Resurrection is without doubt one of the chief events of not just the New Testament, but in all history. In NT211 Introducing the Gospels and Acts, Darrell Bock goes beyond a theological analysis of the resurrection event and dives into resurrection philosophy in Judaism and Graeco-Roman society, Second Temple literature, messianic expectations, and more. He gives a comprehensive survey of all the issues surrounding resurrection in the Gospels to help ground you with an understanding of the text’s background—both literary, historical, and philosophical.
In the section on resurrection (which is just one of many in NT211 Introducing the Gospels and Acts), Bock begins by assessing Judaic and Graeco-Roman philosophy on the matter. He notes that, while the Jews had some expectation or hope of physical resurrection, Graeco-Roman philosophy suggested, at best, a sort of spiritual after-life. It is important to note that the news of the resurrection of Christ came from the Jews and was injected into a society that had no category for this sort of event.
The Jewish context is set colorfully by 2 Maccabees 7. As an overview of the context of this passage Bock says,
Let me set the scene for you. This is during the Maccabean war, and during the Maccabean war, martyrs are coming forward who will defend their right to practice the law in the face of the Syrian attempt—Antiochus Epiphanes’ attempt—to wipe out the law from the culture. And so people are being martyred for their faithfulness. In one particular scene in 2 Maccabees 7, seven brothers are being executed in front of their mother, and we get the portrayal of what this execution was like in this text.
He goes on, quoting from the passage in 2 Maccabees, to tell how, when threatened with brutal dismemberment and execution, one of the persecuted claims that, though their body may be destroyed, the King of the universe will vindicate them, and they may receive their members back in a future resurrection. It is this expectant hope of a resurrection—not just a spiritual after-life, but a physical one—which sets such a vivid backdrop to the first true resurrection in the New Testament.
Some will of course claim that the resurrection event is fabricated. However, we have methods of determining the truth of these events, one of which is the criterion of embarrassment. To introduce this idea, Bock cites the passage in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus speaks plainly of his need to suffer and die. This idea of a suffering messiah is contrary to the Jewish expectation of a conquering one, so Peter opens his mouth to correct Jesus. At this point, Jesus rebukes Peter strongly—perhaps as strongly as he could have done, calling him Satan. If this story were fabricated by the early church, why would they embarrass their figurehead, Peter, by humiliating him so? This is one of many details in the story which have a ring of truth to them, and help us proclaim the true resurrection of the Messiah.
Bock goes on to discuss resurrection in the Old Testament and intertextuality, diving into Psalm 118:22, 110:1, Isaiah 52:12-53:13, and Psalm 16. In NT211 there are also major sections dealing specifically with resurrection in all four Gospels, and the credibility of the stories, looking at aspects such as immediate burial, the lack of a family tomb, women as witnesses, the incredulity of the disciples, and more.
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