Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The Surprise of the Resurrection Narratives (Part 1)

See N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, pp. 599ff.

The resurrection narratives are a bit hard to explain if Jesus is not resurrected. Many people think that it obvious that the resurrection narratives are fictional accounts because there was no resurrection, or at least nothing like the narratives make out. N. T. Wright has put this kind of claim under some scrutiny, and has come up with these four aspects of the resurrection narratives that are hard to explain if it were true that they are fiction.

Surprise 1: The Absence of Biblical Allusions

The first Christians said that the death and resurrection of Jesus was ‘according to the Scriptures’. Then why the absence of scriptural quotes and allusions within the resurrection narratives? (There are many such allusions and quotes in the story up to and including the point of the death of Jesus, but after that Scriptural quotes and allusions get a bit thin.) If the resurrection narratives were fictional accounts, then the authors would have added in Scriptural quotes to make the whole thing seem more plausible for their target audience.

Surprise 2: The Absence of Personal Hope

In virtually every other mention of the resurrection in the New Testament and later writings, the resurrection of Jesus is linked to the personal destiny of believers. (See, for example, 1Cor 15; 2Cor 4-5; Rom 8:9-11; 1Thess 4:14; 1Pet 1:3f) That is, the writer will say because Jesus is resurrected, those who believe in him will also be resurrected. To those who are skeptical about the resurrection and think the whole thing is a sham, standard stuff. But, in the Gospel stories of the resurrection the movement is from the resurrection of Jesus to mission. There is not one mention of personal, eternal destiny. (At least that I can find.) Which is incredible if the accounts are fictional. The skeptic reads St Paul and says that the link he makes between the resurrected Jesus and the final destiny of believers is the typical and standard way of all religions: pie in the sky when you die. So why not include the pie in the most basic stories of the resurrection of Jesus? Very strange if you are writing a ficitonal account that is designed to suck in the gullible. Best to make personal destiny the focus, appealing to the self-interest of the gullible. But the Gospels don't. The resurrected Christ sends the disciples on a mission, and a difficult and dangerous one at that. hardly the perfect recipe for building a religion of comfort to those needing a personal crutch!


  1. The biggest issue is that most people think that Christianity is about going to Heaven when you die. Not about the resurrection and the new creation.

  2. Does this mean that resurrection and the new creation (whatever they may actually mean)have somehow displaced heaven? And if so, why? Just wondering.

  3. No I do not think that the resurrection and the new creation have displaced heaven. If anything it is the other way around.

    It has become common that Christianity is all about going to Heaven when you die.

    Which is not actually the case at all. If that was what Christianity was about then Jesus did not need to be resurrected. All we need for that faith is an acceptance that he went to Heaven when he died.

    Yet, the Scriptures and the Creeds give us that Jesus died, descend to the dead and on the third day rose from the Dead.

    This is significant, because, of the Jewish belief of the time of Jesus that at the end of time there would be a general resurrection. What we see in Jesus is the first fruits of the new creation and of the general resurrection to come. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.

    I hope that helps you with your question Anonymous.