Thursday, 24 March 2011

The empty tomb of Jesus: significant interview with Udo Schnelle from Halle, Wittenberg


 This is a transcript of an interview with Professor Udo Schnelle, head of the department of New Testament, Martin Luther University, Halle - Wittenberg, Germany, held on 22 March 2011. Prof. Schnelle graciously consented that we publish it on the web. This is Part 1, Part 2 to follow next time.

Mulder: Debates about the resurrection of Jesus has been going on since (at least) David Friedrich Strauss. As professor who, in one sense occupies Martin Luther’s’ chair in Theology here in Halle, Wittenberg, why should it or is it important for Christians to believe that Jesus’ tomb is empty?

Schnelle: It is important because it is a historical question. You have to either say yes or no! It is important because faith is grounded in history. It makes a big difference whether the tomb is empty or not.

Mulder: Do you think we have plausible textual evidence that can substantiate belief in the empty tomb?

Schnelle: Yes.

Mulder: What about Paul who doesn’t refer to the empty tomb explicitly?

Schnelle: In Paul we do have Romans 6:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:4. But there is one important point: After the death of Jesus, the first Christians in Jerusalem proclaimed that Jesus is alive. At that time Jerusalem was a city with between 25 000 to 50 000 inhabitants. Thus, not so many people. The Christians preached: Jesus is alive, the tomb is empty. If that was not so, their opponents could say: Why? Come with us, there he lies! It is a historical question which of course cannot be proven scientifically. But, if we try to reconstruct the history with their preaching, then you cannot explain the success of their preaching, especially in Jerusalem, without an empty tomb.

Mulder: So would you say the empty tomb of Jesus is the best explanation for the evidence available to us?

Schnelle: Yes.

Mulder: So, does that mean that people like Gerd Lüdemann and John Dominic Crossan’s reconstructions (that Peter and Paul experienced hallucinations, or that his body was devoured by animals on the cross) are not the best historical explanations for the available evidence we have?

Schnelle: Yes. It is not the best historical explanations. It’s their personal and private explanations. If you ask how was it possible that such a small group of believers, became within a very short time such a strong movement, especially in Jerusalem? I think the best historical explanation is to say that the tomb was empty.

10 comments:

Christopher said...

Love it; thanks, Frederick.

Frederik Mulder said...

Hi Christopher,
Thanx. I was quite surprised with some of Schnelle's remarks. He also told me that he changed his mind about his 1983 article in which he argued that 1 Cor. 6:14 was a post-Pauline gloss....
Halle is a beautiful city, but of course, nothing comes to Oxford...

francois mulder said...

Amen and amen!

New Testament Scholarship Worldwide said...

Two New Testament scholars with whom I have interacted. I title it as a Mulder-Schnelle dialogue on "Resurrection". Amazing!

francois mulder said...

Guillaume Smit shared on facebook:
'n Interessante onderhoud met prof Udo Schnelle, Nuwe Testamentikus, oor die historiese werklikheid van Jesus se opstanding.
resurrectionhope: The empty tomb of Jesus...

Steve said...

Is the tide turning? I pray so!

JD Punch said...

Thanks for passing this along. I hope to see more scholars freely speaking out about their hope in Christ and his resurrection.

francois mulder said...

Thread on facebook:
Guillaume Smit

@guillaumesmit: '... die NT kerk was absoluut oortuig dat Christus leef en hulle was bevoorreg om in sy wonderbare teenwoordigheid te leef.' Coenie Burger

Cobus Van Wyngaard: ons het meer nodig. Wat was die wêreldbeeld waarbinne die Vroeë kerk bely het? Wat beteken hierdie belydenis vandag? Ek verbeel my Heyns (hel, en ek quote hom nie as 'n reël nie) het selfs gesê dat as die konteks verander en jou woorde bly presies dieselfde dan verander die betekenis van jou woorde. Ons het meer nodig as 'n blote herhaling van belydenis as ons dit wil laat leef in gemeentes vandag.

Jaco Thom: mits ons nie met ons herfrasering van ons belydenis die indruk skep dat ons self nie heeltemal oortuig is dat dit waar is nie ...

Ralph Barnard: Om te praat van die "NT kerk" is natuurlik 'n "misnomer". Die Pauliniese gemeentes was Griieksgeoriënteerd, die Matteusgemeente het krisisse gehad met Paulus se parousiagedagte en meer ingestel op die betekenis van die Wet, die Johannese gemeentes meer gefokus op mistieke intimiteit met Jesus, ens. Wat wel gemeenskaplik was, was iets soos die drievlak-wêreldbeeld. En daar stem ek saam, Cobus, as ons dit nie verdiskonteer t.o.v. Jesus se hemelvaart nie, sit ons die pot mis.

Arnau Van Wyngaard: Die vroeë kerk het bely wat hulle fisies gesien het: dat Christus lewe nadat Hy gesterf het en begrawe is. Ons weet dat Hy aan die Emmausgangers verskyn het. Ook aan die Apostels. Ook aan die vroue. Ook aan meer as 500 mense tegelyk. Dit is op grond van heirdie getuienis dat die vroeë kerk (en ons vandag) kon en kan bely dat Christus lewe.

Guillaume Smit: Synde ek die een is wat uit Coenie se boek quote: NT-kerk is die kollektiewe begrip wat hy gegee het aan die gemeentes van die NT geskrifte aan die einde van drie hoofstukke waarin hy gekyk het hoe die Bybel die opstanding leef. Hy het oa die hele NT in 'n enkele lees deurgewerk as deel van sy navorsing.

Guillaume Smit: Opmerking 2: Regdeur verduidelik Coenie hoe die wêreldbeeld van circa 30-100 GE gelyk het tov hemel en God se woonplek.

Guillaume Smit: Die gevolgtrekking wat hy maak, is dat die mense van daardie tyd werklik oortuig was dat Jesus opgevaar het hemel toe, maar dat Hy steeds in hulle midde as lewende teenwoordigheid was daarna.

Guillaume Smit: Vierdens: Hy skryf dat die opstanding en hemelvaart as Bybelse getuienis aanvaar moet word omdat die Bybelskrywers dit werklik geglo het. En hy voeg by ons moenie die misterie waarmee hulle daarna gekyk het, miskyk nie. Nes ons het hulle ook nie heeltemal die geheimenisvolle aard van die gebeurtenis verstaan nie. Daar was iets onverklaarbaars aan die hoe en wat en sy indruk is dat die NT skrywers dit nie probeer uitredeneer het nie.

Guillaume Smit: Dankie vir die saamgesels. Gaan lees nou die boek! En hou aan gesels ...

Arnau Van Wyngaard: Die titel?

Guillaume Smit: Laat ek net gou iets beter verduidelik, want dis wat ek ook dink: Coenie sê op 'n punt hy aanvaar die getuienis van die skrywers van die NT as waar, want hulle was fisies daar toe dit gebeur het. Dit was hulle perspektief vanuit hulle konteks, en al lyk die konteks anders vanuit ons perspektief, beteken dit nie dat ons hulle getuienis kan/moet verwerp as onwaar nie. Dis hoe hy die historiese probeer verdiskonteer met die verkondiging.

Guillaume Smit: Arnau, "Waar is Jesus nou?" CUM Boeke het uitgegee.

Jaco Thom: Udo Schnelle van Halle, Wittenberg gee 'n baie oortuigende verduideliking hoekom ons die opstanding as 'n historiese feit kan glo: die bevolking van Jerusalem was nie so groot dat Jesus se liggaam eenvoudig net kon verdwyn nie. Of dat die dissipels 'n opgestane Jesus kon verkondig terwyl die graf nié leeg was nie. Lees gerus sy verduideliking in http://resurrectionhope.blogspot.com/2011/03/udo-schnelle-on-crossan-ludemann-and.html

Arnau van Wyngaard said...

Interesting!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for referring me to this very interesting page, Ferdie!

The resurrection was one of the key issues of the gospel in the early church – it is mentioned 11 times in Acts only. The witnessing of Jesus’ disciples centred round it. To them it was a reality. Time and again Paul was in trouble (sometimes serious trouble) about it! (Acts 17:18, 32; 23:6-8; 24:15; 24:21) – An intelligent person like Paul would have been a fool to put his life at stake if it were merely “hallucinations”. Henrietta Klaasing