Monday, 17 October 2011

Our neo-gnostic culture and the Resurrection of the Body: New article by Donal A. Hagner

One of my favourite New Testament scholars is without a doubt Donald A. Hagner, emeritus professor of New Testament from Fuller, and a regular visitor here in Cambridge. Last year I had the privilege of having several engaging discussions with him about the resurrection of the body here at Tyndale House. I was surprised and excited to read his new article: "The Resurrection of the Body in the New Testament," published in Australian Biblical Review [ABR 59 (2011) 64-80].

What strikes me in his article is how he captures the modern disregard for the human body:

"... we watch gratuitous violence and killing on television dramas where the more killing per 12-minute segment the better. Our children play computer games where the goal is to kill as many as possible. All this reflect how neo-gnostic our culture has become. The death of the body does not matter very much because of the popular conviction that the soul is immortal. The real person is the soul; therefore the body is finally unimportant, dispensable, and even despised" (64).

When it comes to how the New Testament sees Jesus' resurrection, Hagner's interpretation of the empty tomb and the foundational importance of his bodily resurrection is striking:

"It is of the greatest importance to be clear on the fact that Jesus was resurrected bodily. The tomb was empty because the body of Jesus had been raised. Any idea of a tomb still containing the body of Jesus is totally incompatible with the New Testament evidence and proclamation. The appearances of the resurrected Jesus were not merely subjective visions. Those who witnessed the resurrection appearances saw Jesus in a literal body. The objective reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus as a space-time event is fundamental to Christianity. It serves as the vindication of all that he said and did, including his personal claims. It also serves as the guarantee of the future. No other explanations will suffice. The bodily resurrection of Jesus alone provides the only compelling explanation of the transformation of the disciples and only it can account for the origin of Christianity and the growth of the church" (68).

I love the way Hagner spells out the implications of Jesus' resurrection on p. 77:

"It is as though the future resurrection has interrupted into the present. Becoming a Christian is more than just having our loyalties shifted. Just as the resurrection of Christ inaugurates a new era, so by our identification with Christ we immediately enter into an existence that can be characterised as resurrection life. That new existence is made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit".

Hagner discusses many other aspects of Christ's and our future resurrection in this article. In my opinion, this article is compulsory reading for anyone doing research on the resurrection of Jesus. It is also a good introduction to the resurrection of Jesus and believers for ministers and lay people who wants to get a birds eye view of some of the best research, from the pen of a mature and erudite Christian scholar.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

CK Barrett: singing the hymns of Charles Wesley to Hospital staff before his death

I know others have blogged about the passing away of the formidable Professor CK Barrett from Durham. I had the privilege of seeing him at the inaugural CK Barrett lecture, which Richard B Hays delivered in 2009. At the time he was still preaching from time to time we were told. I cannot help but copy a thought provoking excerpt of his obituary here:

"Modest as well as charming, he possessed a great gift for combining profound scholarship with a simple conviction of the need for the Church to rediscover the ethics and discipline of the New Testament.
That he managed to combine ministry and academia was testament to his great energy. After finishing his circuit duties at 10pm, he set aside four hours each day to pursue his New Testament research, retiring only at 2am.
Shunning the frills of intellectualism, he declined offers to lecture on luxury cruise liners. He was, however, more than happy to take the local bus in order to preach to small congregations in village churches, where those who listened did not know him as the “renowned professor” CK Barrett, but simply as Kingsley. During his last weeks in hospital he continued to speak of God to patients, staff and visitors, even if some were a little astonished when he sang to them the hymns of Charles Wesley.
Kingsley Barrett’s wife, Margaret Heap, whom he married in 1944, predeceased him; he is survived by their son and daughter" (my emphasis).

Monday, 10 October 2011

Easter stories simply invented? Richard Bauckham in his new book on Jesus

As I'm working on the resurrection for my PhD, when I get a new book I always read the section(s) on the resurrection first. Thanks to my friend Lee Gratiss here in Cambridge, I just got a copy of Richard Bauckham's new book: Jesus: A Very Short Introduction published by Oxford University Press (2011). (I'm working on a review of it for Churchman).

I like the way Bauckham describes the significance of the women at Jesus' tomb:

"The somewhat varying versions of the same story in all three of the other Gospels probably vary because they go back to different members of the group of women, who remembered somewhat differently, as people do. But they were eyewitnesses! As almost every scholar notes, in that society women were not trusted to give evidence ... If Jesus had risen from death, the men ought to have been the first to know ... All this suggests that the stories were not simply invented" (105-6).

And also what the first disciples saw and experienced:

“... it is very clear that they did not think that what people saw was the spirit of Jesus, surviving his physical death. They knew about ghosts and about dead people appearing in visions. If this had been the case with Jesus, it would have been very much less momentous than the ‘resurrection’ they believed had happened. The reports about the empty tomb fitted harmoniously with the appearance narratives, because the one who appeared was identified as Jesus in his whole bodily-spiritual identity. Jesus was not a soul who had left his body behind in the tomb ... They believed he was raised to a new sort of bodily life, eternal life” (106-7).

And also, this bit in Chapter 8, Jesus in Christian faith:

"That the faith of the early Christians focused on the living Jesus does not, of course, mean that they neglected the story of his life and death or the sayings that his disciples had learned. On the contrary, the stories and sayings were treasured and repeated, and only because they were so important at an early stage were they later given permanent written
form in the Gospels. The stories portrayed the person who, in his heavenly glory, remained the same person ... The early Christians did not dissolve the past Jesus into the present, but they remembered the earthly and crucified Jesus in order to know and to follow the living Christ" (112-3).

Personally (and not giving away anything of my forthcoming review), I think this book will provide pastors and normal uninformed believers with a short and well written introduction into the latest research on Jesus, written by one of the most respected Biblical Scholars in Britain and North America.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Richard Bauckham's new book on Jesus

"Has Jesus in the end become no more than an empty vessel that can be filled with any sort of content?"

This is one of the important questions which Richard Bauckham answers in his exciting book: Jesus: A Very Short Introduction that has just been published by Oxford University Press.

In the foreword he writes:
"... I do think the Gospels give us access to the way Jesus was perceived by those who were close to him, people who experienced the events from the inside and whose own lives were deeply affected by them. This seems to me a kind of knowledge of Jesus that is well worth having, whatever we choose to do with it" (xii).

Really a must read book for theologians and pastors who want a concise, easy to read book on Jesus by one of the most respected Biblical Scholars in Europe and America.