SURPRISED BY HOPE II
In this post I will summarize the first 4 ways in which Wright presents the modifications of Christian faith.
1) There is virtually no spectrum of belief about life after death. Even though Christians came from various strands of Judaism and paganism, they all changed their belief to focus on one point of the spectrum…there is an “overwhelming impression of unanimity” about the resurrection.
2) While in second-Temple Judaism resurrection was important (but not that important), “in early Christianity resurrection moved from the circumference to the center.” (Apparently, “apart from occasional highlights like 2 Maccabees 7, resurrection is a peripheral topic). One cannot imagine the apostles (especially Paul and John), Clement and Ignatius, Justin and Irenaeus without the concept of resurrection. Wright says: “Take away the resurrection, and you lose the entire New Testament and most of the second-century fathers as well.” Belief in bodily resurrection was one of the two central things that the pagan doctor Galen noted about the Christians (the other being their remarkable sexual restraint).
3) While in Judaims “it is almost always left quite vague as to what sort of a body the resurrected will possess,” it is clear in early Christianity (and from Jesus) that there will be a new and transformed body. Note that in 1 Corinthians 15 when Paul says that it will be a “spiritual body” he does not mean that it will be nonmaterial. He simply draws a contrast between ”a present body animated by the normal human soul and a future body animated by God’s spirit.” The new body will be incorruptible and “will possess a transformed physicality.”
4) In Christianity – for the first time – the resurrection as an event is split in two (see again 1 Corinthian 15). In the first century (apparently all of) the Jews (who believed in the resurrection) understood the resurrection as a “large-scale event happening to all God’s people, or perhaps the entire human race.” In Christianity (and this belief is never found outside) we have the belief that the resurrection happened to one person in the middle of history in advance of a great and final occurrence, anticipating and guaranteeing the final resurrection of God’s people at the end of history.
These are most interesting and useful observations from a scholar which is well prepared to discuss these issues in the first century context. How can these considerable changes be explained historically?
Ponder on this question that will be addressed in the following days.
(To be continued).
HRISTOS A INVIAT! (Christ is Risen)