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Bodily Resurrection - Critics Answered, Early Church Proclamation

The Critics:

Many critical so called "scholars" accept 1 Cor. 15 as the first statement of a quasi-official creed regarding the resurrection.  This is because they accept an earlier date for the writing of 1 Corinthians than for the gospel accounts.  They key off of words such as "delivered" and "received" to show that the resurrection was merely a tradition or legend.

Rudolf Bultmann, an existentialist and liberal Lutheran theologian (1884-1976) writes "The resurrection itself is not an event of past history.  All that historical criticism can establish is the fact that the first disciples came to believe in the resurrection" (Kerygma and Myth, Hans-Werner Bartsch [London: SPCK, 1972], I, 42).  Bultmann sought to demythologize the gospels in an effort to make the story of Jesus more palatable to modern audiences immersed in science and technology.

How critical so called "scholars" explain the disciple's transformation: 

"Now it is significant that virtually all critical scholars today...are prepared to admit that the disciples very shortly after Jesus' death - for some reason - underwent a remarkable emotional transformation, with confidence and certainty suddenly and abruptly displacing their earlier discouragement and despair" - (Robert Reymond, Faith's Reasons For Believing, p. 150)

Explanations Offered:
  • visionary experience
  • autosuggestion - Bultmann - Fond memories of Jesus 'personal intimacy' during His ministry caused them to experience subjective visions
  • hysteria within a small community
  • candle light and fear of arrest
  • fantasy brought on by grief and guilt
Problems With These Explanations:
  1. Leave the fact of the empty tomb unexplained
  2. The disciples were without hope (i.e. Thomas, disciples on the road to Emmaus)
  3. They have no explanation for what basis they use for choosing what is myth and what is not
  • Read 1 Cor. 15:2.  How important is this so called "legend" according to Paul?  How does this argue against myth?
  • What is the real reason why liberals seek to demythologize the scriptures?

The Impact of Christ's Resurrection on the Proclamation Given by the Early Christians:

Acts 2:24-36 - Peter preaching to 3,000
Acts 3:14-16 - Peter preaching in Solomon's Portico
Acts 4:1-3,10-12 - Peter before the Sanhedrin
Acts 5:29-32 - Peter and other apostles before the Sanhedrin a 2nd time.
Acts 10:34-43 - Peter preaching to Cornelious' Household
Acts 13:26-41 - Paul preaching in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia
Acts 17:30-32 - Paul addressing the Areopagus
Also see numerous references to the resurrection throughout the new testament (Romans 1:2-4; 8:34; 10:8-9; 1Cor 15:3-4; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; col 2:12; 1Th. 1:10; 2Th. 2:8; 1Pet. 1:21) 

How important is the resurrection in these examples of the preaching of the gospel by the new testament church?
  • showed that Jesus was divine (Rom. 1:2-4)
  • was the means of His enthronement in heaven as Lord of men (Acts 2:36; Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9) and judge of all men (Acts. 17:31)
  • showed Jesus to be the only savior of men (Acts 4:12).  All other religions are false.
  • showed that God had set His seal of approval on Christ's atoning work (Rom. 4:25 - raised because of our justification)
  • essential to salvation (Rom. 10:9 - "believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved")
  • demonstrated the truthfulness of Jesus claims back at Matt. 16:21
  • assures us that we too will one day be raised to life (1 Cor. 15:20 "has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep", 1Pet. 1:3-4 "begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead")
  • is celebrated by the church in our tradition of meeting on the first day (Lord's day)