SBL 2014 – Rhetoric and the New Testament

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Here is my paper presentation from SBL this past year in November at San Diego, CA. I had the honor of giving the very first paper for the “Rhetoric and the New Testament” section. I was very happy with how it went and with the feedback I received. I was also very thankful for my Ph.D. advisor, Ben Witherington III, coming to hear my paper. In addition, Greg Carey who presided over the session said at the end of the session, “Well, you’ve convinced me.” This affirmation has given me a lot of encouragement as I continue to seek this topic for my dissertation.

I welcome more feedback, positive and negative, so long as it is constructive.

The Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard (Part 4)

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This is Part 4 of a 4 Part series comparing the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard. In Part 1 we looked at the evidence that Bonhoeffer knew Kierkegaard’s work on ethics. In Part 2, we looked at Bonhoeffer’s ethics. Last time in Part 3, we looked at Kierkegaard’s ethics. Finally, here in Part 4, we will compare their approaches to ethics and draw our conclusions.

THE ETHICS OF BONHOEFFER AND KIERKEGAARD

Last time in Part 3, we examined Soren Kierkegaard’s approach to ethics. In sum, his ethics were (1) Existential and (2) had three progressive stages, namely the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious, the last of which he defines as a “teleological suspension of the ethical” which means that the ethical thing to do is to obey the will of God even if the action is unethical (e.g. Abraham sacrificing Isaac). In short, ethics for Kierkegaard was about the will of God. Now in Part 4, we will compare and contrast Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard’s approaches to ethics making our final conclusions.

COMPARISON AND CONTRAST

With regard to their similarities, Bonhoeffer’s foundational question, “What is the will of God?” in Ethics is quite similar to Kierkegaard’s teleological suspension of the ethical in Fear and Trembling. The preoccupation with obedience to God’s will in both approaches is inestimably noteworthy. This is by far the most important point of contact between their two approaches. Second, they both critique the traditional approaches to ethics; Bonhoeffer in explicitly naming and calling out the bankruptcy of these approaches and Kierkegaard in suspending them for the sake of the end goal.

With regard to their differences, Bonhoeffer’s approach is very communal – particularly seen in his for-othersness – whereas Kierkegaard’s is almost wholly individual – seen in his focus on Abraham the knight [singular] of faith. Second, their historical contexts are totally different. Bonhoeffer is reacting to one of the most extreme ethical dilemmas known to human history – Hitler and Nazism – while Kierkegaard is somewhat safe and sound in Denmark during a time void of world-wide war and calamity. Thirdly, Kierkegaard’s ethics are notably existential, whereas Bonhoeffer’s are Christocentric, ontological, and situational.

Overall, while there may be more differences between Bonhoeffer’s and Kierkegaard’s approaches to ethics, the two similarities carry far more weight than the differences. Thus, for this reason, we deduce that there is a strong similarity between the way Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Sǿren Kierkegaard approach ethics, particularly in relation to their preoccupation with obeying the will of God.

CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion, we have explored three questions concerning the points of contact between Bonhoeffer’s and Kierkegaard’s approaches to ethics. First, we asked “To what degree did Bonhoeffer interact with and know Kierkegaard’s works and in particular, are there any places where he speaks about Kierkegaard’s ethics?” To that we have answered definitively that Bonhoeffer did know and interact with Kierkegaard’s works and there is one place in particular where he even critiques Kierkegaard’s ethics.

Our second question followed as such: “What were Bonhoeffer’s and Kierkegaard’s approached to ethics?” To that we have answered that Bonhoeffer approached ethics Christologically, ontologically, situationally, perhaps apocalyptically, vicariously, and non-traditionally, whereas Kierkegaard did so existentially, progressively, non-traditionally, and teleologically.

Lastly, we asked the question: “What similarities and differences exist between their approaches?” To that we have answered and demonstrated that there are two robust similarities between their approaches and several minor points of dissimilarity.

But the question still remains, “Did Kierkegaard’s approach to ethics influence Bonhoeffer’s approach?” In light of this study, I think that it is safe to conclude that Kierkegaard did in fact influence Bonhoeffer’s approach to ethics, though the degree of influence seems somewhat indeterminate and ambiguous. The stark similarity of their emphasis upon obedience to the will of God seems to be the strongest indicator of influence. Moreover, the similarity of disregarding traditional approaches to ethics could be due to Kierkegaard’s influence upon Bonhoeffer; however it seems more probable that Bonhoeffer’s own situation is what sparked an intrigue to devise a new approach. In addition, the fact that Bonhoeffer so clearly critiques Kierkegaard’s stages in his letter to the Bethge’s may suggest that he in fact did not hold to Kierkegaardian ethics. Nevertheless, Bonhoeffer does not mention Kierkegaard’s teleological suspension of the ethical there and thus we do not have enough evidence to say that he did not hold to the ethical suspension. That would be an argument from silence. In light of this somewhat conflicting evidence, we can therefore conclude that to some degree Kierkegaard probably influenced Bonhoeffer’s approach to ethics, particularly regarding obedience to the will of God, though this influence was not without evaluation, critique, and contextualization to Bonhoeffer’s own needs in his own historical situation.


Bibliography

Backhouse, Stephen. Kierkegaard’s Critique of Christian Nationalism. New York: Oxford, 2011.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. Translated by Neville Horton Smith. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Letters and Papers from Prison. Edited by Eberhard Bethge. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953.

de Gruchy, John W. The Cambridge Companion to the Study of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Dooley, Mark. The Politics of Exodus: Kierkegaard’s Ethics of Responsibility. New York: Fordham, 2001.

Gordis, Robert. “The Faith of Abraham: A Note on Kierkegaard’s ‘Teleological Suspension of the Ethical.’” Judaism 25:4 (1976): 414-419.

Green, Clifford J. Bonhoeffer: A Theology of Sociality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.

Hoffman, Kevin. “Facing Threats to Earthly Felicity: A Reading of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.” Journal of Religious Ethics 34:3 (2006): 439-459.

Hough, Sheridan. “Kierkegaard’s Teleological Suspension is Not a Bride in Madison County.” Journal of Social Philosophy 31:2 (2000): 146-152.

Jolivet, Regis. Introduction to Kierkegaard. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co: 1946.

Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and Trembling. Edited by  C. Stephen Evans and Sylvia Walsh. Translated by Sylvia Walsh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Muggeridge, Malcolm. A Third Testament: A Modern Pilgrim Explores the Spiritual Wanderings of Augustine, Blake, Pascal, Tolstoy, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, and Dostoevsky. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004.

Rose, Tim. Kierkegaard’s Christocentric Theology. Burlington: Ashgate, 2001.

Stack, George J. Kierkegaard’s Existential Ethics. University, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1977.

Wand, J. W. C. The Minds behind the New Theology: Kierkegaard, Barth, Bultmann, Tillich, and Bonhoeffer. London: Mowbray, 1963.

Ziegler, Philip. “Christ For Us Today – Promeity in the Christologies of Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 15:1 (2013): 25-41.

Ziegler, Philip. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer – An Ethics of God’s Apocalypse?” Modern Theology 23:4 (2007): 579-594.

Sola Exegesis: Why Sola Scriptura Is Not Enough

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece

Sola Exegesis: Why Sola Scriptura Is Not Enough

At the time of the Reformation, there were two major battle cries among Protestants: Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) and Semper Reformanda (“Always reforming”). It is the former that I am concerned with here. Within Protestant circles today, clergy and laity alike claim to uphold the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, however in practice they have all but forgotten that the claim Sola Scriptura means Scripture alone rightly understood. It is my contention then that the only method by which we can rightly understand Scripture is through the method of Exegesis. For those that are unfamiliar with the term Exegesis, this is a method of biblical interpretation that draws out meaning from the text of Scripture instead of reads into the text what’s not there. Exegesis, then, seeks to understand the Bible within its original contexts – namely, the historical, literary, social, cultural, rhetorical, and linguistic contexts of the Bible in the ancient worlds of the Ancient Near East (OT) and the Greco-Roman world (NT) – in order to draw out its meaning. So in order to do Exegesis well, one must use a variety of critical approaches to interpretation such as the historical-critical method, literary criticism, rhetorical criticism, social-scientific criticism, source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, linguistics, etc.

I am, therefore, suggesting that Sola Scriptura is not enough, because the Bible needs interpreting and interpretation requires method. So I am proposing a new motto: Sola Exegesis – Exegesis alone! Only the method of Exegesis will help us rightly understand the Bible in it’s original contexts, and once rightly understood in it’s original contexts, then we can rightly appropriate it for us today in our 21st century context.

Another facet of Sola Exegesis is that the method of Exegesis should be the foundation for developing and understanding Biblical Theology, both Old and New Testament theology. So then, Exegesis is not for Exegesis’ sake, rather it leads us forward to theology; a movement from Exegesis to Theology. And this is not simply for Theology’s sake, rather biblical theology moves us to ministry and Christian living; from Exegesis to Theology to Ministry. This is the process, I believe, that guides the second cry of the Protestant Reformation, Semper Reformanda (“Always reforming”). So then, we do Exegesis…which forms our Theology…which shapes our Ministry…and then we do it over again. And again. And again. This is the ongoing process of Christian living and always reforming. But Sola Scriptura is not enough, because a method of biblical interpretation must be chosen; and I am choosing Exegesis. Will you join me in the journey, in this ongoing process of Christian living?

Together we can discover what the Old and New Testament emphasizes via Biblical Theology, and then we ourselves can emphasize what OT Jews and NT Christians emphasized in our lives and ministry as the body of Christ. Together, therefore, we can discover how Biblical Theology founded upon Biblical Exegesis should shape Christian preaching, teaching, evangelism, and ministry in our 21st century world. Will you join me?

Resources for Exegesis

Michael Gorman’s “Elements of Biblical Exegesis.” David Bauer’s “Inductive Bible Study.”

Resources for Biblical Theology

Ben Witherington’s “The Indelible Image” volumes 1 and 2

These resources can be found on www.amazon.com

The Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard (Part 3)

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This is Part 3 of a 4 Part series comparing the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard. In Part 1 we looked at the evidence that Bonhoeffer knew Kierkegaard’s work on ethics. Last time in Part 2, we looked at Bonhoeffer’s ethics. Here in Part 3, we will look at Kierkegaard’s ethics. Finally, in Part 4, we will compare their approaches to ethics and draw our conclusions.

THE ETHICS OF BONHOEFFER AND KIERKEGAARD

Last time in Part 2, we examined Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s approach to ethics. In sum, Bonhoeffer’s ethics were (1) Christocentric, (2) Virtue-Based, (3) Situational/Contextual, (4) Apocalyptic, (5) “for-others”, and (6) distinctly different from the traditional approaches to ethics, asking the question, “What is the will of God?” instead of “What is good?” Now in Part 3, we will move to exploring Kierkegaard’s approach to ethics.

KIERKEGAARD’S APPROACH TO ETHICS

First and foremost, Kierkegaard approached ethics as an existentialist and thus his ethics are classified as existential ethics.[1]

Secondly, Kierkegaard speaks of progressive stages of human morality and growth: (1) the aesthetic, (2) the ethical, and (3) the religious.

The first aesthetic stage is characterized by a love for pleasure and the sensuous, and is therefore the lowest of the three.[2]

The second ethical stage for Kierkegaard is better than the aesthetic stage, though is still somewhat disparaging in comparison to the religious stage. Here the person does their duty to what they know to be right or wrong.[3] This Kierkegaard says is good but falls short of the ultimate.

The third and ultimate stage then for him is the religious.[4] This is the stage that we find at work when we turn to his classic book called Fear and Trembling. In this religious stage, Kierkegaard addresses the issue of Abraham’s faith and God commanding him to offer his son Isaac on the altar. For Kierkegaard, Abraham in this OT story is “either at every moment a murderer or we are at the paradox that is higher than all mediations” (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 58). Thus, he fervently seeks to present a positive account for the morality of Abraham. In doing so, Kierkegaard concludes that there is a “teleological suspension of the ethical” (Fear and Trembling 49) [5]. This means that what would normally be classified by traditional approaches to ethics as murder – and thus unethical – is not the case with Abraham from Kierkegaard’s perspective. For starters, Abraham was commanded by God to do this. Thus, in this situation he says that Abraham is faced with a temptation to disobey God’s command. He says Abraham’s temptation here “is the ethical itself, which would keep him from doing God’s will” (Fear and Trembling 52). Further, he says, “what then is the duty? Well, the duty is precisely the expression for God’s will” (Fear and Trembling 52). Thus, Kierkegaard asserts that the ethical thing for Abraham to do is to obey God’s will in sacrificing his son even though traditional ethics condemn such an act. In this way, “the ethical” is suspended or momentarily set aside for the sake of the end goal, namely, to obey God.[6]

Thus, Kierkegaard denigrates the traditional approach to ethics, at least in regard to the issue of Abraham. To Kierkegaard, Abraham is the individual “knight of faith” who is a true hero of life and ethics, a model for humans to follow, one who obeys the will of God at all costs.

Next time in Part 4, we will compare and contrast Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard’s approaches to ethics and draw our conclusions.

End Notes

[1] See George J. Stack, Kierkegaard’s Existential Ethics (University, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1977) for a monograph on the assessment of Kierkegaard’s existential ethics.

[2] See Regis Jolivet, Introduction to Kierkegaard (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co: 1946), 124-133 for a chapter on the aesthetic stage.

[3] See Jolivet, Introduction, 134-142 for a chapter on the ethical stage.

[4] See Jolivet, Introduction, 143-201 for two chapters on the religious stage.

[5] He clearly states this at the telos of the discussion: “The story of Abraham contains, then, a teleological suspension of the ethical” (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 58).

[6] Some scholars critique Kierkegaard’s use of the biblical Abraham saying that his view is anachronistic. See Robert Gordis, “The Faith of Abraham: A Note on Kierkegaard’s ‘Teleological Suspension of the Ethical,’” Judaism 25:4 (1976): 414-419 for a short and unique article which does this very thing.

The Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard (Part 2)

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This is Part 2 of a 4 Part series comparing the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard. Last time in Part 1 we looked at the evidence that Bonhoeffer knew Kierkegaard’s work on ethics. Here in Part 2, we will look at Bonhoeffer’s ethics. Next in Part 3, we will look at Kierkegaard’s ethics. Finally, in Part 4, we will compare their approaches to ethics and draw our conclusions.

THE ETHICS OF BONHOEFFER AND KIERKEGAARD

Last time in Part 1, we examined the occurrences in Letters & Papers from Prison where Dietrich Bonhoeffer mentions Kierkegaard and his works. From this, we concluded that Bonhoeffer not only knew of Kierkegaard’s work, but indeed knew his work on ethics. Here in Part 2, we will now move to explore the details concerning Bonhoeffer’s approach to ethics.

BONHOEFFER’S APPROACH TO ETHICS

First and foremost, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ethics were Christocentric as was his theology and sociality. His Christocentric ethics then are worked out in three theological caveats of being conformed to Christ (German: Gestalt Christi): (1) the Incarnate Christ, (2) the Crucified Christ, and (3) the Risen Christ [Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 82-83].

Second, Bonhoeffer’s ethics are essentially ontological or virtue-based ethics. In Ethics, he says,

What is worse than doing evil is being evil. It is worse for a liar to tell the truth than of a lover of truth to lie. It is worse when a misanthropist practices brotherly love than when a philanthropist gives way to hatred. Better than truth in the mouth of the liar is the lie. Better than the act of brotherly love on the part of the misanthrope is hatred. One sin, then, is not like another. They do not all have the same weight. There are heavier sins and lighter sins. A falling away is of infinitely greater weight than a falling down. The most shining virtues of him who has fallen away are as black as night in comparison with the darkest lapses of the steadfast.”[Ethics 67]

Thus, he believes that who a person is on the inside is more important than what one does on the outside.

Third, Bonhoeffer approached ethics from situation to situation – often called situational ethics. For him, an ethical decision had to be determined based upon each given circumstance and changing situation. Every situation is different and thus demands different decisions. His extreme situation with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany can surely account for why he would opt to take this approach. Some would summarize this in saying desperate times call for desperate measures. This situational approach is also characterized as being relational.[1]

Fourth, a currently controversial and “unsettled” topic regarding Bonhoeffer’s ethics is whether or not they are apocalyptic [2]. I think that there is some warrant to this, though others may dissent.

Fifth, a focus of Bonhoeffer’s ethics is that they are “for-others.” A large part of his others-focused ethics comes from his sociality and the I-Thou relationship which he develops in Sanctorum Communio (The Communion of the Saints). Furthermore, some think that Bonhoeffer largely had in mind the Jews specifically and the world in general when he speaks of being “for-others.”

Sixth, Bonhoeffer critiques and dispenses with the six major approaches of ethicists throughout history to ethics: (1) reason, (2) moral fanaticism, (3) conscience, (4) duty, (5) free responsibility, and (6) silent virtue (Ethics 67-69). All of them, he says, are inadequate to deal with “the present struggle” [3] which most assuredly is a reference to him working out ethics of coup d’état and tyrannicide.

BONHOEFFER’S NEW WAY OF ETHICS

In dispensing with the primary approaches to ethics throughout history, he therefore must present a new approach and this is precisely what he does. The question of ethics he says is not, “How can I be good?” or “How can I do good?” (Ethics 186). Rather, he says, “instead of these he must ask the utterly and totally different question: ‘What is the will of God?’” (Ethics 186). Thus, in this way, Bonhoeffer approaches ethics in a totally unique way that had never been done before. For him, ethics therefore is about obeying God and living out his will. Moreover, this was not something for the individual alone to do, but rather obeying God’s will as a definition for the ethical life is something for the community and the people of God.

Next time in Part 3, we will take a look at Soren Kierkegaard’s approach to ethics which is quite similar to Bonhoeffer.

End Notes

[1] Larry Rasmussen calls this “his relational, contextual ethic.” See John W. de Gruchy, The Cambridge Companion to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 221.

[2] See Philip Ziegler, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer – An Ethics of God’s Apocalypse?” MT 23:4 (2007): 579-594 for a detailed discussion.

[3] Clifford J. Green, Bonhoeffer: A Theology of Sociality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 306.

The Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard (Part 1)

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This is Part 1 of a 4 Part series comparing the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard. Here in Part 1 we will look at the evidence that Bonhoeffer knew Kierkegaard’s work on ethics. In Part 2, we will look at Bonhoeffer’s ethics. In Part 3, we will look at Kierkegaard’s ethics. Finally, in Part 4, we will compare their approaches to ethics and draw our conclusions.

THE ETHICS OF BONHOEFFER AND KIERKEGAARD

Many points of contact exist between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Sǿren Kierkegaard.[1] One of these, I believe, happens to be their approach to ethics. In surveying the secondary literature, little ground seems to have been broken comparing their ethical approaches.[2] Thus, in this paper, I will venture to pioneer such a study by comparing Bonhoeffer’s and Kierkegaard’s approaches to ethics. In doing so, I will first ask the question, “To what degree did Bonhoeffer interact with and know Kierkegaard’s works and in particular, are there any places where he speaks about Kierkegaard’s ethics?” After answering this question, I will subsequently seek to answer the question, “What were their approaches to ethics?” Lastly, I will conclude by comparing and contrasting their approaches and determine whether there are points of agreement or disagreement in their approaches. Overall, I will argue (1) that Bonhoeffer knew of Kierkegaard’s ethics and (2) that Kierkegaard’s approach to ethics influenced Bonhoeffer’s approach to a limited extent.

METHOD AND PURVIEW

With regard to my methods and approach to this study, I will default to using primary sources, particularly English translations of Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison and Ethics and an English translation of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. In light of this, with regard to my purview, I will limit my scope of interacting with secondary sources in this study for two reasons. First, very little literature has been written upon this topic. Secondly, I have limited space and time in this study and thus must raze this paper down to the bare minimum.[3]

BONHOEFFER’S INTERACTION WITH KIERKEGAARD

To begin, I will first examine to what degree Bonhoeffer interacted with and knew Kierkegaard’s works and in particular his ethics. To do so, I will explore all the occurrences where Bonhoeffer cites Kierkegaard in his prison works and attempt to assess whether he hints at knowledge of Kierkegaard’s ethics.[4] These occurrences all happen to be in the later time of Bonhoeffer’s life when he was incarcerated by the Nazis.

1. A Letter to His Parents

On October 31, 1943, Dietrich sent a letter to his parents from the prison at Tegel. Within this letter, he thanks his aged parents for coming and visiting him and for providing him with a parcel of bread. Furthermore, he mentions that it is “Reformation Day” and proceeds to expound upon what Martin Luther wanted to happen and how the public’s reaction to his action resulted in the opposite of what he wanted, that is, “insurrection, the Peasant’s War, and soon afterwards the gradual dissolution of all real cohesion and order in society.”[Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers from Prison (LPP), 123] Then, he talks about a debate he knew of among Lutheran scholars named Holl and Harnack concerning this issue. With pertinence for our study, he then mentions Sǿren Kierkegaard and his take on this subject. Bonhoeffer says,

As long as a hundred years ago Kierkegaard said that today Luther would say the opposite of what he said then. I think he was right with some reservations.” [Bonhoeffer, LPP, 123.]

Here, we see the first mention of Kierkegaard among Bonhoeffer’s prison writings. We can glean from this first of all that Bonhoeffer did know of Kierkegaard. However, this statement is so brief and lacks a context which speaks to ethics. Thus, from this letter to his parents, we cannot conclude that Bonhoeffer knew of Kierkegaard’s ethics.

2. A Letter to Renate and Eberhard Bethge

Next, on January 23, 1944, Bonhoeffer sends a letter to his beloved relatives, Renate and Eberhard Bethge. Within this letter he writes about many things at length. However, pertinent to this study is that he again refers to Kierkegaard. In discussing the recovery of the four mandates of art, education, friendship, and play in the church, he says of Kierkegaard,

I wonder whether it is possible (it almost seems so today) to regain the idea of the church as providing an understanding of the area of freedom (art, education, friendship, play), so that Kierkegaard’s ‘aesthetic existence’ would not be banished from the church’s sphere, but would be re-established within it?”[Bonhoeffer, LPP, 193]

This seems to be somewhat of a critique of Kierkegaard and his base stage of human ethics, namely, the aesthetic. Bonhoeffer goes on further to critique even Kierkegaard’s second level of ethics, namely, the ethical stage. He says,

Who is there, for instance, in our times, who can devote himself with an easy mind to music, friendship, games, or happiness? Surely not the ‘ethical’ man, but only the Christian.”[Bonhoeffer, LPP, 193]

This seems to be a further critique of Kierkegaard’s stages. Bonhoeffer seems to be saying that Kierkegaard’s final and highest stage – the religious stage – is the only place where freedom and the four mandates can find their place in church and society again, whereas Kierkegaard would have disparaged the mandates in ranking them at the aesthetic stage. In other words, Bonhoeffer is saying that only Christians (i.e. the religious) can experience the freedom of art, education, friendship, and play contra Kierkegaard who would disparage them altogether.

Thus, again we conclude that Bonhoeffer knew Kierkegaard’s work. However, in this letter, we see Bonhoeffer interacting with Kierkegaard’s ethics, not only that, but even critiquing them and purposing an alternative view. This indicates that Bonhoeffer did in fact know Kierkegaard’s ethics, but whether or not they influenced Bonhoeffer is another point entirely. Determining this from this particular letter is cannot be achieved since he combats his view rather than embraces it.

3. A Letter to Eberhard Bethge

Then, on March 9, 1944, Bonhoeffer writes a letter to Eberhard Bethge from Tegel prison. In the letter, he speaks of many things, yet fixates upon answering a remark from Bethge concerning “Michelangelo, Burckhardt, and hilaritas.”[Bonhoeffer, LPP, 229] He focuses upon the meaning of the Latin word hilaritas and says that it means more than “serenity, in the classical sense,” but is also a “high-spirited self-confidence.”[Bonhoeffer, LPP, 229] Within this discussion, he makes reference to Kierkegaard. Bonhoeffer says,

I admit that Michelangelo, Rembrandt and, at a considerable remove, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, are in quite a different category from those that I’ve mentioned. There is something less assertive, evident, and final in their works, less conviction, detachment, and humor. All the same, I think some of them are characterized by hilaritas in the sense that I’ve described, as a necessary attribute of greatness.”[Bonhoeffer, LPP, 229]

Thus, again we observe that Bonhoeffer did in fact know and interact with Kierkegaard. However, from this passage in LPP, there is no trace as to whether he is interacting with Kierkegaard’s ethics, let alone whether they influence his own.

4. A Letter to Eberhard Bethge

Lastly, on July 28, 1944, Dietrich composes another though rather short letter to Eberhard Bethge from Tegel. Here, he again addresses a theological issue that Bethge brought up. The issue concerns health and fortune in the Old and New Testaments as relates to suffering and the cross. Within his brief response, Bonhoeffer mentions Kierkegaard and how he thinks that the Old Testament view of blessing is mutually exclusive to the cross. He says,

Now is it right to set the Old Testament blessing against the cross? That is what Kierkegaard did. That makes the cross, or at least suffering, an abstract principle; and this is just what gives rise to an unhealthy Methodism, which deprives suffering of its element of contingency as a divine ordinance. It’s true that in the Old Testament the person who receives the blessing has to endure a great deal of suffering…but this never leads to the idea that fortune and suffering, blessing and cross are mutually exclusive and contradictory – nor does it in the New Testament. Indeed, the only difference between the Old and New Testaments in this respect is that in the Old the blessing includes the cross, and in the New the cross includes the blessing.”[Bonhoeffer, LPP, 374]

Thus, again Bonhoeffer clearly knows Kierkegaard’s works. However, there is no trace in this letter that Bonhoeffer is interacting with Kierkegaard’s ethics. Moreover, like the second letter we examined, Bonhoeffer again critiques Kierkegaard’s position on the topic at hand and presents his own view.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, in assessing these four letters from his time in Tegel prison, we can conclude that Bonhoeffer indeed knew of Kierkegaard and was versed enough in his writings to interact with his thought by memory without his books at hand. What is more, we can conclude that Bonhoeffer had some knowledge of Kierkegaard’s ethics, at least his three stages of the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious as we see in his letter to Renate and Eberhard Bethge. However, in this letter, we see Bonhoeffer critiquing Kierkegaard’s three stages and he sees some major problems with them, the effects of which were stretching all the way to the church and society of Bonhoeffer’s day. Thus, with this little though vital evidence, at this point, we can tentatively conclude that Kierkegaard’s approach to ethics did not influence Bonhoeffer’s. However, as we proceed and discuss the specifics of their approaches, this conclusion may or may not be warranted.

Next time in Part 2, we will look at the ethics of Bonhoeffer.


End Notes

[1] First, they were both Lutherans. Secondly, their theologies are Christocentric. See Tim Rose, Kierkegaard’s Christocentric Theology (Burlington: Ashgate, 2001) for a work on Kierkegaard’s Christocentric theology. Third, they both critiqued nationalism in their own times. See Stephen Backhouse, Kierkegaard’s Critique of Christian Nationalism (New York: Oxford, 2011) for a study on his critique of nationalism. Also, they both speak on ethics of responsibility. See Mark Dooley, The Politics of Exodus: Kierkegaard’s Ethics of Responsibility (New York: Fordham, 2001) for a book on Kierkegaard’s ethics of responsibility. Lastly, Kierkegaard and Bonhoeffer were used and abused in a similar way as founders of the secular theology of the 1960’s. See Bishop J. W. C. Wand, The Minds behind the New Theology: Kierkegaard, Barth, Bultmann, Tillich, and Bonhoeffer (London: A. R. Mowbray, 1963) for a brief study on Kierkegaard’s and Bonhoeffer’s “influence” on this new theology.

All of this goes to show that a massive amount of work has yet to be done in comparing Kierkegaard and Bonhoeffer. I believe that such a study would be profitable and would return abundant dividends, though such study has yet to be done.

[2] However, other similarities in their life and thought have been thoroughly explored. One is promeity within their Christology. See Philip Ziegler, “Christ For Us Today – Promeity in the Christologies of Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard,” IJST 15:1 (2013): 25-41 for a great article comparing their thought on Christ being for us.

[3] At some point, I hope to expand this paper into several chapters interacting with “commentaries” on Kierkegaard’s and Bonhoeffer’s ethics and produce an advanced and in depth study on their approaches to ethics. This however unfortunate cannot be done here.

[4] Note that Bonhoeffer mentions Kierkegaard in Christ the Center and in some of his sermons, but these are in his early years before Bonhoeffer undertakes the task of writing upon ethics. Thus, I will limit my scope here to his references to Kierkegaard during and after he writes ethics.

Easter Expectations (Part 4)

Fresco depicting the Resurrection in Notre Dame de Bayeux cathedral, Bayeux, Normandy, France, Europe

This is a 4 Part series exploring the question of resurrection expectations held by ancient Jews and the historical Jesus. The primary question of this study is, “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” In other words, did the historical Jesus expect his resurrection to be a unique event in history detached from the future general resurrection or did he expect it to be at the general resurrection? Before we can answer this question, we must first answer another: “What did ancient Jews expect of the resurrection of the dead and was there any connection with it to the Messiah?”


Previously in Part 1, we explored the ancient Jewish expectations of the resurrection before the time of Jesus and Paul within Intertestamental Judaism, also known as Second Temple Judaism – the time period between the Old and New Testaments.

Last time in Part 2, we continued exploring the ancient Jewish expectations of resurrection, only this time we looked at expectations during and after the time of Jesus and Paul. Here, I provided a summary and conclusions about resurrection expectations in ancient Jewish thought before, during, and after the time of Jesus and Paul.

All of this was laying the groundwork for our main question at hand – “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?”

In Part 3, we looked at Jesus’ view of his own resurrection.

Here in Part 4, we will look at Jesus’ view of the general resurrection, and then make our final judgment as to what the historical Jesus expected of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection.

Overall, I will argue that the historical Jesus expected his resurrection to be a unique and individual resurrection with no relationship to the general resurrection.


THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS

Here in Part 4, we now turn to explore what the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) claim that Jesus said about the general resurrection prior to his death.

Jesus on the General Resurrection

When examining what Jesus said about the general resurrection, there are only two passages in the Synoptics: the question about the resurrection and the last judgment. However, given the lack of the historicity of the last judgment in Matt 25:31-46, we will only examine the former.[1] In doing so, we will survey it and observe Jesus’ view regarding the nature, scope, number, agent, and time of the general resurrection. We will also report whether allusions to Messiah appear.

The Question about Resurrection

Matt 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40

In this passage, the Sadducees come to Jesus and ask him a question concerning the resurrection, particularly with regard to marriage in the resurrection. In doing so, they are trying to stump Jesus in his beliefs in the resurrection since the Sadducees do not. Jesus’ response to them is two-fold. First, he addresses the issue of marriage in the resurrection and then he addresses their unbelief in resurrection.

In analyzing his view of the general resurrection from his response, we can first decipher that the nature of it is bodily and is “like angels” in that the resurrected do not engage in marriage. Furthermore, he does not explicitly state what the scope of resurrection is, though the mention of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may indicate that Jesus is thinking of a resurrection of the righteous alone. In addition, the number seems to be both corporate and individual. The corporate dimensions are found in that Jesus frequently uses the plural, while the individual aspects come again from his mention of the three patriarchs. Also, Jesus asserts that God, being “not of the dead, but of the living,” is the agent of resurrection, that is, resurrection life comes from the living God. Concerning time, Jesus gives no reference as to when this general resurrection will occur. Lastly, there is no trace in the triple tradition here of Jesus making a connection between his resurrection and the general resurrection. Moreover, he makes no connection between resurrection and Messiah.

Below is a chart summarizing our study concerning the question about resurrection:

Nature Scope Number Agent Time Messiah
Bodily Righteous? Corporate & Individual God NOS No

Conclusions from the Question about Resurrection and the General Resurrection

Overall, the question about the resurrection only fulfills one criteria of authenticity, that is, it is multiply attested in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, it fails to fulfill the criterion of dissimilarity because here Jesus adopts a view of the general resurrection that is more or less consistent with ancient Jewish views, namely, that the general resurrection will be corporate and that no connection exists between resurrection and Messiah. Moreover, it seems to have some elements of theologizing upon the resurrection here, brief though it may be. Unlike the predictions above, the passages here give details about there being no marriage in the resurrection, describe the nature of resurrected persons being like angels, and expound upon what it means for God to be the God of the patriarchs.

For these reasons, then, we can only tentatively conclude that this Jesus saying on the question about the resurrection was from the historical Jesus, although with below moderate certainty. However, if we could conclude with stronger certainty that this came from the historical Jesus, then we would deduce that the historical Jesus here expected his resurrection to have no connection with the general resurrection.

CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion, we have thus far explored the question of resurrection expectations held by the ancient Jews and the historical Jesus. The first question we explored was, “What did the ancient Jews near the time of Jesus and Paul expect about the resurrection of the dead and was there a connection between the Messiah and resurrection?” We concluded that there was not a monolithic view on resurrection in this intertestamental period, though the majority of Jews believed in a bodily and corporate resurrection of the righteous with God as the agent and with no connection to the Messiah. The second and primary question that we asked was, “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” In exploring the three passion/resurrection prediction and the question about resurrection in the Synoptic Gospels, we have established the historicity and authenticity of these texts. In addition, we have discovered that what has made our task in this present study difficult is that we have relatively little extant information about what Jesus taught and said concerning his resurrection and the general resurrection. While Jesus probably taught more on resurrection than what we have in the Gospels, we unfortunately do not have any more extant evidence today.[2] Nevertheless, with the information that we do have, we have argued above that the historical Jesus expected his resurrection to be bodily in nature, unique and individual in number, shortly after his death, and a totally separate event from the general resurrection. Furthermore, this hypothesis fulfills the criteria of embarrassment, dissimilarity, multiple attestation, and the lack of theologizing in many places, and thus bolters our thesis concerning the historical Jesus’ resurrection expectations.[3]

 

POSTSCRIPT: FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION

What about the Parousia?

Those who may not be convinced of the resurrection of Jesus and do not see this as historical will have many more issues to deal with and difficult questions to answer. The question of Jesus’ parousia predictions will need to be taken into account here then; such questions as: Did Jesus really predict his parousia? If so, did he mean that his parousia was in fact his resurrection, his coming? For he was gone, and then came back to the realm of the living. Perhaps his resurrection is his parousia? Given his teaching about his parousia, I do not think this is the case. However, more research needs to be done searching out such questions.

What about the Disciples’ Expectations?

Another area for further study should be done on the disciples’ expectations concerning Jesus’ resurrection and it in relation to the general resurrection. It is clear from the Gospel texts that Jesus’ own disciples do not expect Jesus to be resurrected after his death, at least not immediately as he predicted. This has cast doubts in the minds of some historical Jesus scholars particularly with regard to the historicity of Jesus’ passion and resurrection predictions due to the disciples’ eccentric response to Jesus’ death had he indeed foretold the events.

How does one account for their response? One possibility perhaps is that the disciples did not think that Jesus would be raised at all. This seems improbable given their Jewish heritage and given that their teacher holds to a more Pharisaic view, namely, that there will be a resurrection. Another possibility is that the disciples thought that Jesus would rise, but at the end in the general resurrection with them. This seems to best account for how they respond. They are grieved and have lost hope. Moreover, their response certainly demonstrates that they did not expect Jesus’s resurrection to be imminent, whether it would be unique or general. If they thought that Jesus’ resurrection would be unique and immediately after the third day, then they would not have been mourning in such despair. Also, if they thought his resurrection would be at the general resurrection and that this was imminent on the third day, then we would expect them to have excitement because the end would be near with their own resurrection on the way. However, what is recorded in the Gospels is the exact opposite. There is not the slightest hint that the disciples are expecting Jesus to rise immediately. Due to the fact that the Gospels also record Jesus predicting his resurrection (whether they were historical or not), this gives a somewhat embarrassing tone in depicting the disciples as not anticipating Jesus’ resurrection. Overall, more work needs to be done in this area.


[1] The historicity of this saying is doubted (1) because it is not multiply attested, (2) it is more concurrent with Jewish views on resurrection than dissimilar, and (3) it is highly theological in nature.

[2] In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus speaks more of the resurrection, though we do not consult these occurrences here.

 

Easter Expectations (Part 3)

Fresco depicting the Resurrection in Notre Dame de Bayeux cathedral, Bayeux, Normandy, France, Europe

           This is a 4 Part series exploring the question of resurrection expectations held by ancient Jews and the historical Jesus. The primary question of this study is, “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” In other words, did the historical Jesus expect his resurrection to be a unique event in history detached from the future general resurrection or did he expect it to be at the general resurrection? Before we can answer this question, we must first answer another: “What did ancient Jews expect of the resurrection of the dead and was there any connection with it to the Messiah?”

_________________________________________________________________

Previously in Part 1, we explored the ancient Jewish expectations of the resurrection before the time of Jesus and Paul within Intertestamental Judaism, also known as Second Temple Judaism – the time period between the Old and New Testaments.

Last time in Part 2, we continued exploring the ancient Jewish expectations of resurrection, only this time we looked at expectations during and after the time of Jesus and Paul. Here, I provided a summary and conclusions about resurrection expectations in ancient Jewish thought before, during, and after the time of Jesus and Paul.

All of this is laying the groundwork for our main question at hand – “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” – which I will take up in Part 3 and Part 4.

Overall, I will argue that the historical Jesus expected his resurrection to be a unique and individual resurrection with no relationship to the general resurrection.

___________________________________________________________________

THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS

Here in Part 3, we now turn to explore what the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) claim that Jesus said about his own resurrection prior to his death.[1] In working through the pertinent texts, we will evaluate Jesus’ view of the resurrection, the historicity of each passage, and draw conclusions therefrom.

Jesus on His Resurrection

When examining what Jesus said about his own resurrection, there are only three clear passages in the Synoptics: the three passion and subsequent resurrection predictions. Thus, we will survey all three in sequential order and observe Jesus’ view regarding the nature, number, agent, and time of his resurrection. We will also account whether the thought of Messiah is within purview.

1. The First Prediction

Matt 16:13-23; Mark 8:27-33; Luke 9:18-22

To begin, in Matt 16:20-23 and Luke 9:21-22, Jesus seems to understand the nature of his resurrection to be physical and bodily. Coming from Q, they both read τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι.[2] Also, since the main verb ἐγερθῆναι is third person singular, this would infer that Jesus is speaking of an individual resurrection. In addition, since this verb is passive, and probably a divine passive,[3] the implied agent of resurrection is God. However, this differs somewhat slightly from Mark. In Mark 8:30-33, he words it as such: μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστῆναι. The main verb here, while still third person, is active. This means then that the agent is unidentified, though the number is individual. Despite this minor difference, Jesus still understands resurrection to be bodily in Mark as in Matt and Luke. Another minor difference is how Mark words the three day motif. Instead of Q’s τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ “on the third day,” Mark has μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας “after three days.” Although their idioms are somewhat nuanced, all three agree that the time of this resurrection is three days post death for Jesus.

But was Jesus referring to himself here? The answer is “Yes.” In Mark 8:31 and Luke 9:22, the subject of the third person verb “to rise” or “to rise up” is τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, “the Son of Man.” Many scholars suggest that “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite “self-designation.”[4] In Matthew, however, Jesus does not use this self-designation, rather Matthew uses indirect discourse that describe this saying. As such, he uses ὁ Ἰησοῦς “Jesus” to specify who was speaking these words. Thus, Jesus certainly refers to his own death and subsequent resurrection here.

But is Jesus’ resurrection related to his messiahship here? Again, the answer is a definitive yes. If the “Son of Man” language does not hint at it enough, the triple tradition immediately before this pericope is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah. In Matt 16:16, Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In Mark 8:29, he says, “You are the Messiah.” Finally, in Luke 9:20, Peter exclaims, “The Messiah of God.” This therefore seals the deal that Jesus’ resurrection is being intricately linked to his resurrection.

Below is a chart summarizing our study concerning the first prediction:

Text

Nature

Number

Agent

Messiah

Time

Matt 16:20-23

Bodily

Individual

God Implied

Passive Verb

ἐγερθῆναι

From Q

Yes

 

on the third day

τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ

From Q

Mark 8:30-33

Bodily

Individual

Unidentified

Active Verb

ἀναστῆναι

From Mark

Yes

Son of Man

 

after three days

μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας

From Mark

Luke 9:21-22

Bodily

Individual

God Implied

Passive Verb

ἐγερθῆναι

From Q

Yes

Son of Man

 

on the third day

τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ

From Q

 Conclusions from the First Prediction

Overall, this first passion/resurrection prediction fulfills several criteria of authenticity. First, it is multiply attested in the triple tradition, having a heavy reliance upon Mark and Q. Second, it fulfills the criterion of dissimilarity in two ways: (1) in that Jesus is presented as expecting to have a unique and individual resurrection without any mention of it being corporate, or related to the general resurrection which as we have seen from our above study is the norm in ancient Jewish thought; and (2) in that Jesus’ resurrection is connected to his messiahship which is something that ancient Judaism does not do. Thirdly, the surrounding context in Matthew and Mark has embarrassing elements such as Peter’s rebuke of Jesus and thus fulfills the criterion of embarrassment.[5] Lastly, there is a total lack of theologizing upon Jesus’ resurrection here. The triple tradition does not hint at what his resurrection means theologically. They simply report a brief saying from Jesus.

For these reasons,[6] we can conclude that this first resurrection prediction was historical, at least to some degree.[7] Furthermore, we can conclude that the historical Jesus here expected to be raised without any reference to or connection with the general resurrection. Thus, he expects his resurrection to be unique and individual, not anticipating his resurrection to usher in the eschatological general resurrection.

2. The Second Prediction

Matt 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:43b-45

In the second resurrection prediction, Matthew and Mark are the only viable sources since Luke omits the statement about resurrection. In both Matt 17:22-23 and Mark 9:30-32, then, the nature of resurrection is physical and bodily. Furthermore, the number is individual because they both have third singular verbs. However, the verb ἐγερθήσεται in Matt is a divine passive and thus indicates God as the agent of resurrection, whereas the verb ἀναστήσεται in Mark is active and thus has an unidentified agent. Also, the subject of these verbs in the triple tradition is ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου “the Son of Man.”[8] This perhaps indicates messianic language although contra the first prediction, this second one does not have the same previous context which strongly asserts that Jesus is the Messiah. Nevertheless, the overall book context of the Gospels still asserts that Jesus is the Messiah. Thus, this second prediction has a connection between Jesus’ resurrection and his messiahship, though somewhat less direct than the first. Lastly, the time of the resurrection is the exact same as the previous prediction: Matthew (M or possibly Q) has “on the third day” and Mark has “after three days.” Overall, the time is three days post Jesus’ death.

Below is a chart summarizing our study concerning the second prediction:

Text

Nature

Number

Agent

Messiah

Time

Matt 17:22-23 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἐγερθήσεται

From M (Q?)

God Implied

Passive Verb

ἐγερθήσεται

From M (Q?)

Yes

Son of Man

 

on the third day

τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ

From M (Q?)

Mark 9:30-32 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Unidentified

Active Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Yes

Son of Man

 

after three days

μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας

From Mark

Luke 9:43b-45

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

Son of Man

N/A

Conclusions from the Second Prediction

Overall, this second passion/resurrection prediction fulfills three criteria of authenticity. First, it is multiply attested in Matthew (M) and Mark, while Luke attests to the passion prediction but not the resurrection prediction. Second, it fulfills the criterion of dissimilarity in the same two ways as the first prediction: (1) in that Jesus is presented as expecting to have a unique and individual resurrection without any mention of it being corporate, or related to the general resurrection which is the norm in ancient Jewish thought; and (2) in that Jesus’ resurrection is connected to his messiahship – though to a lesser degree than the first prediction – which is something that ancient Judaism does not do. Thirdly, there is a complete lack of theologizing upon the resurrection here as in the first. Matthew and Mark leave no trace of what the implications of Jesus’ resurrection means theologically. Like the first prediction, they simply report a brief saying from Jesus.

For these reasons, we can conclude that this second resurrection prediction was from the historical Jesus, though its historicity pines behind the first in authenticity. Furthermore, we can conclude that the historical Jesus here expected his resurrection to have no connection with the general resurrection. Again, he expects his resurrection to be unique and individual.

3. The Third Prediction

Matt 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34

In the third prediction, we have all three Gospels reporting. Like the previous predictions, the nature of resurrection is physical and bodily in the triple tradition. Furthermore, all three report Jesus speaking of an individual resurrection using third singular verbs. However, Matthew is the only one that uses a divine passive ἐγερθήσεται to imply God as the agent. Mark and Luke both have active verbs ἀναστήσεται which leaves the agent unidentified. Furthermore, all three reference “the Son of Man” as the subject of these verbs and this may indicate a messianic claim as described previously. Lastly, all three Gospels agree on the three day motif, though again use different syntax. Mark uses his usual μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας and Matthew his τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. However, Luke does something different. He takes Matthew’s attributive construction and alters it to a different form of the attributive position: τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ. This however still seems to indicate that Matthew and Luke were using Q with this saying of Jesus.

Below is a chart summarizing our study regarding the third prediction:

Text

Nature

Number

Agent

Messiah

Time

Matt 20:17-19 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἐγερθήσεται

From M

God Implied

Passive Verb

ἐγερθήσεται

From M

Yes

Son of Man

 

on the third day

τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ

From Q

Mark 10:32-34 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Unidentified

Active Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Yes

Son of Man

 

after three days

μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας

From Mark

Luke 18:31-34 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Unidentified

Active Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Yes

Son of Man

 

on the third day

τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ

From Q

 Conclusions from the Third Prediction

Overall, this third passion/resurrection prediction fulfills three criteria of authenticity. First, it is multiply attested in Mark, Q, and M. Second, like the previous two predication, it fulfills the criterion of dissimilarity in the same way: (1) in that Jesus expects to have a unique and individual resurrection without any mention of it being corporate, or related to the general resurrection which is the norm in ancient Jewish thought; and (2) in that Jesus’ resurrection is connected to his messiahship – though to a lesser degree than the first prediction – which ancient Jews do not do. Thirdly, there is again a complete lack of theologizing upon the resurrection here as in the first two. None of them leave a trace of what Jesus’ resurrection means theologically. Again, they simply report a brief saying from Jesus on his resurrection.

For these reasons, then, we conclude that this third resurrection prediction was from the historical Jesus, though its historicity certainty is not as strong as the first. Furthermore, we can conclude that the historical Jesus here expected his resurrection to have no connection with the general resurrection and again he expects his resurrection to be unique and individual.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, it is clear from these three passion and resurrection predictions that Jesus expects his resurrection to be bodily, individual, shortly after his death, and not connected to the general resurrection. Furthermore, the predictions demonstrate a strong amount of historical certainty given their fulfillment of multiple criteria of authenticity. Given our above study of resurrection in Intertestamental Judaism from Parts 1 and 2, the most notable fulfillment of criteria is how dissimilar Jesus’ view of resurrection, particularly with regard how he connects it with messiahship, is from the dominant Jewish expectations prior to, during, and after his time. Furthermore, there is really quite little information to go off of here. The Synoptic authors really do not present much on Jesus’ view of his resurrection. Nevertheless, from this little amount of data, we can yet conclude that the historical Jesus did not expected his resurrection to usher in the general resurrection, but rather to be a unique event shortly after his death.



                [1] Note that I am limiting my study to the Synoptic Gospels (1) because this is what most historical Jesus scholars practice today, and (2) because of time and space restraints.

                [2] It is interesting demonstrates that Q has some minute presence here concerning resurrection which is not normally. Q is notoriously known for not mentioning resurrection. One possible explanation for this may be that this is a saying of Jesus. This therefore indicates an early source accounting for Jesus’ resurrection prediction.

                [3] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (NICNT, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 371.

                [4] Michael Licona, “Did Jesus Predict his Death and Vindication/Resurrection?” JSHJ 8 (2010) 48.

                [5] See Keener, IVP, 91. Keener notes that one of the most basic rules of ancient discipleship is “Never criticize the teacher, especially publicly.” He continues, “Here Peter breaks that rule, even on standard cultural grounds.” This constitutes embarrassment.

                [6] Licona gives more reasons, one being that Semitic elements are present in this material. Licona, “Did Jesus Predict,” 48.

                [7] I think that there is more or less a strong amount of historical certainty for this first prediction.

                [8] See Matt 17:22; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:44. We have added Luke in this investigation because the surrounding context of Luke is parallel in Matthew and Luke, minus the resurrection saying. Luke had access to this second resurrection prediction in Mark but chose not to use it. Also, he could have had access to it from Q, but left it out. If he had Q, then what we have deemed M in the chart below is really Q. Hence, I have put (Q?) in parentheses due to the tentative nature of the issue.

How do we account for this then? Perhaps Luke thought it was superfluous. He adds to Mark and further expounds things that Mark does not here. It is possible then that Luke chose to omit the resurrection saying for the sake of space. See Appendix I for details on source criticism.