If the Dead Are Not Raised . . .

On Pascha, it helps to take a look at Paul’s prose in 1 Corinthians 15. Again, because it bears repeating, Paul (along with the other authors of Scripture), does not have a “theology of” or a pre-set view of some issue. Chapter 15 follows chapter 14, which follows 13, all the way from chapter 1. There is a narrative flow.

So there is no Pauline “view” of the Resurrection. Paul, true to Scripture, is taking the promises of God made in the law and the prophets that God’s message will reach the Gentiles, and Paul then explains this message. Anything Paul “says” about the Resurrection is what his predecessors already wrote, which he now presents to the Gentiles.

Because we have been conditioned to think that we need to find pre-Christ references in the Old Testament, we tend to see even the issue of the Resurrection exclusively in this manner, i.e., as being concerned mainly, if not solely, with Jesus Christ. But Jesus, as we have shown in Arc of the Covenant, comes at the end of the Scriptural story, where he carries the entire arc of Scripture to the Cross. As we wrote in part two of that essay, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the Father’s restoration of the entirety of Scripture as a living word that must reach all nations. If Jesus dies and is forgotten, so are the promises of God.

Hence, as we wrote then:

“And so, if the death of Christ was supposed to lead to the loss of the “message of God,” [i.e., by the conspirators who put him to death], then what does the resurrection of Jesus from the dead mean but that this word is a word of life that can never be buried into oblivion?”

And so, to what is Paul referring when he writes that, “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised” (15. 13)?

It helps to look at Paul’s imagery in 1 Corinthians. Throughout the letter, he uses the image of the body or a building to help the hearers understand what he is saying. In chapter 15, he introduces the image of a seed (vv. 42 – 44 ff). A seed grows after it is buried into the ground.

What was the purpose of the Resurrection of Jesus? Well, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead happened only because God had already decided to raise all the dead. But subject to human manipulation, even the word of God could be used to cause harm, as Jesus and the prophets before him showed. Jesus’ interpretation of the law and the prophets, being the only valid one, “protects” the Scriptures as a life-giving word. His being raised from the dead by the Father was done to bring that message to us.

This is why hope is so prominent in the New Testament writings. We now have hope, based upon the teachings we have received as disciples.

But what type of “hope?”

In the Scriptural readings of Holy Week in the Orthodox liturgical cycle, an important “axial” segment were the readings devoted to Jesus’ betrayal. This betrayal was repeated so much one could not lose sight of some important messages: an innocent man was being betrayed, and a judge (Pilate) representing the prized Roman legal system washed his hands of everything and knowingly sentenced an innocent man to death.

Jesus’ death on a cross was simply meant to erase him from history and the face of the earth, to be buried into oblivion. But we remember him and the lessons he taught against the control of the Scriptures exerted by religious authorities and the crimes of unjust judges.

Hope. But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish (Psalms 9. 18). Though the world may forget you, cast you into oblivion, God will not. Jesus’ death on the cross is indeed a promise by God that no innocent human being will ever be forgotten by God, and on the “last day,” will not only be justified, by glorified in His kingdom.

Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!

Hold it There

In one of the “let’s get out of here” events of the Bible, Jacob finds a means and time to escape from his father in law Laban, who, being unimpressed with the ambitious Jacob made him work for over twenty years for the privilege of being with his daughters Leah and Rachel.

In Genesis 31. 19 – 55 we have this escape, along with Laban catching up to Jacob and his (i.e., Laban’s) daughters, and the covenant that is made between father in law and son in law. A peace treaty is made, where Laban will not hold Jacob accountable for the past, and Jacob promises to not return to Laban’s lands. The forefather also promises to take care of Laban’s daughters and their children.

As we explained in the previous post, Arc of the Covenant, Jesus just does not exist “out there” in a world of ideas. Jesus was, is now, and will always be, according to the Scriptures. What this means is that Jesus could only be presented to us by the evangelists according to the language and words found in the Old Testament, or more accurately, the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom writings (including so called apocryphal included like Sirach, et al).

But if this is the case, then the parables of Jesus are not simply pulled from thin air. Jesus retells the Scriptures, or more correctly, “interprets” them to explain how the stewards had misunderstood them.

In Luke 15, we have a kind of similar event, told as a parable. I can imagine someone listening to the Prodigal Son and perhaps, just maybe, thinking — “Wait, I’ve heard before a speech like the one the older brother gives. Similar to it. Sounds a lot like the speech Jacob made to his father in law Laban in Genesis 31. 36 – 42.”

In both Genesis 31 and Luke 15, we have speeches where a son (or son in law) makes the case, to put it bluntly, “I’ve worked my life off for you, and you don’t appreciate it at all!” In Genesis, it is Jacob; in Luke, it is the older bother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. “Listen!” says the older sibling to his father, “for all these years I have been working like a slave for you.”

Was not Jesus alluding to Jacob, and his retort to Laban? Is not the older brother’s speech similar to that of Jacob’s?

The interesting aspect of all this is that Laban is indeed, a very difficult man. He is relentless in his oversight of Jacob, and perhaps as people we, too, may feel sympathy with Jacob (though we recognize him as a schemer).

If Luke 15 hearkens back to Genesis 31, then we can safely assume that the father in the prodigal son was also a very difficult man with expectations. Which, of course, would make his running to the younger son all the more dramatic. His compassion is unanticipated (much like Laban’s offer to make a covenant), as well as his response to the older brother. We do not expect this from him. Not disputing anything the older brother says, the father simply responds that a celebration is warranted, because the older brother’s younger brother “was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found” (15. 32).

In the covenant between Laban and Jacob, the promise was sealed with food. We are told they ate together, that bread was broken, and that they danced all night (v. 54). In Luke 15, there is also a meal and dancing.

Jesus takes a well-known story from Genesis and makes of everyone listening to it a Jacob. If Jacob, the forefather Israel, could make peace and eat to celebrate the covenant, then what is your excuse?

Not only Jesus, but also the parables, are according to the Scriptures.