Resurrection

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Plaque depicting saints rising from the dead.

Resurrection (anglicized from Latin resurrectio) is the concept of a living being coming back to life after death. It is a religious concept, where it is used in two distinct respects: a belief in the resurrection of individual souls that is current and ongoing (Christian idealism, realized eschatology), or else a belief in a singular "Resurrection of the Dead" event at the end of the world. The Resurrection of the Dead is a standard eschatological belief in the Abrahamic religions. In a number of ancient religions, a life-death-rebirth deity is a deity which dies and resurrects. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the central focus of Christianity.

The soul is believed by some to be the divine and immortal part of the human being, and some believe it is the actual vehicle by which people are resurrected.[1] However, theological debate ensues with regard to what kind of resurrection is factual – either a spiritual resurrection with a spirit body (i.e. Heaven), or a material resurrection with a restored human body.[2] While most Christians believe Jesus' resurrection was in a material body, a very small minority believe it was spiritual.[3][4][5]

There are documented rare cases of the return to life of the clinically dead which are classified scientifically as examples of the Lazarus syndrome, a term originating from the Biblical story of the Resurrection of Lazarus.

Ancient religions in the Near East[edit]

The concept of resurrection is found in the writings of some ancient non-Abrahamic religions in the Middle East. A few extant Egyptian and Canaanite writings allude to dying and rising gods such as Osiris and Baal. Sir James Frazer in his book The Golden Bough relates to these dying and rising gods,[6] but many of his examples, according to various scholars, distort the sources.[7] Taking a more positive position, Tryggve Mettinger argues in his recent book that the category of rise and return to life is significant for the following deities: Ugaritic Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Osiris and Dumuzi.[8]

Ancient Greek religion[edit]

In ancient Greek religion, a number of men and women were made physically immortal as they were resurrected from the dead. Asclepius was killed by Zeus, only to be resurrected and transformed into a major deity. Achilles, after being killed, was snatched from his funeral pyre by his divine mother Thetis and resurrected, brought to an immortal existence in either Leuce, Elysian plains or the Islands of the Blessed. Memnon, who was killed by Achilles, seems to have received a similar fate. Alcmene, Castor, Heracles, and Melicertes, were also among the figures sometimes considered to have been resurrected to physical immortality. According to Herodotus's Histories, the seventh century BC sage Aristeas of Proconnesus was first found dead, after which his body disappeared from a locked room. Later he found not only to have been resurrected but to have gained immortality.

Many other figures, like a great part of those who fought in the Trojan and Theban wars, Menelaus, and the historical pugilist Cleomedes of Astupalaea, were also believed to have been made physically immortal, but without having died in the first place. Indeed, in Greek religion, immortality originally always included an eternal union of body and soul. The philosophical idea of an immortal soul was a later invention, which, although influential, never had a breakthrough in the Greek world. As may be witnessed even into the Christian era, not least by the complaints of various philosophers over popular beliefs, traditional Greek believers maintained the conviction that certain individuals were resurrected from the dead and made physically immortal and that for the rest of us, we could only look forward to an existence as disembodied and dead souls.[9]

This traditional religious belief in physical immortality was generally denied by the Greek philosophers. Writing his Lives of Illustrious Men (Parallel Lives) in the first century CE, the Middle Platonic philosopher Plutarch's chapter on Romulus gave an account of his mysterious disappearance and subsequent deification, comparing it to traditional Greek beliefs such as the resurrection and physical immortalization of Alcmene and Aristeas the Proconnesian, "for they say Aristeas died in a fuller's work-shop, and his friends coming to look for him, found his body vanished; and that some presently after, coming from abroad, said they met him traveling towards Croton." Plutarch openly scorned such beliefs held in traditional ancient Greek religion, writing, "many such improbabilities do your fabulous writers relate, deifying creatures naturally mortal."

The parallel between these traditional beliefs and the later resurrection of Jesus was not lost on the early Christians, as Justin Martyr argued: "when we say ... Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propose nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you consider sons of Zeus." (1 Apol. 21). There is, however, no belief in a general resurrection in ancient Greek religion, as the Greeks held that not even the gods were able to recreate flesh that had been lost to decay, fire or consumption. The notion of a general resurrection of the dead was therefore apparently quite preposterous to the Greeks. This is made clear in Paul's Areopagus discourse. After having first told about the resurrection of Jesus, which makes the Athenians interested to hear more, Paul goes on, relating how this event relates to a general resurrection of the dead:

"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, `We shall hear you again concerning this.'"[10]

Hinduism[edit]

7th century Hindu saint Sambandar prays to Shiva and resurrects Poompavai from an urn of bones and ashes in old Kapaleeshwarar Temple at the location of the current San Thome Basilica.

Judaism[edit]

There are three explicit examples in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) of people being resurrected from the dead:

  • The prophet Elijah prays and God raises a young boy from death (1 Kings 17:17-24)
  • Elisha raises the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:32-37); this was the very same child whose birth he previously foretold (2 Kings 4:8-16)
  • A dead man's body that was thrown into the dead Elisha's tomb is resurrected when the body touches Elisha's bones (2 Kings 13:21)

According to Herbert C. Brichtothe, writing in Reform Judaism's Hebrew Union College Annual, the family tomb is the central concept in understanding biblical views of the afterlife. Brichtothe states that it is "not mere sentimental respect for the physical remains that is...the motivation for the practice, but rather an assumed connection between proper sepulture and the condition of happiness of the deceased in the afterlife" According to Brichtothe, the early Israelites apparently believed that the graves of family, or tribe, united into one, and that this unified collectivity is to what the Biblical Hebrew term Sheol refers. Although not well defined in the Tanakh, Sheol in this view was a subterranean underworld where the souls of the dead went after the body died. The Babylonians had a similar underworld called Aralu, and the Greeks had one known as Hades. For biblical references to Sheol see Genesis 42:38, Isaiah 14:11, Psalm 141:7, Daniel 12:2, Proverbs 7:27 and Job 10:21,22, and 17:16, among others. According to Brichtothe, other Biblical names for Sheol were: Abaddon (ruin), found in Psalm 88:11, Job 28:22 and Proverbs 15:11; Bor (the pit), found in Isaiah 14:15, 24:22, Ezekiel 26:20; and Shakhat (corruption), found in Isaiah 38:17, Ezekiel 28:8.[11]

Christianity[edit]

In Christianity, resurrection most critically concerns the Resurrection of Jesus, but also includes the resurrection of Judgment Day known as the Resurrection of the Dead by those Christians who subscribe to the Nicene Creed (which is the majority or Mainstream Christianity), as well as the resurrection miracles done by Jesus and the prophets of the Old Testament. Some churches distinguish between raising the dead (a resumption of mortal life) and a resurrection (the beginning of an immortal life).

Resurrection of Jesus[edit]

Christians regard the resurrection of Jesus as the central doctrine in Christianity. Others take the Incarnation of Jesus to be more central; however, it is the miracles – and particularly his Resurrection – which provide validation of his incarnation. According to Paul, the entire Christian faith hinges upon the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope for a life after death. The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:

"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep."[12]

Resurrection miracles[edit]

The Resurrection of Lazarus, painting by Leon Bonnat, France, 1857.

During the Ministry of Jesus on earth, before his death, Jesus commissioned his Twelve Apostles to, among other things, raise the dead.[13] In the New Testament, Jesus is said to have raised several persons from death. These resurrections included the daughter of Jairus shortly after death, a young man in the midst of his own funeral procession, and Lazarus, who had been buried for four days. According to the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus's resurrection, many of those previously dead came out of their tombs and entered Jerusalem, where they appeared to many.

Similar resurrections are credited to Christian apostles and saints. Peter allegedly raised a woman named Dorcas (called Tabitha), and Paul the Apostle revived a man named Eutychus who had fallen asleep and fell from a window to his death, according to the book of Acts. Proceeding the apostolic era, many saints were said to resurrect the dead, as recorded in Orthodox Christian hagiographies.[citation needed]

Most Christians understand these miraculous resurrections to be of a different nature than the resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of the dead.[14] The raising of Lazarus and others from the dead could also be called "resuscitations" or "reanimations", since the life given to them is presumably temporary in nature—there is no suggestion in the Bible or hagiographic traditions that these people became truly immortal. In contrast, the resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of the dead will abolish death once and for all (see Isaiah 25:8, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 2 Timothy 1:10, Revelation 21:4).

Resurrection of the Dead[edit]

Christianity started as a religious movement within 1st-century Judaism (late Second Temple Judaism), and it retains the Pharisaic belief in the afterlife and Resurrection of the Dead. Whereas this belief was only one of many beliefs held about the World to Come in Second Temple Judaism, and was notably rejected by the Sadducees, this belief became dominant within Early Christianity and soon included an insistence on the resurrection of the flesh, against gnostic teachings that flesh was evil. Most modern Christian churches continue to uphold the belief that there will be a final Resurrection of the Dead and World to Come, perhaps as prophesied by the Apostle Paul when he said: "...he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world..." (Acts 17:31 KJV) and "...there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." (Acts 24:15 KJV).

Belief in the Resurrection of the Dead, and Jesus's role as judge, is codified in the Apostles' Creed, which is the fundamental creed of Christian baptismal faith. The Book of Revelation also makes many references about the Day of Judgment when the dead will be raised up.

Platonic philosophy[edit]

In Platonic philosophy and other Greek philosophical thought, at death the soul was said to leave the inferior body behind. The idea that Jesus was resurrected spiritually rather than physically even gained popularity among some Christian teachers, whom the author of 1 John declared to be antichrists. Similar beliefs appeared in the early church as Gnosticism. However, in Luke 24:39, the resurrected Jesus expressly states "behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."

Islam[edit]

Belief in the "Day of Resurrection", Yawm al-Qiyāmah (Arabic: يوم القيامة‎) is also crucial for Muslims. They believe the time of Qiyāmah is preordained by God but unknown to man. The trials and tribulations preceding and during the Qiyāmah are described in the Qur'an and the hadith, and also in the commentaries of scholars. The Qur'an emphasizes bodily resurrection, a break from the pre-Islamic Arabian understanding of death.[15]

Zen Buddhism[edit]

There are stories in Buddhism where the power of resurrection was allegedly demonstrated in Chan or Zen tradition. One is the legend of Bodhidharma, the Indian master who brought the Ekayana school of India to China that subsequently became Chan Buddhism.

The other is the passing of Chinese Chan master Puhua (J., Fuke) and is recounted in the Record of Linji (J., Rinzai). Puhua was known for his unusual behavior and teaching style so it is no wonder that he is associated with an event that breaks the usual prohibition on displaying such powers. Here is the account from Irmgard Schloegl's "The Zen Teaching of Rinzai".

"One day at the street market Fuke was begging all and sundry to give him a robe. Everybody offered him one, but he did not want any of them. The master [Linji] made the superior buy a coffin, and when Fuke returned, said to him: "There, I had this robe made for you." Fuke shouldered the coffin, and went back to the street market, calling loudly: "Rinzai had this robe made for me! I am off to the East Gate to enter transformation" (to die)." The people of the market crowded after him, eager to look. Fuke said: "No, not today. Tomorrow, I shall go to the South Gate to enter transformation." And so for three days. Nobody believed it any longer. On the fourth day, and now without any spectators, Fuke went alone outside the city walls, and laid himself into the coffin. He asked a traveler who chanced by to nail down the lid.

The news spread at once, and the people of the market rushed there. On opening the coffin, they found that the body had vanished, but from high up in the sky they heard the ring of his hand bell."[16]

Disappearances (as distinct from resurrection)[edit]

As knowledge of different religions has grown, so have claims of bodily disappearance of some religious and mythological figures. In ancient Greek religion, this was a way the gods made some physically immortal, including such figures as Cleitus, Ganymede, Menelaus, and Tithonus.[17] In his chapter on Romulus from Parallel Lives, Plutarch criticises the continuous belief in such disappearances, referring to the allegedly miraculous disappearance of the historical figures Romulus, Cleomedes of Astypalaea, and Croesus. In ancient times pagan similarities were explained by the early Christian writers, such as Justin Martyr, as the work of demons and Satan, with the intention of leading Christians astray.[18]

In somewhat recent years it has been learned that Gesar, the Savior of Tibet, at the end, chants on a mountain top and his clothes fall empty to the ground.[19] The body of the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev, is said to have disappeared and flowers were left in place of his dead body.

Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern lists many religious figures whose bodies disappear, or have more than one sepulchre.[20] B. Traven, author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, wrote that the Inca Virococha, walked away on the top of the sea and vanished.[21] It has been thought that teachings regarding the purity and incorruptibility of the hero's human body are linked to this phenomenon. Perhaps, this is also to deter the practice of disturbing and collecting the hero's remains. They are safely protected if they have disappeared.[22]

The first such case mentioned in the Bible is that of Enoch (son of Jared, great-grandfather of Noah, and father of Methuselah). Enoch is said to have lived a life where he "walked with God", after which "he was not, for God took him". (Genesis 5:1-18)[23] In Deuteronomy (34:6) Moses is secretly buried. Elijah vanishes in a whirlwind 2 Kings (2:11). After hundreds of years these two earlier Biblical heroes suddenly reappear, and are seen walking with Jesus, then again vanish. Mark (9:2-8), Matthew (17:1-8) and Luke (9:28-33). The last time he is seen, Luke (24:51) alone tells of Jesus leaving his disciples by ascending into the sky.

Zombies[edit]

A zombie (Haitian Creole: zonbi; North Mbundu: nzumbe) can be either a fictional undead monster or a person in an entranced state believed to be controlled by a bokor or wizard. These latter are the original zombies, occurring in the West African Vodun religion and its American offshoots Haitian Vodou and New Orleans Voodoo.

Zombies became a popular device in modern horror fiction, largely because of the success of George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead[24] and they have appeared as plot devices in various books, films and in television shows. Zombie fiction is now a sizable sub-genre of horror, usually describing a breakdown of civilization occurring when most of the population become flesh-eating zombies – a zombie apocalypse. The monsters are usually hungry for human flesh, often specifically brains. Sometimes they are victims of a fictional pandemic illness causing the dead to reanimate or the living to behave this way, but often no cause is given in the story.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gregory of Nyssa: "On the Soul and the Resurrection:" However far from each other their natural propensity and their inherent forces of repulsion urge them, and debar each from mingling with its opposite, none the less will the soul be near each by its power of recognition, and will persistently cling to the familiar atoms, until their concourse after this division again takes place in the same way, for that fresh formation of the dissolved body which will properly be, and be called, resurrection". Ccel.org. 
  2. ^ As in the Apostle's Creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting."; Catholic Encyclopedia: General Resurrection: "Resurrection is the rising again from the dead, the resumption of life. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) teaches that all men, whether elect or reprobate, "will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear about with them" (chapter "Firmiter"). In the language of the creeds and professions of faith this return to life is called resurrection of the body (resurrectio carnis, resurrectio mortuoram, anastasis ton nekron) for a double reason: first, since the soul cannot die, it cannot be said to return to life; second the heretical contention of Hymeneus and Philitus that the Scriptures denote by resurrection not the return to life of the body, but the rising of the soul from the death of sin to the life of grace, must be excluded."
  3. ^ Symes, R. C. "According to Paul of Tarsus, the resurrection transformed Jesus into the Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world. Christ's resurrected body was not a resuscitated physical body, but a new body of a spiritual/celestial nature: the animal body comes first and then the spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:46). Paul never says that the earthly body becomes immortal.". religioustolerance.org. 
  4. ^ "Watchtower Society claims that Jesus did not raise His physical human body, but rather an invisible spirit—the archangel Michael. They state: "...in his resurrection he ‘became a life-giving spirit.’ That was why for most of the time he was invisible to his faithful apostles... He needs no human body any longer... The human body of flesh, which Jesus Christ laid down forever as a ransom sacrifice, was disposed of by God’s power."—"Things in Which it is Impossible for God to Lie". 4Jehovah.org. pp. 332, 354. 
  5. ^ "Resurrection Theories". Gospel-mysteries.net. Retrieved 2013-05-04. 
  6. ^ Sir James Frazer (1922). The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion Ware: Wordsworth 1993.
  7. ^ Jonathan Z. Smith "Dying and Rising Gods" in Mircea Eliade (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion: Vol. 3. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan 1995: 521-27.
  8. ^ Mettinger, Riddle of Resurrection, 55-222.
  9. ^ Erwin Rohde Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the Greeks. New York: Harper & Row 1925 [1921]; Dag Øistein Endsjø. Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009.
  10. ^ "Acts 17:30-32". Biblegateway.com. Retrieved 2013-05-04. 
  11. ^ Herbert Chanon Brichto "Kin, Cult, Land and Afterlife – A Biblical Complex", Hebrew Union College Annual 44, p.8 (1973)
  12. ^ "Corinthians 15:19-20". Biblegateway.com. Retrieved 2013-05-04. 
  13. ^ Not in the Great Commission of the resurrected Jesus, but only in the so-called Lesser Commission of Matthew, specifically Matthew 10:8.
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ See:
    • "Resurrection", The New Encyclopedia of Islam (2003)
    • "Avicenna". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. : Ibn Sīnā, Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAbd Allāh b. Sīnā is known in the West as "Avicenna".
    • L. Gardet. "Qiyama". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. 
  16. ^ Schloegl, Irmgard; tr. "The Zen Teaching of Rinzai". Shambhala Publications, Inc., Berkeley, 1976. Page 76. ISBN 0-87773-087-3.
  17. ^ Erwin Rohde Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the Greeks. New York: Harper & Row 1966.[1921]; Dag Øistein Endsjø. Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009.
  18. ^ Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho (ca 147-161 A.D.) Catholic University Press, 2003
  19. ^ Alexandra David-Neel,and Lama Yongden, The Superhuman Life of Gesar of Ling, Rider, 1933, While still in oral tradition, it is recorded for the first time by an early European traveler.
  20. ^ Otto Rank, Lord Raglan, and Alan Dundes, In Quest of the Hero, Princeton University Press, 1990
  21. ^ B. Traven, The Creation of the Sun and Moon, Lawerence Hill Books, 1977
  22. ^ See: Michael Paterniti, Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain, The Dial Press, 2000
  23. ^ Genesis 5:18-24
  24. ^ Smith, Neil (March 7, 2008). "Zombie maestro lays down the lore". London: BBC News. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews by Kevin J. Madigan and Jon D. Levenson. New Haven: Yale University Press,2008
  • Dag Øistein Endsjø. Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
  • Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov. Philosophy of Physical Resurrection 1906.
  • Edwin Hatch. Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church (1888 Hibbert Lectures).
  • Alfred J Hebert. Raised from the Dead: True Stories of 400 Resurrection Miracles
  • Lange, Dierk. "The dying and the rising God in the New Year Festival of Ife", in: Lange, Ancient Kingdoms of West Africa, Dettelbach: Röll Vlg. 2004, pp. 343–376.
  • Richard Longenecker, editor. Life in the Face of Death: The Resurrection Message of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
  • Joseph McCabe Myth of the Resurrection and Other Essays, Prometheus books, New York, 1993, originally printed in 1925 and 1926
  • Tryggve Mettinger. The Riddle of Resurrection: "Dying and Rising Gods" in the Ancient Near East, Stockholm: Almqvist 2001.
  • Markus Mühling. Grundinformation Eschatologie. Systematische Theologie aus der Perspektive der Hoffnung. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007, ISBN 978-3-8252-2918-4, 242–262.
  • George Nickelsburg. Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertestmental Judaism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972.
  • Pheme Perkins. Resurrection: New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1984.
  • Erwin Rohde Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the Greeks. New York: Harper & Row, 1925 [1921].
  • Charles H. Talbert. "The Concept of Immortals in Mediterranean Antiquity", Journal of Biblical Literature, Volume 94, 1975, pp 419–436
  • Charles H. Talbert. "The Myth of a Descending-Ascending Redeemer in Mediterranean Antiquity", New Testament Studies, 22, 1975/76, pp 418–440
  • Frank J. Tipler (1994). The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-19-851949-4. 

External links[edit]