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Must a Christian believe Jesus rose bodily from the dead?

Must a Christian believe Jesus rose bodily from the dead?

“On the third day, he rose again.”

Must one believe that Jesus literally rose from the tomb to be a good Christian, or can one believe there was an “Easter event” that his disciples interpreted as a resurrection? Kimberly Winston explores this question in an article for Religion News Weekly.

She notes that in a 2010 Barna poll, only 42 percent of respondents “said the meaning of Easter was Jesus’ resurrection.” She writes:

“More people have problems with Easter because it requires believing that Jesus rose from the dead,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of the new book, “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.”

“But believing in the Resurrection is essential. It shows that nothing is impossible with God. In fact, Easter without the Resurrection is utterly meaningless. And the Christian faith without Easter is no faith at all.”

Scott Korb, 37, has a different take. Though he now describes himself as a non-practicing Catholic, he once wanted to become a priest. At that time, he believed Jesus literally rose from the dead, but now finds himself accepting the story only symbolically.

“The miracle of a bodily resurrection is something I rejected without moving away from its basic idea,” Korb, a New York University professor, said. “What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others.”

What do you think?

This, is what I think.


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Clint Davis

One of the most interesting traditional stories about dying Lamas in Tibet is that some of them, when they die, physically disappear gradually over a number of days in a documented phenomenon known as the Rainbow Body. They wrap them up in a burial cloth while still barely alive, and keep vigil as the body disappears with mysterious lights and other signs seen around the area. After a set period, the cloths are unwound and all that’s left are the fingernails and hair.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with the Lord’s resurrection or at least the missing body, but there are stranger connections than this.

I do believe the Lord is risen indeed, but what does that mean in this day and age, when Heaven isn’t literally in the Heavens anymore, and Hades isn’t literally under our feet, in the earth? Still working that out.


As I commented on Wounded Bird (the cited link), I probably don’t need to do so again (“I frankly disagree”).

I always get a bad case of inflamed “hermeneutic of suspicion” regarding ANY assertion made w/ certitude: “He bodily rose, dammit!” “His body rotted away, dammit!” Maybe it’s my Jewish ancestry, but I just want to respond w/ a shrug: “Eh. On the one hand…on the other…”

When I was in seminary, I was impressed w/ the NT professor (was it Robin Scroggs? This was Union Theological, in the 90s) who spoke of the witness of Stephen, Proto-Martyr’s testimony, as the earliest witness: ““Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”” [Acts 7:56] (Note, *not* “I saw him eating fish on the beach!”)

But OCICBW. Please, let’s just not SPLIT over this, ‘kay?

JC Fisher

tobias haller

Nick Knisely and I clearly thing along similar lines. I put forward a similar notion in a sermon from 2006. Reality is about patterns, after all, for that is where meaning lies.

Rod Gillis

Just a follow up, Mark’s empty tomb account (16:1-8), I have long been intrigued by a position expressed by the late Rev. Dr. R. Rhys Williams, (a view he published).

Rhys’ advanced the view that the direction given to the women at the tomb in Mark 16:7, “But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee;there you will see him as he told you.”, that this is really a reference to the parousia.

One might further speculate that this, the oldest of the empty tomb stories, was perhaps intended to shift the story away from the empty tomb as a segue to resurrection appearances as the later Gospels depict them, and point instead toward the parousia. It does offer an interesting theory which accounts for both the abrupt ending of the Gospel and the lack of an appearance in Mark.

Derek Olsen

Church tradition tells us that all of the apostles suffered martyrdom with the exception of John–who died in exile.

I find it very hard to believe that they would persist in such folly because of a fuzzy good feeling.

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