Resurrection Notes

Introduction Much from the Hebrew Bible
Pharisees, Jesus and After Eschatology, Exaltation and Parousia
Loosening Experience and Body
More Narrative Paul and Jesus Activity
The Formal Appearances The Apostolic Line of Appearances
Mark Overview Matthew Overview
Luke Overview John Overview
Peter Overview Thomas No View!
Time Aspect Paul's Basic Evidence
Mark Consistency Mark on Disciples' Failure
Mark on Fear and Disobedience Matthew: Fear involves Faith
Matthew Restores Disciples' Reputation Mark on Not Understanding
Mark and the Tomb Matthew Restores Women's Reputations
Luke Agrees but with an Addition Matthew Absence
Matthew Additions Mark's Theological Enigmas (Galilee)
Matthew's Theological Answers (Galilee) Luke Changes the Location
Peter Tells All Alternative view
Paul on What is Resurrected Mark on What Ahead
Matthew Addition: Jesus is Real Luke's Added Encounters
Luke also States He is Real Mark's Future Focus
Matthew's Present Focus Luke and Past, Present and Future
Luke and Ecclesiastical Authority John and the Churches
John and Resurrection Viewpoints John and Misunderstanding to the Truth
Luke and the Final Day John's Final Chapter
Questions Raised by the Enigma of Mark Matthew Effectively Answers Mark
Matthew's Focus Why Luke's Changes?
Why John's Changes? Conclusion: Any History?
Tomb picture More on the Authors



letter w hat follows is a series of dense notes regarding the resurrection, and to some small extent the crucifixion (necessary at least when discussing Mark). These notes can be read several ways, but there is an implication here. It is that each writer or writers of Pauline texts and each Gospel is writing a rounded and full account for the time. The Gospels cannot be put together as a consistent whole. Built in here are the following:
  • Source criticism: relationship between Gospel accounts
  • Form criticism: social function of accounts in the community when generated and passed on there
  • Redaction criticism: the biases of the Evangelists in their writings
  • Structural criticism: the literary nature of texts themselves
  • Historical material: where it exists as outside support or otherwise
The questions Mark leaves open are issues that need answering later. Matthew answers these, and so does Luke with some disagreement with Matthew (for example, the place of the first resurrection appearance). The eschatological element in Paul and Mark, Paul's lack of detail in what the resurrection was, and the singularity of Mark's faith in the future, and not fear, is replaced by answers that lessen the eschatological element. Fear is combined with faith, the narratives get more and more detailed, with more and more church based and authority based theological points made wrapped into the narratives of resurrection. The most descriptive is the non-canonical Gospel of Peter, where a certain dullness over proceedings and a replacement of expectation takes over. The general assumptions regarding dates are made: Paul first writes some ten to twenty years after the crucifixion (so the tradition is already developing - we see exaltation becoming resurrection), Mark writes some twenty years later, and the rest follow on to some hundred years later. Getting to the history of what happened within these rich narratives of belief and authority is almost impossible. The question here is not honesty but the ability to write a story faithful to the Hebrew Bible (given what is wanted to be said about Jesus as Messiah) and to the claims in the communities, each of which have developed communal memories and issues.

Much from the Hebrew Bible

  • Enoch travelling spiritually through the heavens sees souls of the dead waiting for the general resurrection arranged in four classes of the righteous and the rest (1 Enoch 22)
  • The later Daniel (after 164 CE) states that some will rise to everlasting life, to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel, 12: 2)
  • Elsewhere the souls of the righteous ask how long they are to remain and the answer is the number has to be completed (Ezra 4: 35-6; see Revelation 6: 9-11 for use)
    • They will rise from their chambers (Ezra 7: 32)

Pharisees, Jesus and After

  • Resurrection: a belief of the pharisees in a future hope
  • The dead - those asleep - will rise in their renewed bodies on the last day joined by their souls
  • Jesus likely shared the Pharisees' view of resurrection
    • The Pharisees wanted to raise moral standards and increase observance and so promoted resurrection as a reward
    • Jesus states the new life will be different and like that of the angels (Mark 12: 26-27, using Exodus 3: 6)
    • Jesus argues that souls will continue ready for the general resurrection (Mark 12: 25)
    • Abraham's bosom may be a place of waiting, but not for the rich who'll have fiery torments away a chasm from the bosom (Luke 16: 22-26)
  • Others might be under the altar, near God (Revelation 6: 9-11)
  • Matthew takes up the Hebrew Bible idea of renewed bodies and appearances at the rending of the temple as Jesus died
    • Saints rose from the dead and appeared to many in the holy city
    • This signified the start of the general resurrection

Eschatology, Exaltation and Parousia

  • Yet the earliest Christian language was that of exaltation (of Jesus)
    • Exaltation meant accommodation to the present earthly order while Jesus received his reward and place with God
  • Paul in Philippians 2: 6-11 is some of earliest post death exaltation passages
  • Letter to the Hebrews contains much by the way of exaltation of the Son of Man
  • Elijah, Enoch, Moses were exalted: but Jesus was seen as messianic and needed more
  • Exhaltation is mixed up with resurrection: the meanings are often unclear
  • The Gospel of John, where resurrection is not the climax, contains much by way of exaltation
  • This language was beforehand superseded by resurrection language
  • With resurrection the world itself would still be redeemed with the Messiah's role central in this task
  • The language shifted to resurrection because:
    • Eschatology (last things) was crucial
    • People used the hope of a general resurrection and a redemption of this world
    • Linked to parousia too
  • Mark is full of eschatology and expectation
  • The young man at the tomb says, "As he told you" (that is, refer back to the text):
    • Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13: 26)
    • You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14: 62)
  • Mark Ends by pointing forward:
    • "What I say to you, I say to everyone: keep awake" (Mark 13: 37)
  • Another leading linguistic fit was parousia and its shifting meanings on the communities
    • Parousia on a simple meaning speaks of presence
    • Parousia is the coming climactic moment in the future redemption
    • Relevant inter-Testament period eschatological passages regarding the coming of the Son of Man (this view of Parousia) include Mark 8: 38; Mark 9: 1; Mark 10: 18-31; Matthew 16: 27-28; Matt. 19: 27-30; Luke 9: 26-7; Luke 17: 28-30; John 5: 25-29
    • Regarding Christ, the prediction became of a second coming and events around this after resurrection and ascension
    • The nearness of the expected Parousia (e.g. Paul) and its sudden nature became spaced out as it did not visibly happen
  • Incidentally, John put a renewed stress on the Last Day and general resurrection (John 6: 39; John 6: 40; John 9: 24; John 12: 48)
  • There is also Christ seeing others again (John 14: 3; John 14: 18; John 14: 28; John 16: 16; John 16: 22)


  • Resurrection language became loosened from eschatology
    • Eschatology element changed meaning resurrection became a metaphor for the believer in the ongoing new time now
  • Resurrection language became loosened from parousia
    • Parousia language became metaphor for the life of the Church or Christ present in the authoritative apostolic succession

Experience and Body

  • Resurrection of the body language adopted and adapted by the early Christians
  • Paul is the thinker and organiser, the self-appointed apostle who never met Jesus the man
  • Paul displays matters of felt experience with little by way of interpretations some ten years or so after Jesus' death
    • The resurrection is central but the experience relayed is not directly of a flesh and blood body
    • He does speak of Jesus' resurrection into a spiritual body
  • Hellenistic immortality of the soul gains some believers
  • Paul has to explain resurrection to Corinth who say the dead do not rise
    • It's easier to understand amongst once followers of Judaism
  • Resurrection appearances earlier tradition
  • Empty tomb a later tradition and may have been added to emphasise the body rising
  • Jesus' body likely to have been dumped as a common criminal
  • Empty tomb then would explain why a missing body

More Narrative

  • Resurrection writers, especially of the Gospel narratives, create scenarios and events
  • These events must fit in with Hebrew Bible predictions and significance
  • They also have to deal with what is different this time
  • One man is first of the resurrected
  • There is the impact on the community so far
  • Shifts in narratives are for different priorities
  • The narrative embellishment begs the question, What happened at the core?
  • The narrative embellishment may be the core (postmodern)
    • This is a relationship between the drama in the literature account and the life of faith (postliberal)
  • In the Gospels' resurrection narratives each gospel author/s write from their time, position and the development of the churches
  • They all ask, Where is Jesus now?
  • They all ask, What is Jesus doing?

Paul and Jesus Activity

  • There have been the appearances heard about and to him
  • Time is short: the Kingdom is coming soon to earth
  • Everyone is claimed including gentiles
  • Gentitles do not have to obey the rules of Judaism to be in Christ by faith
  • There is no narrative description of appearances
  • The Gospels later have to provide stories of what they say is important:
    • Paul is abstract
    • The resurrection needs concrete narratives that people can understand
  • The resurrection is an events based single focus of justifying faith for all time

The Formal Appearances

  • Formal statement (starting 1 Corinthians 15: 3) on resurrection received by Paul
  • It came from perhaps two sources:
    • Possibly Damascus Christians
    • And/ or from Peter (1 Corinthians 15: 3-7)
    • If Peter then from during Paul's two week stay with Peter three years after his conversion (Galatians 1: 8)
  • Paul will have changed Lord Jesus to Christ died for our sins
  • Then is added according to the scriptures (the Hebrew ones, Isaiah 53: 5 refers to sins and the Messiah) giving authority
  • Then it states that he was buried (1 Corinthians 15: 4) to affirm the death
  • And that he was raised [by God] on the third day in accordance with the scriptures
    • These probably Hosea 6: 2 and Jonah 1: 17 used by rabbis to refer to the general resurrection
  • The third day is a long standing theological statement about resurrection
    • It was used regarding the temple (Mark 14: 58; Matthew 26: 61; John 2: 19)
    • It was used as a taunt (Mark 15: 29; Matthew 27: 40)
  • The appearance to Peter is wrapped up with forgivenness, a key part of the Gospel, after his reported three denials

The Apostolic Line of Appearances

  • 1 Corinthians 15: 5-7 has a sense of authority about it:
    • Peter
    • The twelve
      • Thus starts the Church
    • Over five hundred
      • This gathering is the congregation
    • James - his appointment as a leader
  • There are personal visions:
    • Paul has a brief experience of appearrance (1 Corinthians 15: 8)
    • This is about his authority too (1 Corinthians 9: 1)
    • Unclear if this is equal with the official list

Mark Overview

  • Mark is the earliest Gospel
  • The resurrection is that the Messiah is coming soon; be ready and stay awake
  • It is balanced against first of all the teaching, healing and presence
  • Furthermore the crucifixion is the key salvic event
    • Here was Jesus' messianic suffering and death
  • The resurrection is an opening event for whatever comes in the future

Matthew Overview

  • Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us (his status) when people meet in his name
  • He continues to proclaim the coming kingdom, to teach and to heal, and to be the ransom
  • The introduction of the guard at the tomb may suggest orthodox Jews saying that the body was stolen when responding to the tomb account
  • The final resurrection scene is quick and has some disciples doubting
  • Unclear if the resurrection event is God's saving act

Luke Overview

  • Much independent material from other gospels, for example the two other disciples on the road to Emmaus
  • Christ is at God's right hand in heaven, pouring forth the Spirit so that we can preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name
  • The resurrection is an illustrative mythic-historical event with much meaning for future regulation of faith

John Overview

  • Christ is in us and we are in him, through the Spirit he has breathed upon us
  • The resurrection is another proof of who the Christ has been already

Peter Overview

  • The Gospel of Peter (outside the canon) is explicit about the narrative
  • The resurrection is a history that could have been observed
  • Luke's account of Peter's Pentecost sermon in Acts 1: 14-40 is very second hand
    • It could be a source from someone else
    • It could be Luke writing what he thinks Peter would have said
    • This does not give a reliable early message
  • Luke is saying that Peter saw the resurrection as part of God's plan
  • Luke has Peter arguing that the psalms of David are for the fulfilment by his successor and superior, Christ
    • However, David did not write these psalms
    • The psalms described past events and not about future prophesies
  • In a likely addition to John's gospel (John 21: 1-25), Peter is given the task of caring for Jesus' sheep
    • There is a three times asked question (John 25: 15-17) probably to counter the threefold denial

Thomas No View!

  • The Gospel of Thomas (outside the canon) is a series of Jesus sayings
  • These completely ignore any resurrection claims

Time Aspect

  • To provide narratives the Evangelists describe Easter Day differently, and Paul does not
  • Mark writes an account up to the point where the community knows its own traditions and so does not include appearances
  • Matthew needed to add more to Mark's abrupt ending in hope, but his ending is still rapid
  • Luke needed more than Mark and Matthew and spaces out time for events
  • Luke has two versions of one story of Jesus leaving the disciples
    • Luke 24: 50-53 has Jesus ascending on Easter Day
    • Acts 1: 9-11 has Jesus ascending after 40 days have passed
  • John found all three incomplete theologically
  • Peter goes for detail, answering all questions

Paul's Basic Evidence

  • Paul sure that Christ had beaten death: a vision of glory raised (Acts 26: 19; 1 Corinthians 15:44).
  • First letter of Peter states that In the body [Jesus] was put to death; in the spirit he was brought to life (1 Peter 3:18)
    • Nevertheless this does not imply being disembodied: it allows a new or renewed body
  • Paul does not mention an empty tomb
  • He does not describe the quality of being resurrected
  • Appearances mentioned are not detailed
  • Rough evidence is given: the 500 are not supported anywhere else historically
  • Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 says everyone will have a bodily resurrection like Christ's
    • If so the decomposed body gains a new indestructible spiritual body
  • Paul states he would like to leave this body to live with Christ but also wants to stay in the body for Christians (Philippians 1:22-24; also 2 Corinthians 5: 8)
  • There is the demand to live in faith

Mark Consistency

  • Mark starts with the promise of the Kingdom of God
  • Mark ends with the resurrection is this confirmed future hope
  • Look ahead and wait in faith
  • Mark created an anticlimax and a vacuum that others later filled

Mark on Disciples' Failure

  • My friends and my neighbours came near and stood opposite me, and my kinsfolk stood at a distance (Psalm 38: 11; in Greek Psalm 37: 12)
  • The women at the cross are said to look on
  • The disciples have run away
  • Three women stand in for the disciples
  • Implied failure on the part of the disciples

Mark on Fear and Disobedience

  • Fear is the opposite of faith
  • "Do not fear, only believe" (Mark 5: 36)
  • Women show no joy
  • Women disobedient: the man said speak but they did not
    • Because of trembling, amazement and fear
    • No one, not anything, they told (Greek in Mark 16: 8)
  • A strong possibility:
    • Mark is adding the empty tomb (or a close recent source)
    • It was once not part of the known Easter

Matthew: Fear involves Faith

  • Fear can mean good and holy reverence
  • Compatible with women's joy
  • They run (not flee) to obey the angel's command and tell the disciples

Matthew Restores Disciples' Reputation

  • The disciples are "blessed"
  • Jesus is shown to meet the disciples in an appearance to show that he is indeed giving them authority to be leaders

Mark on Not Understanding

  • Not understanding as in the psalm (above) confirmed by the women coming to anoint the body on the first day of the week
  • They have not believed Jesus:
    • that he would rise again after three days
    • that his body had already been anointed for burial
  • The women discuss who will remove the stone from the door of the tomb
  • It has already been removed
  • They are wrong also about the body
  • The young man there rebukes the women
  • They should not be seeking Jesus of Nazareth

Mark and the Tomb

  • Unlike other Gospels, there are no angels
  • Just an unnamed young man wearing a white garment
  • He seems similar to the mysterious young man in Gethsemane; Jesus' shroud has the same name as the young man's once abandoned garment
  • He states: "He is not here, he is risen"
  • The women are invited to see the empty space
  • Unlike John, Mark does not say if they looked
  • For Mark, the empty tomb is not critical
    • It is a way to project events forward to the later renewing moment

Matthew Restores Women's Reputations

  • Women are not failures but obedient

Luke Agrees but with an Addition

  • The women obey the command to speak, but the disciples do not believe them
    • It still suggests the empty tomb story was once unknown
    • It is an understandable social comment about the believability of women, yet theirs and the disciples' reputations are upheld

Matthew Absence

  • No mention of anointing the body; the women coming only to see the tomb

Matthew Additions

  • An earthquake
  • The stone had been sealed and a guard placed
  • The tenor of the guards
  • There is the descent of the angel of the Lord
  • The angel rolls away the stone and sits on it
  • So Matthew completes his story of the guard
  • He adds the deliberate deceit of the Sanhedrin who had said that the guard was asleep
  • Much around the tomb is descriptive without any obvious theological point

Mark's Theological Enigmas (Galilee)

  • Nothing about the circumstances of the Resurrection
  • Nothing about evidence regarding the disappearance or the grave cloths
  • Instead is the message to believe
  • The disciples and Peter will see Jesus (as he had said) in Galilee
  • Yet there is no information on the symbolic significance of Galilee
  • There is no information on what will happen in Galillee
  • Instead is failure: the fear

Matthew's Theological Answers (Galilee)

  • The eleven disciples meet Jesus in Galilee at a prearranged meeting spot at a mountain
  • They see Jesus and worship him
  • Jesus sends his disciples to the Gentiles
  • This is where key theological points are made:
    • Jesus is present
    • Jesus deserves worship
    • Jesus taught clearly and sufficiently
    • This final appearance demonstrates the status of Jesus
    • Jesus himself is the saving Messiah rather than located in an event
    • Christian life is skillful and observant

Luke Changes the Location

  • Luke agrees with preach to all the nations
  • This now starts at Judaism's centre, in Jerusalem
  • Bridges to a Second Volume: Acts
  • Moves between the man Jesus in Galilee, Samaria and Jerusalem, and followers in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria and beyond
  • Thus Galilee isn't where the disciples must go to see him (when he might come in glory)
    • Galilee becomes only where Jesus had foretold his Crucifixion and Resurrection
    • Coming in glory is less prominent

Peter Tells All

  • The Gospel of Peter wants to leave no ambiguity
  • There is a clear events narrative:
    • Soldiers see the heavens open
    • Two men descend from the heavens
    • The stone rolls itself away
    • Both young men go in
    • The soldiers discuss
    • Three men come out, two holding up the other
    • The cross trails behind the other
    • Rising up, the heads of the two go into heaven
    • The other one overpasses the heavens

Alternative view

  • The reported hours on the cross were too short to suffocate and die
  • Jesus was given as dead by the shoulder
  • Healing herbs were taken to the tomb
  • Jesus resuscitates over the next few days
  • This is sufficient miracle and convinces him and close followers of his messianic status
  • Recovered, he meets his disciples
    • This is similar to Matthew's Jesus meeting in Galilee
    • It still allows theological embellishment using narratives
  • The disciples have their task
  • He will return soon
  • As a wanted man he leaves the Roman orbit (empire boundary close by)
  • He looks for missing tribes of Israel also to be included in the Kingdom
  • All the time he waits for the Kingdom to come before the generation passes away, and then he will return to the centre
  • Transformations of Jesus and the world would take place
  • Jesus would have been 70 when the Romans destroyed the second Temple
    • This was when Mark wrote, maybe from the safety of Rome

Paul on What is Resurrected

  • Paul describes the resurrected Christ as a spiritual body
  • What does this mean?
  • Is it like a square circle?
  • Is it because the Pharisees have the language of resurrection?
  • Yet is is also because all the encounters with Jesus are spiritual appearances?
  • Perhaps he lacks adequate descriptive language
  • Expectations of a near end point in this known life are high

Mark on What Ahead

  • Command to silence
    • Means, probably, followers should not reflect back on the earthly Jesus and miracles of healing
  • Don't rest
  • Look forward
    • He is not here
    • No one meets Jesus in the text

Matthew Addition: Jesus is Real

  • They do meet Jesus
    • Jesus himself appears to the women
    • They grasp his feet and worship him
    • Jesus repeats what the angel had said, calling his disciples his brothers

Luke's Added Encounters

  • Luke has two men is dazzling white asking why look for the living among the dead, a message perhaps why there is no tomb visited by earcly Christians
  • The narrative of Jesus' appearance to two of the followers on the way to Emmaus
  • Their return to Jerusalem
  • The information of appearance to Simon
  • Final appearance in Jerusalem

Luke also States He is Real

  • The women grasped his feet
  • He ate broiled fish
  • He cooks by the side of the lake
  • The resurrection body is no ghost
  • Yet the body walks through walls
  • The risen Jesus is later recognised when he says something profound
  • In other words the disciples "see" the point
  • Jesus disappears once a theological point is made
  • In other words, the point is made and that's that

Mark's Future Focus

  • Resurrection after three days is the promise of the new age
  • To live by faith (not fear) is to live in hope

Matthew's Present Focus

  • Not the hope of Jesus coming but his presence

Luke and Past, Present and Future

  • Jesus the fulfilment of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms
  • He said so himself
  • Emphasis shifts to Holy Spirit from Pentecost onwards
  • Jesus ascends to God's right hand
    • He ascends to heaven with the flesh and bone in which he had appeared and in which he had eaten
    • It is particular day, forty days after Easter
  • Only in Luke that Jesus past tense "when I was still with you" (Luke 24: 44; see : 6)
  • The presence of Jesus signifies the past
  • Thus he goes: the Holy Spirit (the future) comes

Luke and Ecclesiastical Authority

  • Luke promotes the presence of the Holy Spirit
  • Must be contact with the Church in Jerusalem through the Apostles or their delegates
    • Here is the apostolic succession
    • Here is one Church

John and the Churches

  • Conflicts and tensions within the new Churches
  • Rivalry between Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved
  • In the other three Gospels Peter's primacy is acknowledged

John and Resurrection Viewpoints

  • The earthly viewpoint was Jesus
    • For example in the Last Supper: "Believe in God, believe also in me" (John 14: 1).
  • The resurrection not through him but Mary Magdalene, Peter, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and Thomas
  • Still the same writing method:
    • From misunderstanding to the truth

John and Misunderstanding to the Truth

  • Mary Magdalene starts incorrectly with idea of theft of the body (compare with Matthew)
  • Mary Magdalene then guided by the voice of Jesus to move from a once correct use of Rabbuni, "Master", to a new union with Jesus in the Father
  • Disciples brought from fear of the Jews to peace
  • Disciples further given the Spirit and their mission to bring forgiveness and judgement to the world
  • Thomas is offered proof, but is told those who don't need proof will be blessed
  • Here was the original end of the Gospel - faith, life and blessedness for those who did not see
  • Thomas passage may also be a criticism of Thomas Gnostics: that the body matters even if requires faith

Luke and the Final Day

  • Events in final day, final chapter, hardly historical:
  • Evening when they reached Emmaus
  • Cleopas and his companion return the seven miles to Jerusalem
  • Then the appearance to all the disciples and the walk to Bethany
  • Jesus is parted from them
  • They return to Jerusalem and the temple
    • All hard to reconcile with Acts that Jesus appeared for forty days
  • A Lucan creation that Jesus appeared first to Simon
  • Faith in the reality of the Resurrection
  • Promise and fulfilment to which he refers frequently in the speeches in Acts

John's Final Chapter

  • The final chapter operates like an appendix
    • Uncertain if added by the author of Chapters 1-20 or by another
    • Additional material purpose unclear
  • The final chapter uses the viewpoint of the disciples
  • The night of catching no fish is followed the morning's success in obedience to the Lord
  • They eat with him (compare with Luke)
  • Peter is told to he the pastor and his martyrdom is foretold
  • A misunderstanding about the disciple whom Jesus loved is corrected

Questions Raised by the Enigma of Mark

  • Was the significance of Galilee only known to the Marcan community?
  • Women were unreliable witnesses and this may indicate that some or all people in the community had not known about an empty tomb

Matthew Effectively Answers Mark

  • Who rolled away the stone?
    • The angel of the Lord did it
  • Could Jesus be seen and touched after the Resurrection?
    • Yes, the women clasped his feet
  • Why were the disciples to go to Galilee?
    • In order to receive the final words of Jesus, and go to the Gentiles
  • Where is Jesus, until he comes to judge the world?
    • He is with us all the days, till that day comes
  • Why was the tomb empty?
    • Not because the disciples removed the body
    • Guards and Sanhedrin fabricated the story of the guards' sleep to avoid the actuality

Matthew's Focus

  • History of the Church and the Jews
  • The future becomes the present:
    • Jesus has received all authority
    • He acts authoritatively regarding the disciples next moves

Why Luke's Changes?

  • Luke wanted a clear narrative:
    • The tomb
    • Going to Emmaus with conversation and meal
    • The disciples in Jerusalem
    • Parting at Bethany
  • Luke wanted to reassure because Mark had left too much uncertain
  • Faith should be related to certainty not in ambiguity
  • Emphasis on Holy Spirit, the Church (community) and proper authority
  • Use of meals and emphasis towards the eucharist
  • Shift the focus to Jerusalem: the centre and superseding Judaism
  • Looks to heavenly reign

Why John's Changes?

  • Gospel had already reached its climax
  • He keeps the resurrection stories to tell how faith began
  • There is some return to exaltation ideas
  • To synoptics, resurrection was God's reversal of what was done to Jesus on Good Friday
  • John sees it as the way in which some people came to faith


Conclusion: Any History?

letter people, having read all the material, and critically, seek an answer inside these texts to the historical question. They want to know what happened. Texts constructed for theological purposes that answered once abstract points with more concrete and accessible stories based on the issues of the day do not readily present history. A Jesus who is recognised only when a theological point is made and then disappears is not history. Women told to be silent in one gospel, which reports it, is not dealing (primarily) with history, and neither is the contradictory account that the women did report it. The issue is not whether women or anyone else were there, but why this story came about (in Mark), and the implications of women taking the place of the disciples, and why other writers took another view given the inheritance of this story. The issue is not whether the location was Galilee for some future event in faith, or a meeting, or Jerusalem instead, but why these places were important to the story (and even the symbolism, never mind historicity, of Galilee is only open to speculation).
The approach to this may probably be first to take an alternative view. This is the one that starts by saying that Jesus resuscitated and this provided sufficient miracle. This gives simple answers (principally of not enough time on the cross to suffocate) but raises many questions. If such reasoning, why then did the writers starting with Paul run with the language of appearances and struggle with what clearly was not an ordinary body (at its logical best)? It would be a deception when the obvious was available.
There is a kind of big bang theory approach to Christianity. We know that there was rapid growth and that the accounts of the New Testament, whoever wrote them, deal with the theological issues of those communities. So clearly something set those communities going. It does not have to be a lot: even Mark forty years on wrote very little about what did happen. This is because we know that Paul, Mark and (must be) Jesus himself were working within a persecuted and expectant atmosphere of supernatural beliefs and expectations (the drama and urgency make no sense otherwise). We also know they were searching for an appropriate language that would not simply exalt the impacting Jesus but continue the project of redemption. Outside this arena (in Corinth), Paul had to argue that if the resurrection that others more easily believed did not happen, then Christians are the most to be pitied. It seemed that his argument held, with certain shifts more towards belief in Christ and Christ's mission, rather than the original general messianic totality. No doubt that there were other leaders with active expectations, but this religion had moved out of the place where Romans crushed Jewish movements and the Temple in 70 CE. Not all movements succeed, and those that do have fortunate incidents (for example, what if Christianity had never been become the Roman religion: even if it has spread further it would have had a very different character).
Often other messianic figures were worshipped at their tombs, or not. Jesus was not. At some point or other, between Paul and Mark (20 to 40 years after Jesus' death) this was explained, or at least that explanation became wrapped up in matters of Jesus and the start of the general resurrection and expectations. The tomb tradition came about because there was a belief in resurrection, rather than the other way around. Mark may well have added this tradition, or used a very recent source. It may therefore have no more historical credibility than the birth narratives, despite the supposed greater accessibility of the event (although the event is placed after the crucifixion with disciples fled and before the charismatic growth of the community with accounts of appearances).
There is no doubt that the biblical emphasis is that it is because Christ has died and risen that Christians live out the memory of Jesus and his works. Yet there is doubt that this is historical. Paul was convinced that Christ in his spiritual body had beaten death, and he wished to cast off his own earthly body to join Christ (but also wished to go on guiding Christians). That was his opinion, and the official account of appearances reads like a role call of Church officials in charge. We might doubt these: they spin the leadership. However genuine, many people have in any case lost this thought-world that makes after death appearances possible. Some do continue to have end of the bed (and elsewhere) appearances of a dead person seen and derive comfort, but only a few. Only some saw the risen Christ: many more did not. Others make claims about near death experiences, although here chemical induced electrical impacts are flying around the brain as its loses oxygen (though there are claims of viewpoints other than that of the brain dying or even dead person on the hospital bed). These also take away a fear of death. Taking such near death experiences, the spiritual figure often located at the end of the white tunnel of light is the one the individual has made close. It can be Buddha, the Virgin Mary, the hidden twelfth Imam or whoever, however great or small. There are also a whole series of psychological visions in daytime, and can be induced: was Paul's induced by an electrical storm linked to an earthquake, for example? However, there is much more than odd visions and dying experiences to the supernatural thought-world needed for a sustainable resurrection belief. Even if the thought-world is not valid or not recoverable, resurrection faith remains a response of devotion and behavioural impact during this life. It comes about as a result of the prior historical response among the same community in its earliest days. In other words, resurrection joins with the community's view of exaltation, the parousia and Pentecost. Resurrection faith is a staement of that historical response continuing.


Adrian Worsfold



Avis, P. (ed.) (1993), The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, London: Darton, Longman and Todd.


Fenton, J (1993), 'The Four Gospels: Four Perspectives on the Resurrection', in Avis, 1993, 39-49.

Houlden, L. (1993), 'The Resurrection: History, Story and Belief', in Avis, 1993, 50-67.

Lindars, B (1993), 'The Resurrection and the Empty Tomb, in Avis, 1993, 116-135.


Hooker, M. D. (1979), Studying the New Testament, London: Epworth Press.