MEANING, SIGNIFICANCE AND INTERPRETATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESURRECTION


Christians regard Resurrection as a fate that awaits all Christian faithful. They believe that the crucified Jesus was resurrected by God, and that by submitting to death, Jesus destroyed death’s power and made eternal life available to everyone, unlike other religions which said immortality was something that was available only to Gods. Consequently, death became a phase that people passed through rather than something that was feared.

Christianity introduced “eternal life,” something that clearly appealed to new converts. Instead of worshiping the spirit of a dead hero, Christians worship a living Christ that was resurrected in the flesh and ascended to heaven as a living person. The burial rite and safekeeping of the tomb for early Christians was important because it was believed the soul would rise to heaven just as Jesus's had done during resurrection.

Paul wrote in Corinthians: “If Christ had not been raised, then our preaching is empty, and your faith is empty.” This seems say in part that one reason the Resurrection is important is that Jesus said he would rise from the dead. If he didn’t he would have been branded a liar and his credibilty on other issues would be questioned.

No other Biblical figures rose from the dead. The prophets Elijah and Enoch ascended to heaven (presumably while alive) but Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David and Solomon all died. After the Maccabean revolt in 167 B.C. is when the concept of resurrection surfaced among the Jews. The belief in the Resurrection is what is believed to have been what motivated early Christians to keep their faith against the persecution of the Romans.

The idea of a resurrection was somewhat new. In other religions such as Hinduism and Greek paganism, the soul and the body were viewed as distinct and the afterlife was seen in terms of separation of the soul and body rather than resurrection of the dead.

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity britannica.com//Christianity ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/christ.htm ; History of Christianity history-world.org/jesus_christ ; BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Early Christian Writing earlychristianwritings.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Christian Answers christiananswers.net ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ; Early Christian Art oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/Early_Christian_art ; Early Christian Images jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images belmont.edu/honors/byzart2001/byzindex ; Jesus and the Historical Jesus ; Britannica on Jesus britannica.com Jesus-Christ ; Historical Jesus Theories earlychristianwritings.com ; Wikipedia article on Historical Jesus Wikipedia ; Jesus Seminar Forum virtualreligion.net ; Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ bible.org ; Jesus Central jesuscentral.com ; Catholic Encyclopedia: Jesus Christ newadvent.org ; Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org

Meaning of the Resurrection

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “The belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead became the foundation of the early Christian Church. What the early Christians made of the resurrection can be gleaned from the letters of St Paul, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. It is a complex picture: did the early Christians believe that Jesus had undergone a spiritual or physical resurrection? The earliest sources are the letters of St Paul. His belief in the resurrection of Jesus is based on a vision of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Like the letters of St Paul, the Gospel writers also report appearances of Jesus to the disciples. But the evangelists also report the story of the empty tomb - the discovery of the disappearance of the corpse of Jesus from his tomb on the third day after his crucifixion. The clear implication from this account is that the early Christians took Jesus to have been physically raised from the dead. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]


“That in itself would have been hailed as a miracle. But a series of religious experiences convinced the early Christians that the resurrection meant much more than that. First, Jesus was the divine son of God. The Acts of the Apostles reports that during the feast of Pentecost the disciples were gathered together when they heard a loud noise like a wind from heaven, and saw tongues of fire descend on them. The Bible says they were filled with the Holy Spirit - and they took that as a sign that Jesus had been resurrected by God. The experience brought about a sudden and powerful transformation in the disciples. Until then Jesus had been a memory. Now for the first time Jesus became the focus of something unprecedented. A new faith flickered into life, a faith that worshipped Jesus as the son of God. |::|

“Another meaning attached to the miracle of the resurrection is that it conferred eternal life to Christians. At the time Jews believed that there would be an after-life - but only at the very end of time. Some Jews believed that at the last judgement the dead would be resurrected, and that it would begin in the cemetery on the Mt of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem. But the dead would have to wait an eternity before they could taste resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. There was no need to wait for the last judgement. If Jesus could conquer death so could others. All one had to do is commit completely to Jesus and follow his path. This would be the new way to an eternal life. |::|

“This meaning gave the early Christians - and Christians throughout history - the strength to endure suffering. The Romans executed thousands of Christian martyrs but the resurrection of Jesus gave people renewed hope. If his resurrection signified victory over death - if it meant eternal life - then death could hold no terror. Because of what the resurrection symbolised, Christian martyrs like St Peter and St Paul were fearless in the face of such persecution.” |::|

Impact of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is the defining moment in the history of Christianity. The gospels claim that because he executed and was physically resurrected, Jesus had to be the Son of God. Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “And on the back of that belief, a great world religion was built. Without the feeding of the five thousand or the walking on water, we'd still have Christianity. But without the resurrection, it would be just a minor cult in first-century Judaism. This one miracle - more than any other - changed the world, and if the miracles are signs, then the resurrection is the most important sign of all. To understand it, we need to examine its effects. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009. Roberts is author the book“The Miracles of Jesus”. |::|]

“It begins with a young man's body hanging from a cross. His followers are leaderless and aimless. Their new movement which promised so much is now on the verge of extinction. Yet, days later, the belief began to spread that this man had risen from the dead. Not only does this idea take hold among his followers, it explodes into a movement that wins converts across the Roman empire. |::|

“Its missionaries are persecuted without mercy, but to the amazement of onlookers they seem unafraid of death, so strong is their belief in the resurrection of their leader. These Christians become martyrs in ever increasing numbers. Yet all the time their movement grows and grows, until it finally becomes the official religion of the Roman empire, sanctioned and nurtured by an emperor - Constantine - who becomes a Christian himself. What could account for that extraordinary transformation? What turned a tiny Jewish sect into a worldwide religion? |::|

Resurrection Story: Why Was It So Deeply Embraced


Professor L. Michael White told PBS: “How did the resurrection story get started? We have to remember that the gospels themselves and their full account of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus came a good bit after the fact, a full generation, in some cases perhaps even sixty years, two generations later. So those stories had a long time to evolve and develop. But we can see that they're based on some smaller units of oral tradition that had been circulating for many years before. We see this even in Paul's letters. Paul himself, remember, doesn't write a gospel. He actually doesn't tell us much about the life of Jesus at all. He never once mentions a miracle story. He tells us nothing about the birth. He never tells us anything about teaching in parables or any of those other typical features of the gospel tradition of Jesus. What Paul does tell us about is the death, and he does so in a form that indicates that he's actually reciting a well-known body of material. So when he tells us, "I received and I handed on to you," he's referring to his preaching, but he's also telling us that what he preaches, that is the material that he delivers, is actually developed through the oral tradition itself. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“Now one of the most important examples of this comes in the First Corinthian Letter. On two separate occasions in First Corinthians, he actually gives us snippets of early pieces of oral material which he repeats in a way, so as to remind his audience of what they've already heard. In other words, it presupposes that they will recognize this material. And because we can isolate it out of his letters, the way he describes, we then are able to reconstruct...what that early body of material would have looked like at a time before it's ever written down.Now one of these is First Corinthians 11 where Paul describes Jesus instituting the last supper. And that's one of the early pieces of oral material. The other one is First Corinthians 15 where Paul describes the story of the death, burial and resurrection. In First Corinthians 15, Paul's description of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the earliest account that we have in any written form. And it's clearly what Paul himself had heard and learned over a period of several years. So it's one of those little blocks of material in Paul's letters that pushes us that much farther back toward the historical time of Jesus. <>

“Now here's what he tells us, he says that Jesus died, was buried, was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, he relates it to prophecy. Then he says, "Jesus appeared". He doesn't tell us about the empty tomb. There's no reference to that part of the story at all. Instead he tells us Jesus appeared, first to Peter and then the twelve, next to 500 people, some of whom had already died by the time Paul heard the story. <>

“Now in each of these two cases it's interesting that we have information that we don't get anywhere else in the gospels tradition. So it's a unit of oral material that is very important to the development of the tradition.... <>

Did Early Christians Make Up the Resurrection

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: ““Did the early Christians, in their despair and disappointment, simply imagine it? Or were they witnesses to a genuine and unprecedented event in human history? Well, theologians set about the task in much the same way that we examine any remarkable or contentious event in our own time: by scrutinizing the motives and accounts of eyewitnesses who were there at the right place and time, and the reporters who mediate the eyewitness accounts to us. Did the eyewitnesses or the reporters make the story up? Who can we believe? [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009. Roberts is author the book“The Miracles of Jesus”. |::|]

According to Y-Jesus: “Jesus’ followers wrote that he appeared alive to them after his crucifixion and burial. They claim not only to have seen him but also to have eaten with him, touched him, and spent 40 days with him. So could this have been simply a story that grew over time, or is it based upon solid evidence? The answer to this question is foundational to Christianity. For if Jesus did rise from the dead, it would validate everything he said about himself, about the meaning of life, and about our destiny after death.” [Source: Y-Jesus]

Many skeptics have attempted to disprove the resurrection. Josh McDowell was one such skeptic who spent more than seven hundred hours researching the evidence for the resurrection. McDowell stated this regarding the importance of the resurrection: “I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, OR it is the most fantastic fact of history. McDowell later wrote his classic work, “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict,” documenting what he discovered.”

Paul’s View of the Resurrection


Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “Biblical theologians believe that the earliest written account of the resurrection, and of the resurrection appearances in particular, is in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, written around twenty years after the events described, even before Mark's Gospel. Paul includes his own encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus among Jesus' resurrection appearances. That encounter changed Paul's life, and changed the course of Christian history. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. — 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 |::|

“According to Paul, Jesus is said to have appeared to more than five hundred people in total. And that is the historical evidence on which the resurrection is based - an empty tomb and several dramatic appearances by the risen Jesus to his disciples. The idea that a man could be raised from the dead has been a stumbling block to many believers, and a source of scepticism to many unbelievers. Is it possible that the whole thing was based on a mistake? Did the women go to the wrong tomb? Did the disciples imagine the whole thing? |::|

“Well, the truth claims for the resurrection begin with the empty tomb, left vacant by the dead man who walked away. And there are tombs from the time of Jesus still left in Jerusalem. These have helped archaeologists to answer questions about some details, like the size and shape of the stone that was rolled away from the mouth of the tomb. But there are some scholars who regard the study of tombs like this as utterly irrelevant to any investigation into the resurrection. For them, the resurrection story falls down even before it reaches the tomb. According to this theory, the body of Jesus was never in the tomb in the first place. |::|

Paul on Jesus' Death and Resurrection

Paul wrote in First Corinthians: 1 Cor 15: 1 Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, 2 by which you are saved, if you hold it fast--unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed [Source: Revised Standard Version]

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Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio
“12 Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied

“20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 "For God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "All things are put in subjection under him," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one

“29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why am I in peril every hour? 31 I protest, brethren, by my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 33 Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals." 34 Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame

Paul on the Resurrection Body


Paul

Paul wrote in First Corinthians: 35 But some one will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" 36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. [Source: Revised Standard Version]

“42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven

“50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 55 "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain

Paul on the Coming of the Lord

Paul wrote in First Thessalonians: Chapter 4: 13 “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words.

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Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Chapter 5: 1 “But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When people say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

“12 But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit, 20 do not despise prophesying, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good, 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 25 Brethren, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brethren. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Sermon for the Resurrection of the Lord by Pope Innocent III:

Pope Innocent III (reigned 1198 to 1216) wrote: “Maria Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus" (Mark 16:1). Since we should carry out spiritually what we read that these women did corporeally, we should first consider what was done morally: these three women, what spices they bought, from whom they bought them and at what price, what they did then, and how they then anointed Jesus. [Source: Sermon of Pope Innocent III (No. 27 in Vat. lat. 700, 35vo-36vo), edited and translated by John C. Moore, "The Sermons of Pope Innocent III," Römische Historische Mitteilungen 36 (1994) 81-142), translated by Prof. John C. Moore of Hofstra University, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“These three women signify the three lives: lay, regular, and clerical. The life of laymen is active and secular; the life of religious is contemplative and spiritual; the life of clergy- men is rather mixed and shared, partly secular inasmuch as they possess worldly things and partly spiritual inasmuch as they administer divine things. ><

“These three lives are signified elsewhere in the gospel where it is said, there are two in the field, two at the mill, and two in bed, "One will be taken and the other left" (Luke 17:34-35). The mill, which turns constantly, signifies the world, which is always changing. One at the mill--these are the laity, who use worldly things, with great labor and difficulty. The bed signifies rest. Hence, in bed are the religious, who, having abandoned secular occupations, take delight in the leisure of contemplation. And in the field are the clerics who at other times rest in spiritual sweetness; just as those in a field are sometimes drooping while tending the crops, at other times taking delight in the shade of the trees. But in every order, some are good and some are bad. When it is said that one is taken and another is left, it is not referring to any particular order, since the good man is taken to glory and the bad man is left for punishment. Consequently, no one, regardless of his order, should despair, since he is able to be saved if he buys spices in order to anoint Jesus. For in every group, he who acts righteously is acceptable to God. ><

“These three lives, however, are also signified by the three men whom the prophet Ezechiel saw in a vision as saved, namely, Noah, Daniel, and Job (Ezechiel 14:14). Noah, who guided the ark in the flood, signifies the clergy who rule the church in this world. Daniel, who as a man in contemplation was free of all desires, signifies the religious who with total desire cling to the contemplation of heavenly things. Job, who had wife, off-spring, flocks, arms, servants and handmaidens, signifies the laity, who possess such things in this world. ><

“The spices, however, are the good works that sweetly perfume the heavens with the fragrance of virtues. Solomon speaks of these in the canticles: "Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its fragrance be wafted abroad" (Song of Songs 4:16). For the north wind, which is a cold wind, signifies the devil, who has been frozen in evil. It is also written that every evil is revealed by the north wind. The south wind, however, which blows warm, symbolizes the Holy Spirit, who inflames the minds of the faithful to love. For love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. The garden, however, is the soul, in which virtues have been planted like fruitful grasses. He says, therefore, that the north wind flees and the south wind comes, inasmuch as the devil departs and the Holy Spirit approaches; he blows upon the garden and inspires the soul, and so spices flow and good works come forth. ><

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Rafael's Ressureicao Cristo

“These spices are bought from him of whom James the apostle says, "Every best endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17). "Apart from me," he says, "you can do nothing" since "the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine" (John 15:4-5). Further, since he is not in want of our goods, as he is rich above all and in all things, it should be said that he demands and requires from us this set price alone, that in return for his benefactions, we offer him thanks and praise. If these proceed from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from genuine faith, he accepts them over gold and silver and precious gems. Beware, therefore, Christian, lest you believe that you have bought from him any good whatsoever at any other price, because if perchance you ascribe any good thing, whatever it may be, to your own merits and virtues, you do injury to him from whom all goods proceed. Rather, for all the good things received, offer praise and thanks to him from whom, in his mercy, you have received them. For what do you have that you will not have received? Consequently, you have completely discarded the arrogance of those who say, "Our lips are with us; who is our master?" (Psalm 11 [12]:5); since if perchance you should say this, you would return an indignity for every good thing. ><

“But as there are diverse women, so they make diverse ointments with which they anoint Jesus in different ways. Laymen should indeed take six kinds of spices to make the ointment, that is, the six works of piety that Christ will commend in judgment. "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me (Matt. 25:35-36). These sweet-smelling perfumes having been offered, Jesus himself shows how much he delights in their fragrance: "Come," he says, "O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:34). And for making this ointment from these spices, the oil of mercy is necessary. It is the same oil that the Samaritan poured on the wounds of the injured man so that he might cool the hot pain and sooth the tumors. If therefore you feel the heat of anger, the pain of hatred, or the tumor of pride, anoint Jesus with this ointment so that you may be healed, since nothing works better for avoiding the vices of the mind than good works. ><

“But Religious, who have renounced all possessions, although they do not have anything with which to make this ointment, should buy other perfumes from which to make their own ointment, namely prayer, meditation, and reading. Hence, the ingredients of devotion having been mixed, the unguent of contemplation may be made. However sweet it is, so much more fully does he pray who makes it. You secular men, however, are able to listen but cannot yet hear, since the animal-like man does not perceive those things that are in divine scripture just as another hears a song but does not perceive the melody. "O how abundant," he says, "is thy sweetness, which thou hast laid up for those who fear thee" (Psalm 30 [31]:20 [19]). That sweetness is partly tasted already by those who, although in the body on earth, are to some degree already in heaven in the spirit, saying with Paul, "Our conversation in heaven" (Phil. 3:20) is that manna hidden (Heb. 9:4) in the savoring of reading, meditation, and prayer. ><

“From these two ointments, however, the clergy should make a third ointment, so that now they sit at the feet of the Lord with Mary and listen to his word, now, with Martha, they are busy with many things (Luke 10:40) as they perform the works of charity. ><

“Moreover, the lay life should anoint the feet of Jesus, the regular life the head, and the clerical life the body. For the feet of Christ are the poor, the head is the divinity, and the body is the church, as is shown in many instances in scripture. Indeed, Jesus himself sits in heaven and his feet walk the earth. The poor of Christ are those whom the lay life, following the example of Mary Magdalene, should anoint with works of piety, as the prophet says, "Share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house, etc." (Isaiah 58:7). If you have done this, you have anointed the feet of Christ. The head of Jesus is understood to be his divinity, since according to the apostle, man is the head of woman, Christ is the head of man, and God is the head of Christ (I Cor. 11:3). This head, which is the principle of all things, the regular life should anoint with the ointment of contemplation so that, earthly things set aside, it may fly to heavenly things, ascending from virtue to virtue until it sees the God of gods in Zion. It asks, therefore; it seeks; and it knocks (cf. Luke 11:9). It asks by praying, it seeks by meditating, and it knocks by reading, so that it may learn the way, so that it may discover the life, and so that the truth may be opened to it. That very Jesus, our lord, who is your truth and life, is the way to those asking in humble and devout prayer, the life to those seeking in simple and discreet meditation, the truth to those knocking in faithful and diligent study. ><

“Moreover, the clerical life should anoint the body of Jesus, that is the church, supporting her equally with word and example (cf. Luke 24:19) so that it may imitate him who began to act and to teach. The man who has so acted and taught, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. ><

“Jesus wishes to be anointed with these ointments, Jesus who is for this very reason called Christ; that is, he is anointed not only by the father, who anoints him with oil, but [...?] also by his faithful, so that all may come together in the fragrance of their ointments. In the preeminent one who is blessed above all things, world without end. Amen. ><


David Jeselsohn's controversial ancient tablet


Ancient Tablet on the Messiah and Resurrection

Reporting from Jerusalem, Ethan Bronner wrote in the New York Times: “A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days. If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time. [Source: Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 6, 2008 /=\]

“The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era — in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone. It is written, not engraved, across two neat columns, similar to columns in a Torah. But the stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate. /=\

“Still, its authenticity has so far faced no challenge, so its role in helping to understand the roots of Christianity in the devastating political crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to increase. Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley, said that the stone was part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that Jesus could be best understood through a close reading of the Jewish history of his day. “Some Christians will find it shocking — a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology — while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism,” Mr. Boyarin said. /=\

“Given the highly charged atmosphere surrounding all Jesus-era artifacts and writings, both in the general public and in the fractured and fiercely competitive scholarly community, as well as the concern over forgery and charlatanism, it will probably be some time before the tablet’s contribution is fully assessed. It has been around 60 years since the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered, and they continue to generate enormous controversy regarding their authors and meaning. /=\

“The scrolls, documents found in the Qumran caves of the West Bank, contain some of the only known surviving copies of biblical writings from before the first century A.D. In addition to quoting from key books of the Bible, the scrolls describe a variety of practices and beliefs of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus. /=\

“How representative the descriptions are and what they tell us about the era are still strongly debated. For example, a question that arises is whether the authors of the scrolls were members of a monastic sect or in fact mainstream. A conference marking 60 years since the discovery of the scrolls will begin on Sunday at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where the stone, and the debate over whether it speaks of a resurrected messiah, as one iconoclastic scholar believes, also will be discussed.”/=\

Analysis of the Ancient Tablet on the Messiah and Resurrection

Ethan Bronner wrote in the New York Times: “Oddly, the stone is not really a new discovery. It was found about a decade ago and bought from a Jordanian antiquities dealer by an Israeli-Swiss collector who kept it in his Zurich home. When an Israeli scholar examined it closely a few years ago and wrote a paper on it last year, interest began to rise. There is now a spate of scholarly articles on the stone, with several due to be published in the coming months. “I couldn’t make much out of it when I got it,” said David Jeselsohn, the owner, who is himself an expert in antiquities. “I didn’t realize how significant it was until I showed it to Ada Yardeni, who specializes in Hebrew writing, a few years ago. She was overwhelmed. ‘You have got a Dead Sea Scroll on stone,’ she told me.” [Source: Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 6, 2008, /=\]

“Much of the text, a vision of the apocalypse transmitted by the angel Gabriel, draws on the Old Testament, especially the prophets Daniel, Zechariah and Haggai. Ms. Yardeni, who analyzed the stone along with Binyamin Elitzur, is an expert on Hebrew script, especially of the era of King Herod, who died in 4 B.C. The two of them published a long analysis of the stone more than a year ago in Cathedra, a Hebrew-language quarterly devoted to the history and archaeology of Israel, and said that, based on the shape of the script and the language, the text dated from the late first century B.C. /=\

“A chemical examination by Yuval Goren, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University who specializes in the verification of ancient artifacts, has been submitted to a peer-review journal. He declined to give details of his analysis until publication, but he said that he knew of no reason to doubt the stone’s authenticity. /=\

“It was in Cathedra that Israel Knohl, an iconoclastic professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, first heard of the stone, which Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur dubbed “Gabriel’s Revelation,” also the title of their article. Mr. Knohl posited in a book published in 2000 the idea of a suffering messiah before Jesus, using a variety of rabbinic and early apocalyptic literature as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. But his theory did not shake the world of Christology as he had hoped, partly because he had no textual evidence from before Jesus. /=\

“When he read “Gabriel’s Revelation,” he said, he believed he saw what he needed to solidify his thesis, and he has published his argument in the latest issue of The Journal of Religion. Mr. Knohl is part of a larger scholarly movement that focuses on the political atmosphere in Jesus’ day as an important explanation of that era’s messianic spirit. As he notes, after the death of Herod, Jewish rebels sought to throw off the yoke of the Rome-supported monarchy, so the rise of a major Jewish independence fighter could take on messianic overtones.” /=\

Contents of the Ancient Tablet on the Messiah and Resurrection

Ethan Bronner wrote in the New York Times: “In Mr. Knohl’s interpretation, the specific messianic figure embodied on the stone could be a man named Simon who was slain by a commander in the Herodian army, according to the first-century historian Josephus. The writers of the stone’s passages were probably Simon’s followers, Mr. Knohl contends. The slaying of Simon, or any case of the suffering messiah, is seen as a necessary step toward national salvation, he says, pointing to lines 19 through 21 of the tablet — “In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice” — and other lines that speak of blood and slaughter as pathways to justice. [Source: Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 6, 2008, /=\]

“To make his case about the importance of the stone, Mr. Knohl focuses especially on line 80, which begins clearly with the words “L’shloshet yamin,” meaning “in three days.” The next word of the line was deemed partially illegible by Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur, but Mr. Knohl, who is an expert on the language of the Bible and Talmud, says the word is “hayeh,” or “live” in the imperative. It has an unusual spelling, but it is one in keeping with the era. /=\

“Two more hard-to-read words come later, and Mr. Knohl said he believed that he had deciphered them as well, so that the line reads, “In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you.” To whom is the archangel speaking? The next line says “Sar hasarin,” or prince of princes. Since the Book of Daniel, one of the primary sources for the Gabriel text, speaks of Gabriel and of “a prince of princes,” Mr. Knohl contends that the stone’s writings are about the death of a leader of the Jews who will be resurrected in three days. /=\

“He says further that such a suffering messiah is very different from the traditional Jewish image of the messiah as a triumphal, powerful descendant of King David. “This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” he said as he sat in his office of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University. “Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story.” Ms. Yardeni said she was impressed with the reading and considered it indeed likely that the key illegible word was “hayeh,” or “live.” Whether that means Simon is the messiah under discussion, she is less sure. /=\

“Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Israeli Academy of Hebrew Language and emeritus professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at the Hebrew University, said he spent a long time studying the text and considered it authentic, dating from no later than the first century B.C. His 25-page paper on the stone will be published in the coming months. Regarding Mr. Knohl’s thesis, Mr. Bar-Asher is also respectful but cautious. “There is one problem,” he said. “In crucial places of the text there is lack of text. I understand Knohl’s tendency to find there keys to the pre-Christian period, but in two to three crucial lines of text there are a lot of missing words.” /=\

“Moshe Idel, a professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew University, said that given the way every tiny fragment from that era yielded scores of articles and books, “Gabriel’s Revelation” and Mr. Knohl’s analysis deserved serious attention. “Here we have a real stone with a real text,” he said. “This is truly significant.” Mr. Knohl said that it was less important whether Simon was the messiah of the stone than the fact that it strongly suggested that a savior who died and rose after three days was an established concept at the time of Jesus. He notes that in the Gospels, Jesus makes numerous predictions of his suffering and New Testament scholars say such predictions must have been written in by later followers because there was no such idea present in his day. “But there was, he said, and “Gabriel’s Revelation” shows it.” /=\

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons except last picture, Boston.com

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” users.ox.ac.uk ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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