Resurrection of Jesus
The resurrection of Jesus, or anastasis is the Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion as first of the dead, starting his exalted life as Christ and Lord.[web 1] In Christian theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events, a foundation of the Christian faith, and commemorated by Easter. His resurrection is the guarantee that all the Christian dead will be resurrected at Christ's second coming. For the Christian tradition, the bodily resurrection was the restoration to life of a transformed body powered by spirit,[web 2] as described by Paul and the Gospels, that led to the establishment of Christianity.
In secular and liberal Christian scholarship, the appearances of Jesus are explained as visionary experiences that gave the impetus to the belief in the exaltation of Jesus and a resumption of the missionary activity of Jesus' followers.
The idea of any resurrection at all first emerges clearly in the 2nd-century BC Book of Daniel, but as a belief in the resurrection of the soul alone. Josephus tells of the three main Jewish sects of the 1st century AD, that the Sadducees held that both soul and body perished at death; the Essenes that the soul was immortal but the flesh was not; and the Pharisees that the soul was immortal and that the body would be resurrected to house it. Of these three positions, Jesus and the early Christians appear to have been closest to that of the Pharisees. Steve Mason notes that for the Pharisees, "the new body is a special, holy body," which is different from the old body, "a view shared to some extent by the ex-Pharisee Paul (1. Cor. 15:35ff)."
Endsjø notes that the evidence from Jewish texts and from tomb inscriptions points to a more complex reality. For example, when the 2nd century BC author the Book of Daniel wrote that "many of those sleeping in the dust shall awaken" (12:2), he probably had in mind rebirth as stars in God's Heaven, stars having been identified with angels from early times – such a rebirth would rule out a bodily resurrection, as angels were believed to be fleshless. Other texts range from the traditional Old Testament view that the soul would spend eternity in the underworld, to a metaphorical belief in the raising of the spirit. Most avoided defining what resurrection might imply, but a resurrection of the flesh was a marginal belief.
The Greeks held that a meritorious man could be resurrected as a god (the process of apotheosis), and the successors of Alexander the Great made this idea very well known throughout the Middle East through coins bearing his image, a privilege previously reserved for gods. The idea was adopted by the Roman emperors, and in Imperial Roman apotheosis the earthly body of the recently deceased emperor was replaced by a new and divine one as he ascended into heaven. The apotheosised dead remained recognisable to those who met them, as when Romulus appeared to witnesses after his death, but as the biographer Plutarch (c. AD 46–120) explained of this incident, while something within humans comes from the gods and returns to them after death, this happens "only when it is most completely separated and set free from the body, and becomes altogether pure, fleshless, and undefiled".
According to the New Testament, "God raised him from the dead",[note 1] he ascended to heaven, to the "right hand of God",[note 2] and will return again[note 3] to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy such as the resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgment and establishment of the Kingdom of God.[note 4]
The writings in the New Testament do not contain any descriptions of the moment of resurrection itself, but rather two types of eyewitness descriptions: appearances of Jesus to various people, and accounts of seeing the tomb empty.
Paul and the first ChristiansEdit
The earliest surviving Christian writings are the letters of Paul, written between 50–57 (or possibly 48–57). The First Epistle to the Corinthians contains one of the earliest Christian creeds reporting post-mortem appearances of Jesus, and expressing the belief that he was raised from the dead, namely 1 Corinthians 15:3–8:[note 5]
 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,[note 6]  and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,[note 7]  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
In the Jerusalem ekklēsia, from which Paul received this creed, the phrase "died for our sins" probably was an apologetic rationale for the death of Jesus as being part of God's plan and purpose, as evidenced in the scriptures. For Paul, it gained a deeper significance, providing "a basis for the salvation of sinful Gentiles apart from the Torah." The phrase "died for our sins" was derived from Isaiah, especially Isaiah 53:4-11, and Maccabees 4, especially 4 Maccabees 6:28–29.[note 6] "Raised on the third day" is derived from Hosea 6:1–2:
Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him."[note 7]
Paul says that Jesus subsequently appeared to him in the same way he did to the others. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul describes "a man in Christ [presumably Paul himself] who ... was caught up to the third heaven", and while the language is obscure it is plausible that he saw Jesus enthroned at the right hand of God.
It is widely accepted that this creed predates the Apostle Paul. Scholars have contended that in his presentation of the resurrection, Paul refers to an earlier authoritative tradition, transmitted in a rabbinic style, that he received and has passed on to the church at Corinth.[note 8] Geza Vermes writes that the creed is "a tradition he [Paul] has inherited from his seniors in the faith concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus". The creed's ultimate origins are probably within the Jerusalem apostolic community, having been formalised and passed on within a few years of the resurrection.[note 9] Hans Grass argues for an origin in Damascus, and according to Paul Barnett, this creedal formula, and others, were variants of the "one basic early tradition that Paul "received" in Damascus from Ananias in about 34 [AD]" after his conversion.
Gospel and ActsEdit
All four gospels climax with appearances of Jesus after his crucifixion, preparing the reader for his resurrection by having Jesus predict it [Mark 8:31–32] [9:31] [10:33–34], or through allusions that only the reader will understand [Mark 2:20], [John 2:19–22] and elsewhere). The moment of resurrection is not described.
Jesus is the "firstborn of the dead," prōtotokos, the first to be raised from the dead, and thereby acquiring the "special status of the firstborn as the preeminent son and heir."[web 1] His resurrection is also the guarantee that all the Christian dead will be resurrected at Christ's parousia.
After his resurrection, Jesus starts proclaiming "eternal salvation" through the disciples[Mark 16:8], and subsequently calls the apostles to the Great Commission, as described in [Matthew 28:16–20], [Mark 16:14–18], [Luke 24:44–49], [Acts 1:4–8], and [John 20:19–23], in which the disciples receive the call "to let the world know the good news of a victorious Saviour and the very presence of God in the world by the spirit." Jesus says that they "will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you"[Acts 1:8], that "repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in [the Messiah's] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem"[Luke 24:46–47], and that "[i]f you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained"[John 20:12–23].
The Gospel of Mark, written c. 65–75, ends with the discovery of the empty tomb by Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. An angel announces to them that Jesus has risen, and instructs them to "tell Peter and the disciples that he will meet them in Galilee, 'just as he told you'"; yet, Mary does not do so[Mark 16]. There are no appearances, but the author does seem to know of the appearances claimed for Peter and the Twelve. The longer ending, Mark 16:9–20, written c. 2nd century and similar to Luke and John, says that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to two followers walking outside Jerusalem, and then to the eleven remaining Apostles, commissioning them to spread "the good news": "The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned."[Mark 16:16]
In Matthew, Luke and John, the resurrection announcement is followed by appearances of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and other followers. The Book of Matthew describes a single appearance in Galilee, Luke describes several appearances in Jerusalem, John mentions appearances in both Jerusalem and Galilee. At some point, these appearances ceased in the early Christian community, as reflected in the Gospel-narratives: the "Acts of the Apostles" says that "for forty days he had continued to appear to them".[Acts 1:3] The Book of Luke describes Jesus ascending to heaven at a location near Bethany [Luke 24:50–51].
In the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appears to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, telling her that Jesus is not there because he's been raised from the dead, and instructing her to tell the other followers to go to Galilee, to meet Jesus. Jesus then appears to Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" at the tomb; and next, based on Mark 16:7, Jesus appears to all the disciples on a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus claims authority over heaven and earth, and commissions the disciples to preach the gospel to the whole world. Matthew presents Jesus's second appearance as an apotheosis (deification), commissioning his followers to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you."[Matthew 28:16–20] In this message, the end-times are delayed, "to bring the world to discipleship."
In the Gospel of Luke, "the woman who had come with him from Galilee" [Luke 23:55] come to his tomb, which they find empty. Two angelic beings appear to announce that Jesus is not there, but has been raised.[Luke 24:1–5] Jesus then appears to two followers on their way to Emmaus, who notify the eleven remaining Apostles, who respond that Jesus has appeared to Peter. While telling this, Jesus appears again, explaining that he is the messiah who raised from the dead according to the scriptures, "and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."[Luke 24:47] In Luke-Acts (two works from the same author) he then ascends into heaven, his rightful home.
In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty, and informs Peter. She then sees two angels, after which Jesus himself appears to her. In the evening, Jesus appears to the other followers, followed by another appearance a week later.[John 20:1–29] He later appears in Galilee to Peter, Tomas, and two other followers, commanding Peter to take care of his sheep.[John 21:1–19]
In Acts of the Apostles, Jesus appears to apostles for forty days, and commands them to stay in Jerusalem [1:3] whereafter Jesus ascends to heaven, followed by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the missionary task of the early church.
Historicity and origin of the resurrection of JesusEdit
The historicity and origin of the resurrection of Jesus has been the subject of historical research and debate, as well as a topic of discussion among theologians. The accounts of the Gospels, including the empty tomb and the appearances of the risen Jesus to his followers, have been interpreted and analyzed in diverse ways, and have been seen variously as historical accounts of a literal event, as accurate accounts of visionary experiences, as non-literal eschatological parables, and as fabrications of early Christian writers, among various other interpretations. One hypothesis, for example, that Jesus did not die on the cross, that the empty tomb was the result of Jesus' body having been stolen, or, as was common with Roman crucifixions, that Jesus was never entombed.
Physical or spiritual resurrectionEdit
Paul and the GospelsEdit
Both Ware and Cook argue, primarily from Paul's terminology and the contemporary Jewish, pagan and cultural understanding of the nature of resurrection, that Paul held to a physically resurrected body (sōma), restored to life, but animated by spirit (pneumatikos) instead of soul (psuchikos), just like the later Gospel accounts.[web 4] The nature of this resurrected body is a matter of debate. In 1 Corinthians 15:44, Paul uses the phrase "spiritual body" (sōma pneumatikos[web 5]), which has been explained as a "Spirit-empowered body,"[web 4][web 6] but also as a "celestial body," made of a finer material than the flesh.[web 6][note 10] In the Epistle to the Philippians Paul describes how the body of the resurrected Christ is utterly different to the one he wore when he had "the appearance of a man," and holds out a similar glorified state, when Christ "will transform our lowly body," as the goal of the Christian life – "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 15:50), and Christians entering the kingdom will be "putting off the body of the flesh" (Colossians 2:11). Paul opposed the notion of a purely spiritual resurrection, as propagated by some Christians in Corinth, which he addresses in 1 Corinthians. The developing Gospel-tradition emphasized the material aspects to counter this spiritual interpretation.
Paul's views of a bodily resurrection went against the thoughts of the Greek philosophers to whom a bodily resurrection meant a new imprisonment in a corporeal body, which was what they wanted to avoid – given that for them the corporeal and the material fettered the spirit.
Dunn notes that there is a great difference between Paul's resurrection appearance, and the appearances described in the Gospels. Where "Paul's seeing was visionary [...], 'from heaven'," in contrast, the Gospel-accounts have a "massive realism" to them. Dunn contends that the "massive realism' [...] of the [Gospel] appearances themselves can only be described as visionary with great difficulty – and Luke would certainly reject the description as inappropriate." According to Dunn, most scholars explain this as a "legendary materialization" of the visionary experiences, "borrowing the traits of the earthly Jesus."[note 11] Yet, according to Dunn, there was both "a tendency away from the physical [...] and a reverse tendency towards the physical." The tendency towards the material is most clear, but there are also signs for the tendency away from the physical, and "there are some indications that a more physical understanding was current in the earliest Jerusalem community."[note 12]
The empty tombEdit
Géza Vermes notes that "[t]he empty tomb and the apparitions are never directly associated to form a combined argument." While the coherence of the empty tomb-narrative is questionable, it is "clearly an early tradition." Vermes rejects the literal interpretation of the story, as being proof of the resurrection, and also notes that the story of the empty tomb conflicts with notions of a spiritual resurrection. According to Vermes, "[t]he strictly Jewish bond of spirit and body is better served by the idea of the empty tomb and is no doubt responsible for the introduction of the notions of palpability (Thomas in John) and eating (Luke and John)."
According to Brown, the body of Jesus was buried in a new tomb by Joseph of Arimathea in accordance with Mosaic Law, which stated that a person hanged on a tree must not be allowed to remain there at night, but should be buried before sundown. New Testament historian Bart D. Ehrman dismisses the story of the empty tomb; according to Ehrman, "an empty tomb had nothing to do with it [...] an empty tomb would not produce faith."[note 13] According to Ehrman, the empty tomb was needed to underscore the physical resurrection of Jesus, but is it doubtful that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. It is unlikely that a member of the Sanhedrin would have buried Jesus; crucifixion was meant "to torture and humiliate a person as fully as possible," and the body was left on the stake to be eaten by animals; criminals were usually buried in common graves; and Pilate had no concern for Jewish sensitivities, which makes it unlikely that he would have allowed for Jesus to be buried. The English theologian and historian N. T. Wright, however, emphatically and extensively argues for the reality of the empty tomb and the subsequent appearances of Jesus, reasoning that as a matter of history both a bodily resurrection and later bodily appearances of Jesus are far better explanations for the rise of Christianity than are any other theories, including those of Ehrman.
Significance in ChristianityEdit
Foundation of Christian faithEdit
In Christian theology, the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus are the most important events, and a foundation of the Christian faith.[note 14] The Nicene Creed states: "On the third day[note 7] he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures". According to Terry Miethe, a Christian philosopher at Oxford University, the question " 'Did Jesus rise from the dead?' is the most important question regarding the claims of the Christian faith." According to John R. Rice, a Baptist evangelist, the resurrection of Jesus was part of the plan of salvation and redemption by atonement for man's sin. Summarizing its traditional analysis, the Catholic Church states in its Catechism:
Although the Resurrection was an historical event that could be verified by the sign of the empty tomb and by the reality of the apostles' encounters with the risen Christ, still it remains at the very heart of the mystery of faith as something that transcends and surpasses history.
For Christians, including some scholars, the resurrection is taken to have been a concrete, material resurrection. According to N. T. Wright in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, "There can be no question: Paul is a firm believer in bodily resurrection. He stands with his fellow Jews against the massed ranks of pagans; with his fellow Pharisees against other Jews." According to New Testament scholar Gary Habermas, "Many other scholars have spoken in support of a bodily notion of Jesus’ resurrection."[web 2][note 10] According to Craig L. Blomberg, there are sufficient arguments for the historicity of the resurrection.
The belief of Jesus' first followers in the resurrection formed the proclamation of the first ekklēsia. The appearances reinforced the impact Jesus and his ministry had on his early followers, and interpreted in a scriptural framework they gave the impetus to Christ-devotion and the belief in the exaltation of Jesus. Jesus' death was interpreted in light of the scriptures as a redemptive death, being part of God's plan, and the appearances also led to the resumation of the missionary activity of Jesus' followers, with Peter assuming the first leader-role in the first ekklēsia, forming the basis for the Apostolic succession.
Exaltation and ChristologyEdit
The New Testament writings contend that the resurrection was "the beginning of His exalted life"[note 15] as Christ and Lord.[web 1]Jesus is the "firstborn of the dead," prōtotokos, the first to be raised from the dead, and thereby acquiring the "special status of the firstborn as the preeminent son and heir."[web 1] According to Beale,
"Firstborn" refers to the high, privileged position that Christ has as a result of the resurrection from the dead [...] Christ has gained such a sovereign position over the cosmos, not in the sense that he is recognized as the first-created being of all creation or as the origin of creation, but in the sense that he is the inaugurator of the new creation by means of his resurrection.[web 1]
Hurtado notes that soon after his death, Jesus was called Lord (Kyrios), which "associates him in astonishing ways with God." The term Lord reflected the belief that God had exalted to a divine status "at God's 'right hand'." The worship of God as expressed in the phrase "call upon the name of the Lord [Yahweh]" was also applied to Jesus, invocating his name "in corporate worship and in the wider devotional pattern of Christian believers (e.g., baptism, exorcism, healing)."
According to Hurtado, powerful religious experiences were an indispensable factor in the emergence of Christ-devotion.[note 16] Those experiences "seem to have included visions of (and/or ascents to) God's heaven, in which the glorified Christ was seen in an exalted position."[note 17] Those experiences were interpreted in the framework of God's redemptive purposes, as reflected in the scriptures, in a "dynamic interaction between devout, prayerful searching for, and pondering over, scriptural texts and continuing powerful religious experiences." This initiated a "new devotional pattern unprecedented in Jewish monotheism," that is, the worship of Jesus next to God, giving Jesus a central place because his ministry, and its consequences, had a strong impact on his early followers. Revelations, including those visions, but also inspired and spontaneous utterances, and "charismatic exegesis" of the Jewish scriptures, convinced them that this devotion was commanded by God.
Ehrman notes that both Jesus and his early followers were apocalyptic Jews, who believed in the bodily resurrection, which would start when the coming of God's Kingdom was near. According to Ehrman, "the disciples' belief in the resurrection was based on visionary experiences," arguing that visions usually have a strong persuasive power, but also noting that the Gospel-accounts record a tradition of doubt about the appearances of Jesus. Ehrman's "tentative suggestion" is that only a few followers had visions, including Peter, Paul and Mary. They told others about those visions, convincing most of their close associates that Jesus was raised from the dead, but not all of them.[note 18] Eventually, these stories were retold and embellished, leading to the story that all disciples had seen the risen Jesus. The belief in Jesus' resurrection radically changed their perceptions, concluding from his absence that he must have been exalted to heaven, by God himself, exalting him to an unprecedented status and authority.
Low and High ChristologyEdit
It has long been argued that the New Testament writings contain two different Christologies, namely a "low" or adoptionist Christology, and a "high" or "incarnation Christology." The "low Christology" or "adoptionist Christology" is the belief "that God exalted Jesus to be his Son by raising him from the dead," thereby raising him to "divine status."[web 8] The other early Christology is "high Christology," which is "the view that Jesus was a pre-existent divine being who became a human, did the Father’s will on earth, and then was taken back up into heaven whence he had originally come,"[web 8] and from where he appeared on earth. The chronology of the development of these early Christologies is a matter of debate within contemporary scholarship.[web 9]
According to the "evolutionary model" c.q. "evolutionary theories," as proposed by Bousset, followed by Brown, the Christological understanding of Christ developed over time, from a low Christology to a high Christology, as witnessed in the Gospels. According to the evolutionary model, the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was a human who was exalted, c.q. adopted as God's Son, when he was resurrected, signaling the nearness of the Kingdom of God, when all dead would be resurrected and the righteous exalted. Later beliefs shifted the exaltation to his baptism, birth, and subsequently to the idea of his eternal existence, as witnessed in the Gospel of John. Mark shifted the moment of when Jesus became the son to the baptism of Jesus, and later still Matthew and Luke shifted it to the moment of the divine conception, and finally John declared that Jesus had been with God from the beginning: "In the beginning was the Word".
Since the 1970s, the late datings for the development of a "high Christology" have been contested, and a majority of scholars argue that this "High Christology" existed already before the writings of Paul. This "incarnation Christology" or "high Christology" did not evolve over a longer time, but was a "big bang" of ideas which were already present at the start of Christianity, and took further shape in the first few decades of the church, as witnessed in the writings of Paul.[web 10][web 8][web 11]
According to Ehrman, these two Christologies existed alongside each other, calling the "low Christology" an "adoptionist Christology, and "the "high Christology" an "incarnation Christology." While adoptionism was declared heresy at the end of the 2nd century, it was adhered to by the Ebionites, who regarded Jesus as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and his virgin birth, and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites. They revered James the brother of Jesus (James the Just); and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law. They show strong similarities with the earliest form of Jewish Christianity, and their specific theology may have been a "reaction to the law-free Gentile mission."
Jesus' death was interpreted as a redemptive death "for our sins," in accordance with God's plan as contained in the Jewish scriptures.[note 6] The significance lay in "the theme of divine necessity and fulfillment of the scriptures," not in the later Pauline emphasis on "Jesus' death as a sacrifice or an expiation for our sins." For the early Jewish Christians, "the idea that Messiah's death was a necessary redemptive event functioned more as an apologetic explanation for Jesus' crucifixion" "proving that Jesus' death was no surprise to God."[note 19]
Call to missionary activityEdit
According to Dunn, the appearances to the disciples have "a sense of obligation to make the vision known." Helmut Koester states that the stories of the resurrection were originally epiphanies in which the disciples were called to a ministry by the risen Jesus, and at a secondary stage were interpreted as physical proof of the event. He contends that the more detailed accounts of the resurrection are also secondary and do not come from historically trustworthy sources, but instead belong to the genre of the narrative types. Biblical scholar Géza Vermes argues that the resurrection is to be understood as a reviving of the self-confidence of the followers of Jesus, under the influence of the Spirit, "prompting them to resume their apostolic mission." They felt the presence of Jesus in their own actions, "rising again, today and tomorrow, in the hearts of the men who love him and feel he is near."[note 20] According to Gerd Lüdemann, Peter convinced the other disciples that the resurrection of Jesus signaled that the end-times were near and God's Kingdom was coming, when the dead who would rise again, as evidenced by Jesus. This revitalized the disciples, starting-off their new mission.[web 12]
Leadership of PeterEdit
Peter claimed forcefully that Jesus appeared to him, and legitimised by Jesus' appearance he assumed leadership of the group of early followers, forming the Jerusalem ekklēsia mentioned by Paul. He was soon eclipsed in this leadership by James the Just, "the Brother of the Lord," which may explain why the early texts contain scarce information about Peter.[note 21] According to Gerd Lüdemann, Peter was the first who had a vision of Jesus, noting that Peter and Mary both had appearance-experiences, but arguing that the tradition of Mary's appearance is a later development, and her appearance probably was not the first.[note 18]
According to Christian proto-orthodoxy, Peter was the first to who Jesus appeared, and therefore the rightful leader of the Church. The resurrection forms the basis of the Apostolic succession and the institutional power of orthodoxy, as the heirs of Peter, to who Jesus appeared, and is described as "the rock" on which the church will be built. Though the Gospels, and Paul's letters, describe appearances to a greater number of people, only the appearances to the Twelve Apostles count as lending authority and Apostolic succession.
Paul – participation in ChristEdit
The appearance of Jesus to Paul convinced him that Jesus was the risen Lord and Christ, who commissioned him to be an apostle to the Gentiles. According to Newbigin, "Paul presents himself not as the teacher of a new theology but as the messenger commissioned by the authority of the Lord himself to announce a new fact - namely that in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus God has acted decisively to reveal and effect his purpose of redemption for the whole world." The teachings of the apostle Paul form a key element of the Christian tradition and theology. Fundamental to Pauline theology is the connection between Christ's resurrection, and redemption. In [1 Corinthians 15:13–14], [15:17], [15:20–22] Paul writes:
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain [...] If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile [...] But Christ really has been raised from the dead. He is the first of all those who will rise. Death came because of what a man did. Rising from the dead also comes because of what a man did. Because of Adam, all people die. So because of Christ, all will be made alive.
The kerygma of 1 Corinthians 15:3 states that "Christ died for our sins."[note 6] The meaning of that kerygma is a matter of debate, and open to multiple interpretations. Traditionally, this kerygma is interpreted as meaning that Jesus' death was an atonement or ransom for, or propitiation or expiation of, God's wrath against humanity because of their sins. With Jesus death, humanity was freed from this wrath.[web 13][note 22] In the classical Protestant understanding, which has dominated the understanding o Paul's writings, humans partake in this salvation by faith in Jesus Christ; this faith is a grace given by God, and people are justified by God through Jesus Christ and faith in Him.
More recent scholarship has raised several concerns regarding these interpretations. According to E.P. Sanders, who initiated the so-called New Perspective on Paul, Paul saw the faithful redeemed by participation in Jesus' death and rising. Though "Jesus’ death substituted for that of others and thereby freed believers from sin and guilt," a metaphor derived from "ancient sacrificial theology,"[web 15][note 23] the essence of Paul's writing is not in the "legal terms" regarding the expiation of sin, but the act of "participation in Christ through dying and rising with him."[note 24] According to Sanders, "those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into his death, and thus they escape the power of sin [...] he died so that the believers may die with him and consequently live with him."[web 15] Just as Christians share in Jesus' death in baptism, so they will share in his resurrection. James F. McGrath notes that Paul "prefers to use the language of participation. One died for all, so that all died (2 Corinthians 5:14). This is not only different from substitution, it is the opposite of it."[web 3]
Paul insists that salvation is received by the grace of God; according to Sanders, this insistence is in line with Judaism of ca. 200 BC until 200 AD, which saw God's covenant with Israel as an act of grace of God. Observance of the Law is needed to maintain the covenant, but the covenant is not earned by observing the Law, but by the grace of God.[web 19]
Church Fathers – atonementEdit
The Apostolic Fathers, discussed the death and resurrection of Jesus, including Ignatius (50–115), Polycarp (69–155), and Justin Martyr (100–165). The understanding of the Greek Fathers of the death and resurrection of Jesus as an atonement is the "classic paradigm" of the Church Fathers, who developed the themes found in the New Testament.
During the first millennium AD, the ransom theory of atonement was the dominant metaphor, both in eastern and western Christianity, until it was replaced in the west by Anselmus' satisfaction theory of atonement. The ransom theory of atonement says that Christ liberated humanity from slavery to sin and Satan, and thus death, by giving his own life as a ransom sacrifice to Satan, swapping the life of the perfect (Jesus), for the lives of the imperfect (humans). It entails the idea that God deceived the devil, and that Satan, or death, had "legitimate rights" over sinful souls in the afterlife, due to the fall of man and inherited sin.
The ransom theory was first clearly enunciated by Irenaeus (c. 130–c. 202), who was an outspoken critic of Gnosticism, but borrowed ideas from their dualistic worldview. In this worldview, humankind is under the power of the Demiurg, a lesser God who has created the world. Yet, humans have a spark of the true divine nature within them, which can be liberated by gnosis (knowledge) of this divine spark. This knowledge is revealed by the Logos, "the very mind of the supreme God," who entered the world in the person of Jesus. Nevertheless, the Logos could not simply undo the power of the Demiurg, and had to hide his real identity, appearing as a physical form, thereby misleading the Demiurg, and liberating humankind. In Irenaeus' writings, the Demiurge is replaced by the devil, while Justin Martyr had already equated Jesus and the Logos.
Origen (184–253) introduced the idea that the devil held legitimate rights over humans, who were bought free by the blood of Christ. He also introduced the notion that the devil was deceived in thinking that he could master the human soul.
Late Antiquity and early Middle AgesEdit
Following the conversion of Constantine and the Edict of Milan in 313, the ecumenical councils of the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, that focused on Christology, helped shape the Christian understanding of the redemptive nature of resurrection, and influenced both the development of its iconography, and its use within Liturgy.
Belief in bodily resurrection was a constant note of the Christian church in antiquity. Augustine of Hippo accepted it at the time of his conversion in 386. Augustine defended resurrection, and argued that given that Christ has risen, there is resurrection of the dead. Moreover, he argued that the death and resurrection of Jesus was for the salvation of man, stating: "to achieve each resurrection of ours, the savior paid with his single life, and he pre-enacted and presented his one and only one by way of sacrament and by way of model."
The 5th-century theology of Theodore of Mopsuestia provides an insight into the development of the Christian understanding of the redemptive nature of resurrection. The crucial role of the sacraments in the mediation of salvation was well accepted at the time. In Theodore's representation of the Eucharist, the sacrificial and salvific elements are combined in the "One who saved us and delivered us by the sacrifice of Himself". Theodore's interpretation of the Eucharistic rite is directed towards the triumph over the power of death brought about by the resurrection.
The emphasis on the salvific nature of the resurrection continued in Christian theology in the next centuries, e.g., in the 8th century Saint John of Damascus wrote that: "... When he had freed those who were bound from the beginning of time, Christ returned again from among the dead, having opened for us the way to resurrection" and Christian iconography of the ensuing years represented that concept.
Lorenzen finds "a strange silence about the resurrection in many pulpits". He writes that among some Christians, ministers and professors, it seems to have become "a cause for embarrassment or the topic of apologetics". According to Warnock, many Christians neglect the resurrection because of their understandable preoccupation with the Cross.
Easter is the preeminent Christian feast that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, and, according to Susan J. White, "is clearly the earliest Christian festival." According to Dunn, "In Easter we celebrate man become God [...] that in the death and resurrection of Christ God has broken the stranglehold of human selfishness, has proved the enduring and conquering strength of divine love." According to Thorwald Lorenzen, the first Easter led to a shift in emphasis from faith "in God" to faith "in Christ". According to Raymond Harfgus Taylor, "focuses upon the consumation of the redemptive act of God in the death/resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Easter is linked to the Passover and Exodus from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament through the Last Supper and crucifixion that preceded the resurrection. According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning, as he prepared himself and his disciples for his death in the upper room during the Last Supper. He identified the loaf of bread and cup of wine as his body soon to be sacrificed and his blood soon to be shed. 1 Corinthians states, "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed"; this refers to the Passover requirement to have no yeast in the house and to the allegory of Jesus as the Paschal lamb.
In Christian artEdit
In the Catacombs of Rome, artists indirectly hinted at the resurrection by using images from the Old Testament such as the fiery furnace and Daniel in the Lion's den. Depictions prior to the 7th century generally showed secondary events such as the Myrrhbearers at the tomb of Jesus to convey the concept of the resurrection. An early symbol of the resurrection was the wreathed Chi Rho (Greek letters representing the word "Khristos" or "Christ"), whose origin traces to the victory of emperor Constantine I at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, which he attributed to the use of a cross on the shields of his soldiers. Constantine used the Chi Rho on his standard and his coins showed a labarum with the Chi Rho killing a serpent.
The use of a wreath around the Chi Rho symbolizes the victory of the resurrection over death, and is an early visual representation of the connection between the Crucifixion of Jesus and his triumphal resurrection, as seen in the 4th-century sarcophagus of Domitilla in Rome. Here, in the wreathed Chi Rho the death and Resurrection of Christ are shown as inseparable, and the Resurrection is not merely a happy ending tucked at the end of the life of Christ on earth. Given the use of similar symbols on the Roman military banner, this depiction also conveyed another victory, namely that of the Christian faith: the Roman soldiers who had once arrested Jesus and marched him to Calvary now walked under the banner of a resurrected Christ.
The cosmic significance of the resurrection in Western theology goes back to Saint Ambrose, who in the 4th century said that "The universe rose again in Him, the heaven rose again in Him, the earth rose again in Him, for there shall be a new heaven and a new earth". This theme developed gradually in the West, later than in the East where the resurrection had been linked from an earlier date to redemption and the renewal and rebirth of the whole world. In art this was symbolized by combining the depictions of the resurrection with the Harrowing of Hell in icons and paintings. A good example is from the Chora Church in Istanbul, where John the Baptist, Solomon and other figures are also present, depicting that Christ was not alone in the resurrection. The depiction sequence at the 10th-century Hosios Loukas shows Christ as he pulls Adam from his tomb, followed by Eve, signifying the salvation of humanity after the resurrection.
Gallery of artEdit
- For a larger gallery, please see: Resurrection gallery
The resurrection of Jesus has long been central to Christian faith and appears within diverse elements of the Christian tradition, from feasts to artistic depictions to religious relics. In Christian teachings, the sacraments derive their saving power from the passion and resurrection of Christ, upon which the salvation of the world entirely depends.
An example of the interweaving of the teachings on the resurrection with Christian relics is the application of the concept of "miraculous image formation" at the moment of resurrection to the Shroud of Turin. Christian authors have stated the belief that the body around whom the shroud was wrapped was not merely human, but divine, and that the image on the shroud was miraculously produced at the moment of resurrection. Quoting Pope Paul VI's statement that the shroud is "the wonderful document of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, written for us in letters of blood" author Antonio Cassanelli argues that the shroud is a deliberate divine record of the five stages of the Passion of Christ, created at the moment of resurrection.
Views of other religionsEdit
Groups such as Jews, Muslims, Bahá'ís, and other non-Christians, as well as some liberal Christians, dispute whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. Arguments over death and resurrection claims occur at many religious debates and interfaith dialogues.
Christianity split from Judaism in the 1st century AD, and the two faiths have differed in their theology since. According to the Toledot Yeshu, the body of Jesus was removed in the same night by a gardener named Juda, after hearing the disciples planned to steal the body of Jesus. However, Toledot Yeshu is not considered either canonical or normative within rabbinic literature. Van Voorst states that Toledot Yeshu is a medieval document set without a fixed form which is "most unlikely" to have reliable information about Jesus. The Blackwell Companion to Jesus states that the Toledot Yeshu has no historical facts as such, and was perhaps created as a tool for warding off conversions to Christianity.
Some Gnostics did not believe in a literal physical resurrection. "For the gnostic any resurrection of the dead was excluded from the outset; the flesh or substance is destined to perish. 'There is no resurrection of the flesh, but only of the soul', say the so-called Archontics, a late gnostic group in Palestine".
Muslims believe that ʿĪsā (Jesus) son of Mariam (Mary) was a holy prophet with a divine message. The Islamic perspective is that Jesus was not crucified and will return to the world at the end of times. "But Allāh raised him up to Himself. And Allāh is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise". The Quran says in Surah An-Nisa [Ch 004: Verse 157] "And because of their saying, "We killed Messiah ʿĪsā, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allāh", – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared so to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts".
- Chronology of Jesus
- Divine Mercy Sunday
- Dying-and-rising god
- Tombs of Jesus:
- The ground on which The Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands is venerated by most Christians as Golgotha, the Hill of Calvary, where the New Testament says that Jesus was crucified. This tomb is venerated as the tomb of Christ by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, and Oriental Orthodox churches.
- The Garden Tomb, discovered in the 19th century, is considered the actual site of Jesus' grave by some Protestant Christians.
- Talpiot Tomb, discovered in 1980, subject of the controversial documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus
- Acts 2:24, Romans 10:9, 1Cor 15:15, Acts 2:31–32, Acts 3:15, Acts 3:26, Acts 4:10, Acts 5:30, Acts 10:40–41, Acts 13:30, Acts 13:34, Acts 13:37, Acts 17:30–31, 1Cor 6:14, 2Cor 4:14, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:20, Col 2:12, 1Thess 1:10, Heb 13:20, 1Pet 1:3, 1 Pet 1:21
- Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, Acts 2:33, Acts 5:31, Acts 7:55–56, Romans 8:34, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:13, Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 12:2, 1Pe 3:22
- [Acts 1:9–11]
- The ‘‘Parousia’‘ is the term used in the Bible, which includes the Thayer's Lexicon definition: "In the N.T. especially of the advent, i.e.,the future, visible, return from heaven of Jesus, the Messiah, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the kingdom of God". According to the Bauer lexicon: "of Christ, and nearly always of his Messianic Advent in glory to judge the world at the end of this age".
- The many Pauline references affirming the resurrection include:
- Romans 1:3–4: "...concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord".
- 2 Timothy 2:8: "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead... this is my gospel for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained...".
- 1 Corinthians 15:3–7: "...that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..."
- The kerygma from 1 Cor.15:3–5 refers to two mythologies: the Greek myth of the noble dead, to which the Maccabean notion of martyrdom and dying for ones people is related; and the Jewish myth of the persecuted sage or righteous man, c.q. the "story of the child of wisdom." The notion of 'dying for' refers to this martyrdom and persecution.
James F. McGrath refers to 4 Maccabees 6, "which presents a martyr praying “Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs” (4 Maccabees 6:28–29). Clearly there were ideas that existed in the Judaism of the time that helped make sense of the death of the righteous in terms of atonement."[web 3]
See also Herald Gandi (2018), The Resurrection: “According to the Scriptures”?, referring to Isaiah 53, among others:
" Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed [...]  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.  Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities."
- See Why was Resurrection on “the Third Day”? Two Insights for explanations on the phrase "third day." According to Ernst Lüdemann and Pinchas Lapide, "third day" may refer to Hosea 6:1–2:
"Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him."
See also 2 Kings 20:8: "Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord on the third day?”"
According to Sheehan, Paul's reference to Jesus having risen "on the third day [...] simply expresses the belief that Jesus was rescued from the fate of utter absence from God (death) and was admitted to the saving presence of God (the eschatological future)."
- Early creed:
* Neufeld, The Earliest Christian Confessions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) p. 47
* Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (New York: Macmillan, 1971) p. 10
* Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man translated Lewis Wilkins and Duane Pribe (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968) p. 90
* Oscar Cullmann, The Early Church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, ed. A. J. B. Higgins (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966) p. 64
* Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, translated James W. Leitch (Philadelphia: Fortress 1969) p. 251
* Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament vol. 1 pp. 45, 80–82, 293
* R. E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist Press, 1973) pp. 81, 92
* Most Fellows of the Jesus Seminar also concluded that this tradition dates to before Paul's conversion, c AD 33.
- Origins within the Jerusalem apostolic community:
* Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man translated Lewis Wilkins and Duane Pribe (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968) p. 90
* Oscar Cullmann, The Early church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, ed. A. J. B. Higgins (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966) pp. 66–66
* R. E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist Press, 1973) p. 81
* Thomas Sheehan, First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986) pp. 110, 118
* Ulrich Wilckens, Resurrection translated A. M. Stewart (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1977) p. 2
- According to Christian apologist Gary Habermas, Paul refers to a physical body in 1 Corinthians 15:44. Habermas notes that Paul doesn't use solely the word pneuma, but speaks about "spiritual [pneumatikos] body [soma]". According to Habermas, Paul refers to a physical body, arguing that "Paul says three things in one chapter [of Philippians] that indicates that he’s talking about a physical resurrection." The first is that Paul says that he is a Pharisee, implying that he believes in a physical resurrection. The second is that, in Philippians 3:11, Paul says "That I may attain the resurrection of the dead," using the phrase ek anastasis (out-resurrection), "resurrection from out among the dead ones." And third, in Philippians 3:20–21 "He Jesus will change my body to be like His body." Habermas further notes that in Philippians 3:20,21, Oaul speaks of a "glorious body" which is resurrected.[web 7]
- According to Sheehan, Paul's account of the resurrection is not meant to be taken as referring to a literal, physical rising from the grave. Paul's understanding of the resurrection, and perhaps Peter's as well, is a metaphorical one, with the stories of Jesus's (figurative) resurrection reflecting his triumphant "entry into God's eschatological presence." Sheehan:
Sheen quotes Helmut Koester:
The word "resurrection" is a metaphor that unfortunately has been taken literally. That's where the confusion begins. In the New Testament the word for "resurrection" means literally "awakening," like waking up your kids in the morning. The New Testament says not that God "resurrected" Jesus from the dead, but that he "awoke" him. Using metaphoric language, the New Testament says God awoke Jesus from the sleep of death and brought him into God's heavenly presence. There's nothing here about an event in space and time. Resurrection doesn't mean coming back to life."
"Resurrection is thus a mythological metaphor for God's victory over the powers of unrighteousness. ... The preaching of Jesus' resurrection was thus the proclamation that the new age had been ushered in": "The Structure and Criteria of Early Christian Beliefs" in Robinson and Koester, Trajectories, 223, 224.
- Elaine Pagels notes that the Gospels don't agree about the nature of the resurrection appearances, with Luke and Mark describing Jesus as appearing in another shape, not in his earthly shape, and John describing Jesus as telling Mary not to touch him.[unreliable source?]
- In an earlier publication (2003), Ehrman recognized that "Some scholars have argued that it's more plausible that in fact Jesus was placed in a common burial plot, which sometimes happened, or was, as many other crucified people, simply left to be eaten by scavenging animals," but further elaborates by stating that "[T]he accounts are fairly unanimous in saying [...] that Jesus was in fact buried by this fellow, Joseph of Arimathea, and so it's relatively reliable that that's what happened."
- [1 Cor 15:12–20] [1 Pet 1:3]
- Novakovic quotes C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 1:62.
- See also Andrew Chester (2007), Messiah and Exaltation: Jewish Messianic and Visionary Traditions and New Testament Christology, Mohr Siebeck; and Larry Huratdo (December 11, 2012 ), “Early High Christology”: A Recent Assessment of Scholarly Debate.
- These visions may mostly have appeared during corporate worship. Johan Leman contends that the communal meals provided a context in which participants entered a state of mind in which the presence of Jesus was felt.
- According to Sanders, "there seems to have been a competition: 'I saw him,' 'so did I,' 'the women saw him first,' 'no, I did; they didn't see him at all,' and so on."
- Hurtado cites Green, The Death of Jesus, p.323.
- Vermes describes are eight possible theories to explain the resurrection of Jesus, concluding that none of these six possibilities "stands up to stringent scrutiny", and then stating that the resurrection is a "resurrection in the hearts of men."
- According to Lüdemann, in the discussions about the strictness of adherence to the Jewish Law, the more conservative faction of James the Just took the overhand over the more liberal position of Peter, who soon lost influence. According to Dunn, this was not an "usurpation of power," but a consequence of Peter's involvement in missionary activities.
* Briscoe and Ogilvie (2003): "Paul says that Christ's ransom price is his blood."
* Cobb: "The question is whether Paul thought that God sacrificed Jesus to atone for human sins. During the past thousand years, this idea has often been viewed in the Western church as at the heart of Christianity, and many of those who uphold it have appealed to Paul as its basis [...] In fact, the word "atonement" is lacking in many standard translations. The King James Translation uses "propitiation", and the Revised Standard Version uses "expiation." The American Translation reads: "For God showed him publicly dying as a sacrifice of reconciliation to be taken advantage of through faith." The Good News Bible renders the meaning as: "God offered him, so that by his sacrificial death he should become the means by which people's sins are forgiven through their faith in him." Despite this variety, and the common avoidance of the word "atonement," all these translations agree with the New Revised Standard Version in suggesting that God sacrificed Jesus so that people could be reconciled to God through faith. All thereby support the idea that is most directly formulated by the use of the word "atonement."[web 14]
- According to the Jewish Encyclopedia (1906), "The Mishnah says that sins are expiated (1) by sacrifice, (2) by repentance at death or on Yom Kippur, (3) in the case of the lighter transgressions of the positive or negative precepts, by repentance at any time [...] The graver sins, according to Rabbi, are apostasy, heretical interpretation of the Torah, and non-circumcision (Yoma 86a). The atonement for sins between a man and his neighbor is an ample apology (Yoma 85b)."[web 16]
The Jewish Virual Library writes: "Another important concept [of sacrifices] is the element of substitution. The idea is that the thing being offered is a substitute for the person making the offering, and the things that are done to the offering are things that should have been done to the person offering. The offering is in some sense "punished" in place of the offerer. It is interesting to note that whenever the subject of Karbanot is addressed in the Torah, the name of G-d used is the four-letter name indicating G-d's mercy."[web 17]
The Jewish Encyclopedia further writes: "Most efficacious seemed to be the atoning power of suffering experienced by the righteous during the Exile. This is the idea underlying the description of the suffering servant of God in Isa. liii. 4, 12, Hebr. [...] of greater atoning power than all the Temple sacrifices was the suffering of the elect ones who were to be servants and witnesses of the Lord (Isa. xlii. 1-4, xlix. 1–7, l. 6). This idea of the atoning power of the suffering and death of the righteous finds expression also in IV Macc. vi. 27, xvii. 21–23; M. Ḳ. 28a; Pesiḳ. xxvii. 174b; Lev. R. xx.; and formed the basis of Paul's doctrine of the atoning blood of Christ (Rom. iii. 25)."[web 18]
- Jordan Cooper: "Sanders sees Paul’s motifs of salvation as more participationist than juristic. The reformation overemphasized the judicial categories of forgiveness and escape from condemnation, while ignoring the real heart of salvation, which is a mystical participation in Christ. Paul shows this in his argument in his first epistle to the Corinthians when arguing against sexual immorality. It is wrong because it affects one’s union with Christ by uniting himself to a prostitute. Sin is not merely the violation of an abstract law. This participationist language is also used in Corinthians in the discussion of the Lord’s Supper wherein one participates in the body and blood of Christ."[web 19]
- Perkins 2014, p. 498.
- Novakovic 2014, p. 152.
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Flew, Antony, 1966, God and Philosophy, London: Hutchinson.
Ehrman, Bart D., 2003, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd ed., New York: Oxford University Press.
Bradley, Francis Herbert, 1874, “The Presuppositions of Critical History,” in Collected Essays, vol. 1, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1935.
McGrew's conclusion: historians work with methodological naturalism, which precludes them from establishing miracles as objective historical facts (Flew 1966: 146; cf. Bradley 1874/1935; Ehrman 2003: 229).
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As I've pointed out, the historian cannot say that demons—real live supernatural spirits that invade human bodies—were actually cast out of people, because to do so would be to transcend the boundaries imposed on the historian by the historical method, in that it would require a religious belief system involving a supernatural realm outside of the historian's province.
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