Vigils Reading

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Vigils Reading

April 20


By Bruce Vawter


In biblical faith the resurrection is something; something did occur to

account for the appearances of Jesus after his death. It is not to retreat into

obscurity or equivocation to confess that we have no better way of defining that

something than to call it resurrection. We cannot define what is indefinable in

terms of human experience; we can only describe it in some fashion by the use

of the pictures we call analogies. The picture we use following the New

Testament precedent to describe both what God effected in Christ and, with it

as the proleptic example, what its faith promises to all who share in God’s

kingdom, is mythical to the extent that, taken in all literalness, it might equally

well serve to describe the resuscitation of a corpse, which the New Testament

does not intend to do…

Paul…for all his insistence on the resurrection as a reality, did not think

of it as a resurrection of dead flesh: “Perhaps someone will say, ‘How are the

dead to be raised up? What kind of body will they have?’ A nonsensical question!

The seed you sow does not germinate unless it dies. When you sow, you do not

sow the full-blown plant but a kernel of wheat or some other grain. God gives

body to it as he pleases — to each seed its own fruition… So is it with the

resurrection of the dead.

Paul admittedly tells us more about what, in his view, the resurrection is

not than what it is, but at the same time he tells us enough to dissuade us from

dismissing lightly the testimony of his senses, which he joined to the witness of

his tradition. Here was a man quite conscious of the validity of what are

sometimes thought to be modern and scientific objections to the idea of

resurrection; a man convinced that something had occurred that he could only

call resurrection while regretting the inadequacy of the concept. Paul was as

prepared as anyone today for demythologizing, but he was not prepared to

disallow any fact out of his inability to explain it. Rather than deny the fact, he

preferred to retain the myth with all its attendant ambiguities.


7 This Man Jesus, Bruce Vawter. Doubleday & Co. 1973. p.48-9.14.



April 20
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