Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Ethics in the Johannine Literature - NijmegenConference

We are hosting a conference here in Nijmegen with the title: Ethics in the Johannine Literature - traditions, function and relevance. I hope to report on some of the interesting papers in due course. For now I only name a few scholars who will participate: Ruben Zimmermann, Jan van der Watt, Chrys Caragounis, Udo Schnelle, Tom Thatcher, William Loader and Paul Anderson to name a few.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Will we rise like Christ?

      An established theologian from the University of Pretoria, South Africa declared some time ago that we should keep Jesus' and our future resurrection completely apart. This he argued should be so because the Apostolicum states that Jesus rose "on the third day", whereas we will rise in the "body". This interpretation has amused me ever since.

Dr Joel R. White (left below) from the Freie Theologische Hochschule Giessen in Germany, delivered a significant paper at the Resurrection of the Dead Conference in Louvain-le-Neuve, Belgium (7-9 April, 2010), that challenges this interpretation (though not aimed at the South African theologian).
Among other things White states: "The crucial similarity between 1 Cor 15 and Rom 8 is, of course, that both are concerned with resurrection. Specifically, both passages elucidate the connection between the past resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of believers".

White goes into some detail explaining Rom 8:11 which states: "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you".

White went on to focus on the "firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom 8:23), and after careful analysis and exegesis came up with a hermeneutical interpretation of what Paul is trying to convey here. White states: "Rom 8,23 should... be understood to mean: 'And not only does creation groan in eager expectation of the resurrection, but we do, too, because we have the firstfruits of the Spirit, that is, we have the risen Christ, whose resurrection was brought about by the Spirit. Because of that we, too, groan inwardly, as we eagerly await our revelation as children of God that will take place when our mortal bodies are resurrected."

After Joel delivered his paper, we had coffee together, and later the same day Belgium hamburgers together with Matthew Malcolm from Australia. We had such a great time!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Jesus' resurrection and the Gnostic Nag Hammadi library

"The Anastasis in The Treatise on the Resurrection: What Jesus' Resurrection Teaches about Valentinian Christology" - Ryann Elizabeth Craig (Reformed Theological Seminary, McLean, VA 22101)
This fascinating paper focuses primarily on the Treat Res, a second century Gnostic text, and how Jesus' resurrection is interpreted in it. (Delivered at the Resurrection of the Dead Conference in Belgium I've been reporting on for some time).

What conclusions did Ryann come up with?
"In summary, the Christology of the Treat Res affirms a fleshly and spiritual body but not a docetic or fragmented Jesus. The author's intense reflection on 1 Cor 15 informs the type, timing and purpose of anastasis, but the Treat Res deviates from Paul on a few key issues. The Valentinian believer experiences a flesh-type resurrection, but there is no clear link between the spiritual resurrection body and the natural body. Timing emphasizes both the future resurrection and the present experience of resurrection. And, the application of Jesus' anastasis to the Valentinian adherent is not an appliction of atoning work but a mystical union."

It was great to have meet Ryann at the conference, partly because I've delivered a similar paper in Durham, UK last year! And what is more, we did our research independently and came up with roughly the same conclusions! Amazing!

Ryann, will be nice to hear from you here on the blog!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Resurrection in 1 Corinthians - Matthew Malcolm

A significant paper delivered at the Resurrection of the Dead Conference (7-9 April, 2010, Louvain-le-Neuve, Belgium).

The Resurrection of the Dead in 1 Corinthians (Matthew Malcolm, Nottingham).
"There can be no attaining of glory or immortality apart from following the path of Christ, whose own death was followed by resurrection - a resurrection that ensures the future vindication of those whose cruciform labour indicates that they belong to him". This is the last sentence in the abstract of what was a refreshing paper by Matthew. He is to complete his PhD under Anthony Thistleton at Nottingham fairly soon.
In his paper, Matthew went on to suggest that the arrangement of 1 Corinthians follows an important cultural pattern of "double reversal", summoning the believers at Corinth to choose between the destinies of the presently-honoured "human rulers", and the presently shameful "Christ crucified". They are called to give up their boastful, clamouring divisions, and inhabit Christ's death in the present, looking ahead to sharing in his vindication (resurrection) in the future. With this in view, Paul hears the denial of "the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15) as the ultimate refusal to accept the validity of the dead - and thus, of the cricified.What is Paul's response? He insists on the necessity of taking the path that leads from death - or a death-filled way of life - to God-given resurrection.

Afterwards I had a great talk with Matthew, who is actually from Australia. In him I found a brother who also believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and wants to incorporate the insights of the Patristic era into his New Testament research. Exciting stuff!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Punishment, Deviance, Hallucinations and Jesus' resurrection

BRIEF COMMENTS ABOUT SOME INTERESTING PAPERS (7-9 April, Louvain-le-Neuve -other discussions to follow next time). Please do not use my comments to come to premature conclusions. If you want more info, please let me know. A further note: I believe with my whole heart that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. As a Christian enrolled for a PhD, it is important for me to be exposed to different views on and academic level.

Resurrection for Punishment? - The Fate of the Unrighteous in Early Christianity and in  "New Testament Theology" - Heikki Raisanen - Helsinki 
Raisanen argued that according to many early Jewish and Christian texts, the awaited resurrection of the dead is not just a happy event. There will also be resurrection unto judgement and punishment.
Raisanen argued further that many modern "New Testament Theologies" avoid these Jewish and Christian texts, and proposed that a "history-of-religions'" synthesis might restore the balance.
Raisanen also suggested that the connection between resurrection and judgement is absent in Paul.
In Q & A afterwards, the latter was disputed by Gerd Luedemann who argued that 1 Thess. 1:10 & 4:13 might indicate some connection in Paul. Check out for Raisanen's new book: The Rise of Christian Beliefs. The Thought-World of the Early Christians, Fortress Press, 2009.

Resurrection, Deviance and the Use of Authoritative Writings in Early Christianity - Outi Lehtipuu - Helsinki
Lehtipuu argued that in Early Christianity, resurrection beliefs served as an important identity marker and tool for group demarcation among different Christian groups. Maintaining boundaries was crucial for the small and marginal Christian groups to secure their identity. Deviation in belief and practice threatened their integrity. Key texts considered in her paper included works by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Nag Hammadi texts like the Treatise on the Resurrection, the Gospel of Philip, the Testimony of Truth, and New Testament Apocrypha like the Acts of Paul and Thecla, 3 Corinthians, and Didascalia apostolorum.

The Resurrection of Jesus: Fifteen Years Later - Gerd Luedemann - Gottingen
In the first part, Luedemann discussed insights of his 1994 book The Resurrection of Jesus. History, Experience, Theology. In it he argued that Peter and Paul had hallucinations of the risen Jesus, and that all the empty tomb stories were unhistorical. He also argued that the more than 500 brothers to whom Jesus appeared to in 1 Cor. 15:6, was in actual fact an interpolation from Pentecost (Acts 2). Significantly, he renounced the latter during his lecture saying: "Presently at least, I must confess my ignorance of this report."
Luedemann went on to say that his 1994 book argued that one can remain a Christian, even though to his mind, Jesus never really rose from the dead. One's Christian faith should be based entirely on the historical Jesus.
In the second part of his lecture, Luedemann conceded that since his books publication, many found the analysis of the story of the empty tomb in his book questionable and postulated that women had indeed found the tomb empty on the third day. He went even so far as to suggest that in academic circles, the resurrection stories have gained more credence and, in particular, the story of the empty tomb has received a historical boost.
In the last part, Luedemann said that he continues to be in full agreement with his individual exegetical results. He concluded that he is convinced that disproving the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus ultimately annuls the Christian heritage as error. Consequently, he rejected his 1994 attempt to base Christianity on the historical Jesus.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

35 Papers on the Resurrection!

"Who here regard the resurrection of Jesus as unique and in some form bodily?" This was one of the last questions posed at the final session of the International Conference on the Resurrection of the Dead in Louvain-le-Neuve, Belgium, yesterday.
There were roughly three different answers. First, some said "it is a difficult question", and defended their right not to answer. Professor Gerd Luedemann answered: "Jesus' body decomposed", and added that 95% of the Jesus Seminar voted for this. Professor Claire Clivaz from the University of Lausanne (picture to the right) replied: "I believe that the tomb was empty."

It will be interesting to get some feedback on these different interpretations! I hope to report in more detail on some of the significant papers delivered at the conference in due course (at least those relating to my research interests).

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Resurrection of the Dead. Biblical Traditions in Dialogue - Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (7-9 April 2010)

Next week, the Department of Theology at the Catholic University in Louvain is hosting a world class conference on the resurrection of Jesus. Papers will be delivered in both French and English. There is sure to be some controversial ones! See below a list of the main papers.

Claire Clivaz (Lausanne/Genève) Pourquoi les récits de résurrection ont-ils été lus et crus?

José Costa (Paris III - Sorbonne) "Immortalité de l'âme ou résurrection des morts ?" : la question d'Oscar Cullmann et le témoignage des sources rabbiniques anciennes

Outi Lehtipuu (Helsinki) Resurrection, Deviance and the Use of Authoritative Writings in Early Christianity

Gerd Lüdemann (Göttingen) The Resurrection of Jesus : Fifteen Years Later

Odette Mainville (Montréal) Le rôle des récits résurrectionnels en Mt 28 : une lecture rédactionnelle

Daniel Marguerat (Lausanne/Genève) Résurrection et herméneutique de l'histoire en Luc-Actes

Tobias Nicklas (University of Regensburg) On the road to Dante : Resurrection according to some Early Christian Tours of Heaven and Hell

Heikki Räisänen (Helsinki) Resurrection for Punishment? The Fate of the Unrighteous in Early Christianity and in "New Testament Theology"

Tom Shepherd (Andrews University, MI) Absence and Ascendance: A Narrative Comparison of the Resurrection Scene in Codex Vaticanus and Codex Washingtonianus

Geert Van Oyen (UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve) 'Il est ressuscité. Il n'est pas ici' ... Il est dans le texte

André Wénin (UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve) Anticipations vétérotestamentaires du discours sur la résurrection de Jésus dans le Nouveau Testament

For more details, go to