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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *