Easter and the Resurrection: Part 1 of 2
Announcer:The 21st Century has ushered in events and issues that cause us to ask, "Where is God in today's world?" In response, Dallas Theological Seminary presents DTS Dialogue - Issues of God in Culture: Easter and the Resurrection.
Easter points believers to their greatest hopes, resurrection. Thanks for joining us as we unpack the important of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Part
Yarbrough:Welcome to "DTS Dialogue Issues of God in Culture." I'm your host Mark Yarbrough, Executive Director of Communications at Dallas Theological Seminary. And today our discussion topic is Easter and the Resurrection. Today in the studio we have Dr. Buist Fanning department chair and professor of New Testament Studies and Dr. Tom Constable department chair and profession of Bible Exposition.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for your
:Greatly appreciate that. Especially at this time of the semester, when things get busy and schedules get full. So, thank you very much for your time.
Very interesting, talking about Easter and the Resurrection. To the non Christian world Easter is another retail figure. Believe it or not, I happen to read an article recently that said, "Last year, 2005, Easter did 10 billion dollars in retail revenue." Hard to imagine. I think we all would agree, as we're sitting here at the table in studio today, talking about this topic, it's far worth more than 10 billion dollars to us. In regards to the issue of our faith and the importance of Easter and the importance of resurrection, as it is a central issue. A central figure, if you will, in regards to the importance of our faith. And so, I kind of want to talk about that a little bit and let me just open it up and Dr. Fanning I'll kind of punt to you, if you don't mind. What is the significance of Easter to Christians?
Buist:I think we should just understand that out set of Easter is shorthand for Christ resurrection. It's a commemoration of those all significant events for Christian's belief and for their ongoing life before God. And you can see the centrality Easter in a passage like First Corinthians 15 where Paul says, "Let me remind you about the central points of the gospel," is how it starts off and says, "the central points of the gospel are that Christ died for out sins, according to the Scripture."
"And then he was buried and that he rose the third day, according to the Scripture." And that he appeared to whole series of different groups and individuals of people who saw him as resurrected form. And Paul says, those are the primary things. The main points about the gospel that Christians preach and that Christians believe.
And you see the same thing also in early sermons and acts. If you just go through the early chapters of Acts and see the preaching of the early Christians in Acts 2, in Acts 3, in Acts 4, in Acts 5, in Acts 7, in Acts 10, and in Acts 13. The death and resurrection of Christ is what they constantly focus on as they try to communicate what their newfound faith and movement is all
:So, in other words, even in a cursory overview, if you will, of the words that come out in scripture on a regular basis, it is a patterned theme. We're talking about a centrality of our faith is centered on the
: Exactly. The Resurrection is at the core of everything that's
: Dr. Constable, do you have anything you want to add on that, about the centrality of the Resurrection?
Tom Constable:I was just trying to weigh the significance of Christmas with the significance of Easter and I would find it difficult to say that one was more important than the other. And I think this is generally reflected in Church attendance, on these
: Yeah, good
:And, probably both are, well undoubtedly both are extremely significant to Christians. Perhaps non Christians find it more difficult to understand why Easter is significant Christians than
:Let's talk about that word for a minute "resurrection". I mean, we use it openly. You hear it at Church all the time. Somebody give me a definition. What is resurrection, from a biblical stand point? What is resurrection?
Buist:You know Mark that is a really significant question to ask, especially because of the competing interpretations of the accounts of Jesus rising for the dead, being resurrected. Because resurrection in the ancient word never meant simply life after death, going to heaven, or something like the significance or remembrance of my life continuing on after my death. It never merely meant some kind of continued existence in a spiritual form after my death. It always meant dead people rose again to new bodily life. It meant standing up again or rising again to a bodily existence that you had previously, which you have
:Where could we talk about resurrection as a theme in the Old Testament? Is that a topic that shows up on a regular basis? Is it hinted at, is it very specific, and what is the connection then between the Old Testament theology of resurrection and the New Testament theology of resurrection? Anyone want to jump in on that one?
Tom:Well, one of the earliest evidences of belief in it, I think comes out in Hebrews 11, where the writer to the Hebrews mentions that Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead, in order to fulfill his promises to Abraham. That's an interesting statement. The writer of course is interpreting Abraham there. Because Abraham never stated that, as far as we know.
But, that seems to be a belief that was held in the early Church. That even Old Testament people like Abraham believed in the resurrection. Job's references to standing before God have been debated wither that involved a physical resurrection, wither he simply was speaking about seeing God some day and experiencing justification by God for his righteous life. That one is a little less distinct, I think. Those are two that come to my mind right
: You see it in Daniel chapter 12, fairly explicit statement about a hope for a new life after death.
I think the broader picture in the Old Testament tends to be the picture of national resurrection, like Ezekiel the chapter about the dry bones coming back to life. Which is a picture of the nation of Israel coming back from exile and being reconstituted in a future day, under a Davidic ruler, Jesus Christ. Coming back to national life. But, even though it's not explicit back in Genesis, the resurrection of people to bodily life really is rooted in the creation. It's rooted in the idea that God make this whole universe. He made mankind in a physical corporeal form and that's a good creation. It's not something to be despised and even though the creation and mankind has now fallen, God hasn't given up on his creation. And he intends to restore it. He intends to renew it.
And this is not just a national thing, the New Testament comes to teach us, it's an individual resurrection that we can hope for based on the pattern of Christ resurrection. After his death on the cross he rose again and that's the guarantee that those who are his followers, those who are Christians, will share that same kind of life with him in the
:In other words, even in something that is embedded in the concept of resurrection is redemptive based upon where humanity now resides because of Genesis three and the Fall. And there's something that's innate within the concept of resurrection, about
:And it's interesting that some of the competing forms of Christianity in the early centuries that are being presented in popular books today. If you go to Borders or go to Barnes & Noble and look on the shelves of spirituality or religion or something, you'll find lots of books that say "Well, there were these early Christian views about Gnosticism or about other sorts of views of spirituality, life with God, but in a non-material form, in which they despised the material - they thought it was evil.
Some of these early forms of Christianity, we would call them "heresies", the early Church denied the validity of those views, based on Biblical teaching, Biblical theology. It was a religion of spirituality with no focus on the cross, no focus on the Resurrection, or a future existence with God in a renewed bodily form. But those are the forms that the early Church labeled "disparate", "heretical", "not true to the gospel", "not true to the teaching about God as the Creator" all the way back to the Old Testament, the accounts in
:That's a nice transition into another question. Historically, how has the resurrection of Jesus Christ been challenged? It leads to what you're talking about there. If we were to come up with two or three other categories, how was that challenged early on?
Tom:Paul refers to a challenge in the Corinthian Church, in First Corinthians 15. And he says "How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" And he wrote chapter 15 to counter that belief, which was common in Hellenism of his time. The Stoics, for example, believed that the body was a prison, that you don't want your body when you die, because one of the good things about dying was that you were finally rid of
: You're free of
:Right. This cell in which we have to live as human beings. So it was a very appealing thing for the Corinthians to believe that there was no resurrection, so that they could enter into this spiritual state. And Paul's response to that conviction, with chapter 15, in which he lays out the fact that Jesus himself died and that, if he didn't rise from the grave, then really the Christian faith is no better than any other philosophy.
But he goes on to prove that Jesus did arise and that, therefore, because he arose, we, too, have hope of resurrections, we are in Christ, and we have this hope beyond the grave. So that's an early example of challenging the concept of the
:I think First Corinthians 15 is a great illustration of something we were saying earlier; and that is that "resurrection", in the New Testament, doesn't simply mean "life after death". The Greeks believed in life after death; they believed in an ongoing existence of some kind. What they treated with scorn was the idea that you could have a bodily existence, that you could be raised to a new bodily life, fitted for eternal existence.
And so Paul says, "Some of you are saying 'There's no resurrection'" because they were denying the bodily resurrection. And Paul turns that around and says "Don't you know this is central to Christianity? Don't you know this is central to the gospel I preached and to what you believed?" And it's rooted in the Old Testament; it's rooted in the hope that we have from God all the way back.
But I think this is one of the issues, one of the objections to the Resurrection that is sometimes raised, especially after the Enlightenment, with the rise of the scientific worldview. You know, we don't see people raised to new bodily life after death. Death seems pretty final to us. That's our universal experience. And we don't expect that sort of thing to happen by any sort of natural process. And, so, in the modern world, we tend to think "Well, you know, in ancient days, in pre-modern times, they were gullible; they believed all sorts of things. We can't accept that sort of belief."
What that ignores, of course, is that it was universal in the ancient world, that they could observe that nobody came back from the dead then either. That was their constant experience in losing loved ones and so on.
And, so, for Christians to claim "No; Jesus said that this was going to happen, and now it has happened. We stand as witnesses of this. We proclaim that He has risen, that He's alive, a risen savior" - this was something treated with scorn. It wasn't gullibly accepted by the ancient world. But it was an article of faith that Christians proclaimed and subscribed to.
Now, in terms of modern belief, I think we simply have to realize that the gospel is all about what God can do. And, if you begin with a God who is all-powerful, who created this whole universe, then it's not so big a stretch to think that the God who created human bodies could also raise them back to life. And that's what the gospel calls us to believe.
But part of the modern world and the attempt to make Christianity fit the modern world has involved a series of reinterpretations of what "resurrection" means, so that, when the gospels say, and when Acts says, and when the Epistles say, "He was raised", "He rose again on the third day", there have been all of these presentations that, "Well, what this means is that he lives on, in His significance, for his follows" or "He lives on in terms of His spiritual existence, and we can commune with Him on that level". But that's not what the Apostles were claiming in Acts. That's not what Paul was insisting on in First Corinthians
: It's not what the Jewish religious leaders were trying to cover up, either, which we have a record of at the end of the
:And it's very interesting, you've alluded to it, that there's a lot of literature that's on the market today that's all kind of, you know, some of it's evaluating the Gnostic material, the hidden gospels, all of this new genre that is hitting the marketplace. Obviously, it's been there for a long time; but it is coming to the popular level.
And that seems to be one of the issues: What did the early Church proclaim? No matter how you cut it, when you talk about this issue of the Resurrection, whether someone chooses to believe that or not is a whole other issue; but you cannot negate the fact, Scripturally, according to the textual evidence, that's what these guys, number one, proclaimed, and that's what they believed. Now, whether the community that exists today, in 2006, chooses to believe that or not is irrelevant: that is what they proclaimed; and that's what they
:And they were willing to die for it. It's sort of hard to convince yourself that "They knew better, but they were trying to present this new religion in this way to gain followers." Why would you give your life for something that you knew to be false?
Tom:And frequently the New Testament writers, and the characters recorded in the historical portions, describe themselves as eyewitnesses of the Resurrection as well. This wasn't things they had heard second-hand; but they'd seen the risen Christ, Himself. And, of course, over 150 people saw Him after He died; and we have many references to that in
:That seems to be one of their apologetics, doesn't it? You were talking about Peter's sermon in Acts 2, where he cites Psalm 16 and talks about how he, himself, was an eyewitness. In the text that we've mentioned many times, in First Corinthians 15, Paul goes through his long list of people that had seen Jesus. It was Thomas who didn't believe and wasn't there the first time and then came back and was able to see first-hand. I mean that's part of their defense for the Resurrection.
Announcer:This concludes Part 1. Please, continue on with Part 2. For more information about Dallas Theological Seminary, please, visit our website at www.dts.edu.