Saturday, April 23, 2011

And What of Resurrection?

Continuing The Wild Reed’s special 2011 Holy Week series, I share today a sixth excerpt from Albert Nolan’s groundbreaking 1976 book Jesus Before Christianity.

This excerpt is accompanied by images from Denys Arcand's 1989 film Jesus of Montreal.

(To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)


It remains for us to consider whether Jesus foresaw his resurrection or not. Some of the “passion predictions” conclude with a “resurrection prediction”: “And after three days the son of man will rise again” (Mk 8:31 parr; 9:31 parr; 10:34 parr; see also Mk 9:9). That Jesus should have said this is not impossible. “After three days” is a Hebrew and Aramaic way of saying “soon” or “not long afterwards.” Most Jews at the time believed in the resurrection of the dead on the last day, and of all Jews the martyrs were most assured of rising on that day. Jesus could not have predicted that he would rise before the last day, otherwise all the confusion, doubt and surprise when he did rise would make no sense at all. In other words all that this “prediction” could mean is that Jesus as a kind of prophet-martyr expected to rise again on the last day and that the last day would come soon.

This interpretation is not incompatible with Jesus’ beliefs and concerns but it is certainly irrelevant to all that he had been trying to do and say in his time. He probably did agree with the Pharisees against the Sadducees about the resurrection, as the gospels tell us (Mk 12:18–27). But it is surely significant that outside of these “resurrection predictions” the only time Jesus even mentions the resurrection is in answer to the Sudducees’ question about the resurrection. He never raises the matter of his own accord. It is not an integral part of what he wanted to say to Israel at that time and in those circumstances. Why would one talk about resurrection when people are suffering and a catastrophe is imminent and there is every hope that the “kingdom” of God might come on earth within a few years? We may therefore wonder whether Jesus did in fact make any “resurrection predictions.”

This is not to say that Jesus did not believe in the resurrection. He no doubt believed in it along with many other things that the Jews of his time believed in; just as the prophets no doubt believed in many things which were not immediately relevant to their message to the people of their time. For Jesus, in his time, resurrection, like the paying of taxes to Caesar or the sacrifices in the Temple, was simply not the issue.

The situation after Jesus’ death was completely different. Then . . . resurrection became the central issue.

– Albert Nolan
Jesus Before Christianity
pp 141-142

Images: Johanne-Marie Tremblay (above left) as Constance, Lothaire Bluteau as Daniel, and Catherine Wilkening as Mireille in Denys Arcand's 1989 film Jesus of Montreal.

NEXT: Jesus: The Breakthrough in the History of Humanity

For The Wild Reed’s 2010 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Andrew Harvey’s book Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ), see:
Jesus: Path-Blazer of Radical Transformation
The Essential Christ
One Symbolic Iconoclastic Act
One Overwhelming Fire of Love
The Most Dangerous Kind of Rebel
Resurrection: Beyond Words, Dogmas and All Possible Theological Formulations
The Cosmic Christ: Brother, Lover, Friend, Divine and Tender Guide

For The Wild Reed’s 2009 Holy Week series (featuring the artwork of Doug Blanchard and the writings of Marcus Borg, James and Evelyn Whitehead, John Dominic Crossan, Andrew Harvey, Francis Webb, Dianna Ortiz, Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Paula Fredriksen), see:
The Passion of Christ (Part 1) – Jesus Enters the City
The Passion of Christ (Part 2) – Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
The Passion of Christ (Part 3) – Last Supper
The Passion of Christ (Part 4) – Jesus Prays Alone
The Passion of Christ (Part 5) – Jesus Before the People
The Passion of Christ (Part 6) – Jesus Before the Soldiers
The Passion of Christ (Part 7) – Jesus Goes to His Execution
The Passion of Christ (Part 8) – Jesus is Nailed the Cross
The Passion of Christ (Part 9) – Jesus Dies
The Passion of Christ (Part 10) – Jesus Among the Dead
The Passion of Christ (Part 11) – Jesus Appears to Mary
The Passion of Christ (Part 12) – Jesus Appears to His Friends

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
Jesus Was a Sissy
The "Wild Gaiety" of Jesus' Moral Teaching
Jesus, Sex and Power
Jesus and Homosexuality
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 1)
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 2)
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
When Expulsion is the Cost of Discipleship
Christ and Krishna

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