Those of you following this series on the Creed will notice echoes from the post on Conceived by the Holy Spirit.
There I said – the Bible is a mixture of history and metaphor and if you study the mentions of Jesus’ conception (and there’s really only a couple of them) – I said, firstly, it is a perfectly acceptable Christian position to hold that Jesus’ conception was miraculous. Secondly, it is a perfectly acceptable Christian position to hold that Jesus’ conception happened in exactly the same way as every other conception. Thirdly, it is a perfectly acceptable Christian position to hold no opinion whether or not Jesus’ conception was miraculous. My fourth point was that it is not acceptable to think that half of Jesus’ chromosomes are human and half of Jesus’ chromosomes are something else – divine, goddy chromosomes.
You can make a similar four points about the physical resurrection of Jesus – the story of the tomb being empty, the body gone, transformed. Please note, this is a blog post, not a doctoral thesis. If it were the latter, we would need to spend dozens of pages first discussing what is meant by “history” and so forth.
The empty tomb is history
Raymond Brown, a Roman Catholic priest, was a scholar who did a lot of work on the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection. Eg. The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
He concluded the weight is not so strong on the virgin birth, but I think he is quite correct that the weight on the bodily resurrection, the empty tomb, is much, much stronger. I know an atheist historian who examined the evidence and concluded a freak event had happened. He had no scientific explanation for it, but he understood Jesus’ tomb was empty – but it didn’t change his belief that there is no God – for him it was just a freak event. There is no other explanation for the origin of Christianity from a frightened small band of followers of an executed criminal.
Raymond Brown concludes: “From a critical study of the biblical evidence I would judge that Christians can and indeed should continue to speak of a bodily resurrection. Our earliest ancestors in the faith proclaimed a bodily resurrection in the sense that they did not believe that Jesus’ body had corrupted in the tomb. However, and this is equally important, Jesus’ risen body was no longer a body as we know bodies, bound by the dimensions of space and time.” So that’s the majority Christian position.
The Resurrection is metaphor/spiritual
It is a position held by many Christians that Jesus’ resurrection is solely a spiritual event.
No opinion on the details/meaning of the Resurrection
There are many Christians who hold no opinion whether or not Jesus’ resurrection/empty-tomb was history or metaphor.
Jesus was not resuscitated
The point Raymond Brown makes is important: whatever happened – Jesus was not resuscitated. Jesus’ risen body was no longer a body as we know bodies, bound by the dimensions of space and time.
Once you finish all this debating you are still left with the most important task. What real, concrete difference does it make in your life and in mine?
Raymond Brown again: the Gospels “are not simply factual reporting of what happened in Jesus’ ministry but are documents of faith written to show the significance of those events as seen with hindsight.”
If you say you believe Jesus rose physically on the third day but it makes no difference to the way you treat others, or yourself, or the way you care for the physical environment, or recycle, or food, or the health and needs of others – then the way you live denies the words you say.
And those who do care for people’s health, and exercise, and food, and recycle, and care for the environment, and so on – are living the bodily resurrection whether they proclaim those words or not.
This is the seventeenth post in a series on the Creed.
The first is Apostles’ Creed.
The second is I believe in God.
The third is a source of the Apostles’ Creed.
The fourth is I believe in the Father.
The fifth is Handing over the Creed.
The sixth is I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son
The seventh is Don’t use the creed in worship
They eighth is Truly God truly human
The ninth is Conceived by the Holy Spirit
The tenth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 2)
The eleventh is Born of the Virgin Mary
The twelfth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 3)
The thirteenth is Crucified under Pontius Pilate
The fourteenth is crucified
The fifteenth is Holy Saturday
This sixteenth is He descended to the dead