to regard it as a consummation of the Christian doctrine of salvation, in which the presence, penalty, and power of sin have all been finally eliminated, and the total presence of God in individuals and the community of faith has been achieved. (461).

McGrath concedes that one of Paul’s most significant statements concerning heaven focuses on the notion of believers being “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20) and in some way sharing in the life of heaven in the present. The tension between the “now,” and the “not yet,” is evident in Paul’s statements concerning heaven, making it very difficult to sustain the simple idea of heaven as something which will not come into being until the future, or which cannot be experienced in the present Particularly in the Greek-speaking church, speculation focused on the nature of the resurrection body. What kind of body would believers possess when they were finally raised from the dead? (McGrath, 462).

CONCLUSION

Verse (vv. 50-58) provides Paul’s conclusion that Christ assures all believers that they will have new bodies after death. Paul further concludes that the natural body cannot enter the eternal Kingdom of God. Flesh and Blood, meaning, mortal body is perishable, it must become imperishable to enter the Kingdom, the mortal body will become immortal, like Christ, a body that will not perish. Paul uses the words “victory and sting,” meaning that the people of God are victorious in defeating death, and “death has no sting.” Death has been swallowed up in victory (v.54). Thus Paul strategically addresses the Corinthian believers' error in a way that appealed to their culturally formed sensibilities so that the result is his climactic exhortation to recognize the corollaries of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection for the life of the believer, which is to be lived in imitation of the risen Lord by enduring hardship, laboring tirelessly, and abstaining from sin (Brown, 79). Paul concludes with a fluent exhortation:

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (v.58).

1.James, Strong,. “Resurrection,” Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Greek Dictionary of the New Testament. (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), 386.

2. Wedderburn, A.J.M. 1981. “The problem of the denial of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.” Novum Testamentum 23, no 3: 229-241. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 13, 2014).

3. Alister, McGrath E., Christian Theology: An Introduction, (Chichester West Sussex: Blackwell Publishers 2011), 309-314.

4. Alister, McGrath E., Christian Theology: An Introduction, (Chichester, West Sussex: Blackwell Publishers, 2011), 461-462.

James, Strong, Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publisher, 1988).

5. Paul J. Brown. 2013. “Bodily resurrection and its significance for ethics: a study of 1 Corinthians 15” Trinity Journal 34, no 1: 78-79 ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 13, 2014).

4. Life Application Study Bible, New International Study Version, Wheaton, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, and Zondervan, 1997.

5. Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged edition: New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994).

6. David and Pat Alexander. An Approved list, the “Canon” of Scripture, Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Lion Publishing, 2009), 70-71.

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