surprised by hope://chapter 3

“…What sort of an event was it? Just how empty was the tomb on Easter morning?…
What should we believe about Jesus’ resurrection, and why?…
The issue is not whether the Bible is true or not. The issue is not whether miracles occur or not. The issue is not whether we believe something called the supernatural or not. The issue is not whether Jesus is alive today and we can get to know him for ourselves. If we treat the question of Easter as a test case in any of those discussions, we are missing the point.”(pg 33-34)

The issue at hand is the resurrection. We need to talk about that. So, Wright tries to clear out the stage, so we can think clearly about what resurrection actually means.
According to Wright, the first century world had mo misconceptions about what resurrection meant. It only referred a person who was once dead coming to full, bodily life again. The world generally laughed at this idea; resurrection didn’t happen. Some Jews believed in resurrection, but only at the last day when God resurrected all the righteous persons.

The early Church sided with the Jewish belief of resurrection (ie that it did happen, someone once dead could come back to life body, soul, and spirit), but because of the resurrection of Jesus, there sere several modifications made to the Jewish thought.

“The first of these modifications is that within early Christianity there is virtually no spectrum of belief about life beyond death” (pg41)

They believed in resurrection, not life beyond the grave. Or, to put it another way, they believed that life in Jesus conquered death, not lived on after death.

“In second-Temple Judaism, resurrection is important, but not that important… But in early Christianity resurrection moved from the circumference to the center” (pg42)

Resurrection was not some fringe benefit for believing God. Rather, it was the hope God offered in Christ, and that the church was holding out to the world.

“… throughout early Christian resurrection belief is the view that the new body, when it is given, will posses a transformed physicality, but not transformed in the one way the central biblical text might have suggested.” (pg44)

The Christian language when speaking of the resurrected bodies lacks the OT language of “shining like stars” (Dan 12). Instead of some luminous being or a glorious form, the church believed that after we are raised from the dead, we will have physical bodies in a physical world. Granted, they are transformed physical bodies, but they are still flesh and blood.

“The fourth surprising mutation evidenced by early Christian resurrection belief is that the resurrection, as an event, has split into two” (pg44)

Jewish thought held to one resurrection at the last day. Suddenly, Jesus rises in the middle of history, not as an end to history. He raises as an individual, no mass resurrection here. And His resurrection “anticipates and guaranties the final resurrection of God’s people at the end of history”.

“Because the early Christians believed that resurrection had begun with Jesus and would be completed in the great final resurrection on the last day, they believed that God had called them to work with with him, in the power of the spirit, to implement the achievement of Jesus and thereby to anticipate the final resurrection, in personal and political life, in mission and holiness.” (pg 46)

“The sixth remarkable mutation within the Jewish belief is the quite different metaphorical use of resurrection.” (pg46)

Judaism had been using the metaphor of resurrection to talk about the restoration of Israel. In Christianity, that metaphor is replaced with “resurrection referring metaphorically to baptism (a dying and rising with Christ), and resurrection referring to the new life of strenuous ethical obedience, enabled by the Holy Spirit, to which the believer is committed.” (pg47)

“Nobody in Judaism had expected the messiah to die, and therefore naturally nobody had imagined the messiah rising from the dead.” (pg47)

Instead of Messiah being identified by his victory over the pagan nations, the Christians believed Jesus was Messiah because of his resurrection.

Understanding what resurrection means is important if we are going to rightly think about our hope as Christians. It is not about some sort of spiritual life after death, it is about life conquering death. It is not about a victorious life, it is about the victory of God in the resurrection and us getting in on it, working with God to see the kingdom com and His will be done.

  • Hello! I found your website. My name is Anders Branderud and I am from Sweden.
    I would just like to write some words.

    Who was the historical J*esus?

    I am a follower of Ribi Yehoshua – Mashiakh – who practiced Torah including Halakhah with all his heart.
    He was born in Betlehem 7 B.C.E . His faher name was Yoseiph and mother’s name was Mir′ yâm. He had twelve followers. He tought in the Jewish batei-haknesset (synagogues). Thousands of Jews were interested in His Torah-teachings. Some Jews who didn’t practice Judaism where threatened. They decided to crucify him. So they did – together with the Romans. His followers were called Netzarim (meaning offshoots [of a olive tree]) and they continued to pray with the other Jews in the synagogues.

    Christianity does not teach the teachings of Ribi Yehoshua. Ribi Yehoshuas teachings were pro-Torah; Christianity is anti-Torah. 2 billions of Christians doesn’t follow Torah – that is definied as sin according to Torah.

    If you want to learn more click at our website — than click at the lick "Christians"; click at my photo to read about what made my switch religion from Christianity to Orthodox Judaism.

    Anders Branderud
    Follower of Ribi Yehoshua in Orthodox Judaism

  • I don't know that I would call Jesus' teachings "pro-torah". Rather, I think they were "fufilled Torah" teachings, since he kept telling them, "You look for life in the owrds of old, but they all speak of me. I am the Life".

  • I appreciate you sharing the highlights from the book. I've heard that N.T. Wright's comments in this book really turn the current Christian understanding of resurrection upside down. When you are all through, I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on his enlightened understanding of the resurrection. Do you think he is correct in his views? Have we all gotten it wrong?

    I am putting my personal blog address as the link this time.

  • Chris,
    So far, I think he is dead on. It's not so much some new way of thinking about the resurrection, but rather rediscovering the truth of the new heavens and the new earth that is the central promise God makes in Christ, and is our hope as believers. With that hope seen clearly and correctly, the hope that we are to the world snaps into focus.

    Ill be talking allot more about this because I'm thinking it's really important.

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