The Resurrection: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Resurrection of Jesus

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Seeing the Risen Jesus conversion experience does contrary to what it seems that Luke is saying count as a resurrection appearance in the fullest sense, this does not mean that it can be used as a grid to be imposed on the other appearance accounts.

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As I have been arguing, they simply do not fit it very well. The Pauline notion of spiritual body.

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Some theologians argue that in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is talking about a resurrection body that is normally invisible to humans on earth, and that therefore all perceptions of the risen Jesus are objective visions. In responding to this line of argument, I am forced to skim lightly over points that were made in detail in Risen Indeed. He says: And of course a spiritual body in the Pauline sense cannot eat or be touched.

My question is: where did Marxsen learn that a Pauline spiritual body cannot eat or be touched? What made O'Collins even questioningly suggest that a Pauline glorified body cannot be seen? It seems perfectly possible to accept everything that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 about resurrection bodies and still hold that they are material objects that can be seen.

Paul does insist that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God 1 Cor. But this means that the old, earthly body cannot enter the kingdom of God as it is this is one of the powerful theological arguments against resuscitation , that it must first be transformed into a glorified body Phil.


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But a glorified body soma is still a bodythat is, still a material object that can be seen. IV We have been discussing six arguments that might be given in favour of the claim that the appearances of the resurrected Jesus to Mary Magdalene and the others were objective visions rather than instances of ordinary seeing. Some of the arguments are stronger than others, but as we have seen, serious objections can be raised against all six of them.

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The central claim of the first argumentthat the raised Jesus appeared only to believers. Seeing the Risen Jesus is simply false, no matter how many times it is repeated. The second argumentthe one that concerns p. The third argumentabout ophtheis a serious one, but as we saw, the frequent use of this word in connection with Jesus' resurrection appearances does not by itself settle the question of seeing versus visualizing.

The fourth argumentwhich concerns the motifs of doubt and failure to recognize Jesus in the appearance storiesis also an important consideration, but I argued that these motifs can be adequately explained even if the raised Jesus was seen rather than visualized. About the fifth argumentwhich concerns the influence of Paul's conversion story in Acts on the objective vision interpretation of the appearance storiesI argued that there should be no such influence.


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  • In response to the sixth argumentabout Paul's notion of a spiritual bodyI argued that there is no good reason to think of it as something that is normally invisible or unobservable. The strongest argument in the opposite directionthat is, in favour of seeing as opposed to visualizing is the massive physical detail of the appearance stories. Suppose the risen Jesus really did as the stories claim appear in various settings, at various times of day, for various lengths of time, to various people and groups of people , walk, talk, distribute food, perform signs, and allow himself to be touched.

    If so, it seems sensible to interpret the stories in the way that the Church and Christian artists have traditionally understood them: namely, that the risen Jesus was physically present in a way that could, in a perfectly normal sense, be observed. But those who make this claim never seem to go on to answer the question: a real what?

    I have no problem with the claim that the physical detail of the stories was designed to prove the physical and thus personal continuity of the risen Lord with the Jesus who had been crucified. But I am arguing that the primary reason for the physical detail is that in its canonical writings, the early Church was correctly remembering the actual nature of the appearances themselves.

    The status of the evidence at our disposal so it seems to me is such that it is much preferable to hold that the risen Jesus was seen rather than visualized. But why is this view so commonly rejected?

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    One sometimes gets the impression from the friends of objective visions that the notion of a physically present resurrected Jesus is somehow uncouth or outr. Seeing the Risen Jesus to be understood in terms of ordinary vision. Thus far my argument has been based entirely on historicalcritical grounds, and I want to rest the claims of the present essay primarily on those grounds. However, it seems to me possible to argue for the same conclusion in two other ways. Let me now briefly do so.

    The early Church interpreted the resurrection appearances in terms of ordinary vision. I will not try to establish this point in detail, especially since the modern concept of an objective vision was apparently not used by early Christian thinkers. Still, it is clear that orthodox treatments of the resurrection in the second century all p. One extreme example, where it was made explicit that nonbelievers saw the risen Jesus, is the remarkable resurrection scene in the Gospel of Peter.

    In that account, the guards at the tomb actually observed the risen Jesus leaving the tomb supported by two angels.

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    The heads of the two reached to heaven, it says, but the one whom they bore with their hands reached beyond the heavens. Explaining the events at the tomb to Pontius Pilate, the guards declared, Truly he was a son of God. He cited and stressed the biblical accounts of Jesus encouraging the disciples to touch his resurrection body and to examine the premortem wounds.

    Jesus rose from the dead, Ignatius said, not just in appearance but in the body.

    He both ate and drank with [the disciples] during forty entire days. Ignatius concluded: And I know he was possessed of a body not only in his being born and crucified, but I also know that He was so after His resurrection, and believe that He is so now. He argued that it was to confirm his bodily resurrection that Jesus appeared in physical form, allowed the disciples to examine the premortem wounds, and ate with them.

    Justin went on to say: And when he had thus shown them that there is truly a resurrection of the flesh [and] that it is not impossible for flesh to ascend into heaven. He said, In the same manner, therefore, as Christ did rise in the substance of the flesh, and pointed out to his disciples the mark of the nails and the opening p.

    For one thing, some people do not particularly care what the Fathers had to say. For another, some might argue that the opinions of the Fathers on this topic are suspect because they wrote before the advent of the historicalcritical method in scriptural studies. For a third, some. Seeing the Risen Jesus might try to relativize the views of the secondcentury Fathers by arguing that their emphasis on the physicality of the resurrection merely reflects their theological context, one in which orthodoxy was endangered by Docetic and Gnostic tendencies. But for those who want to take Christian tradition seriously and who think as I do that any theological opinion which all or virtually all the Fathers held is at least prima facie probable, the argument to the effect that the secondcentury Fathers all appeared to hold that the resurrected Jesus was seen in an ordinary sense is certainly worth noting.

    The theological significance of appearances amenable to ordinary vision. As noted, my primary argument in this chapter is the historical one that Jesus' resurrection appearances were actually seen rather than visualized. But this does not preclude theological or even apologetic significance.

    I reject the notion, implicit in some New Testament scholarship, that finding a theological purpose behind a certain scriptural account is inconsistent with that account being a true account of what actually occurred. Well then, what theological difference does it make if I am correct that the risen Jesus was seen rather than visualized, that anybody believer or not who had been in the right place at the right time could have seen him, that no special or extraordinary divine assistance was needed?

    There are several points that could be made, but I will focus on two, the first a brief point about Christian doctrine, the second a more detailed apologetic point. The doctrinal item is this: the claim that the witnesses saw, rather than visualized, Jesus underscores the Christian notion of p. Wherefore it is becoming that, in order to make this known, an invisible creature should assume a form in which to appear visibly. The claim that God became flesh means that sight and the other senses are not to be belittled or abhorred.

    Of course I am not saying that the friends of graced seeing deny or even consistently should deny incarnation. But the claim that the risen Jesus was seen rather than visualized is a strong way to underscore the notion that God took on a human body, and that the human body cannot, accordingly, be all bad. The body was not only created by God and is thus good; the body is the vehicle through which we come to know God.

    Those like Mary Magdalene who saw Jesus saw God made visible. Let me now turn to the apologetic point. As everyone recognizes, the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead was at the centre of the message that the earliest Christians preached. They were very much interested in trying to convince people to believe as they did. Now imagine the following situation. One of the witnesses to the resurrection say, Mary Magdalene is speaking to a nonbelieving friend.

    She says: Yes, I saw him; that's why I believe he was raised from the dead; that's why I'm so sure. Sorry, but you wouldn't have seen him even if you had been there beside me. Only those who were.