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Jesus’ Resurrection: Act of God

March 23, 2018

At a musical event last night where a Christian minister also spoke, he referred to Jesus as “rising from the dead, proving that he was God.”  I find no such statement anywhere in the NT.  Instead, the NT writings rather consistently claim that Jesus was raised from death by God.  And the effects claimed were that, thereby, the man Jesus became the foundation and pattern for the ultimate redemption proffered to his followers.

Granted, NT texts reflect the belief that the man Jesus was also the unique manifestation of the divine Logos, and the one in whom the “fullness of God” dwelt bodily (e.g., John 1:1-2; Colossians 1:15-20), and the one who “though in the form of God” became a “servant” (Philippians 2:6-11).  But, the NT texts also insist just as firmly that Jesus of Nazareth was a real first-century Jewish male from Galilee, genuinely mortal.  And this was demonstrated most obviously in his death.  He really died.

So, Jesus’ resurrection is presented, not as Jesus’ act, but God’s.  Look at Romans 4:24-25, for example, widely thought to derive from an early “pre-Pauline” confession.  Paul there refers to belief in God “who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead . . . for our justification.”  Or consider 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, perhaps the earliest extant Pauline epistle, where believers are portrayed as having “turned to God from idols,”  and await “his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead.”

Actually, a survey of all the NT references to Jesus’ resurrection will confirm this pattern, in which it is posited as the crucial act of God, not the act of Jesus.  For further discussion of this and other related matters, see my book, God in New Testament Theology (Abingdon Press, 2010), e.g., pp. 55-57 on Jesus’ death and resurrection.  I also wrote about the topic several years ago for the online magazine, Slate, here.

And the NT claim isn’t that Jesus proved “he was God,” but that God validated Jesus as the true Messiah and Son of God, and that God also exalted Jesus to the position of “Lord,” sharing the divine name, divine throne and divine glory.  To be candid, the NT writings portray a truly dead and helpless Jesus raised from death by God, in demonstration of God’s power over death, and also the validity of Jesus as the unique Son and Lord.

Moreover, the NT writings present Jesus’ resurrection as bearing important implications for believers.  For example, Paul makes Jesus’ resurrection the “first fruits” of a larger resurrection-harvest that is to include all who trust in him (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).   Note Paul’s assertion in Romans 8:11, that the same divine power that raised Jesus from death “will give life to your mortal bodies also.”

In short, in NT texts, the resurrected Jesus is the literal embodiment, the initial instance, of what the consummation of redemption is to be for believers.  So, it was pretty essential that it was as a human that Jesus was raised by God.  To portray Jesus’ resurrection as his own act demonstrating his inherent divinity is a gross misunderstanding of what the NT texts assert.

To be sure, the claim that God raised Jesus from death has profound christological import.  But it also has equally profound theo-logical import, positing God as the actor.  And it also has profound soteriological import, vividly positing the basis for the redemption-hope offered to believers.  It is precisely in his genuine mortality that Jesus’ resurrection serves in this richly meaningful way in the NT.

Whatever you make of the claim, it’s at least important to understand accurately what the NT writers were trying to assert!

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72 Comments
  1. Hon Wai Lai permalink

    Ron Minton: For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the divinity question on theological and historical discourse. Christians with an apologetics agenda, would find it very convenient to find evidence that Jesus claimed to be divine, in order to mount a C.S.Lewis-type liar-lunatic-Lord argument to convert people to the faith. For other Christians who presuppose that all central theological affirmations made by the early Christians especially the New Testament authors constitute doctrinal truths, Jesus’ own teaching about his divinity is not necessary to support the early Christians’ beliefs about his divinity, be it expressed via their declarations or devotional practices. In addition, if one also affirms the patristic traditions are also authoritative in their own right, then the affirmation of New Testament authors is not necessary for doctrinal truths. However, if there is no evidence that the historical Jesus claimed divinity, then it raises a problem for defenders of traditional Christian doctrines, who need to explain why he didn’t do so, and to answer whether Jesus was aware of his own divinity. In theological terms, it surely matters whether a divine Jesus was ignorant of his own identity. In historical terms of how the historical Jesus was like (something of interest to both people with Christian theological convictions, and those without), it makes a great deal of difference whether Jesus taught his divinity and the reactions of his contemporaries to this claim.

    • Hon Wai: I’m not really confident that it’s theologically essential for Jesus to have known and asserted that he was “divine”. From the NT texts, the crucial thing is what God says about Jesus, not what Jesus says about himself.

      • Hon Wai Lai permalink

        I am not saying it is essential for a viable Christian theology to affirm that Jesus knew he was divine in the sense affirmed by patristic creeds. Instead I am pointing out a problem – which I think is a genuine one – which theologians need to answer (no doubt they already have, whether the answers are persuasive is another matter), concerning the scope of Jesus’ self-knowledge. ….

      • We don’t do systematic theology on this blog site.

  2. Ron Minton permalink

    Not sure how the order of these posts are listed, but this is in response to Eric Rowe’s longer post.
    Jesus is called God/theo a number of times in the NT (Harris “Jesus as God…”). I do not think anyone who knows Greek disputes that Jesus was called theos. But did he ever call himself theos.
    In John 1:1 the best rendering is not “God,” but “deity” since it is an anarthrous precopulative qualitative predicate nominative – and it was not spoken by Jesus. As Dr. Hurtado showed, you can make any biblical passage say what you want, and many deny Jesus’ deity on doctrinal/philosophical grounds. Did Jesus ever called himself theos? It makes no doctrinal difference if he did or if he did not.
    Again, thanks to Prof H for such an interesting blog – one of the best.

  3. Bill Wortman permalink

    λαμβανω can have a passive or active connotation, as you know, so that alone settles nothing.

    If anything the semantics seem to favor Stackhouse’s reading. For the two verbs τιθημι and λαμβανω, when paired, commonly describe complementary but opposite (active) actions (see Jn 13: τίθησιν τὰ ἱμάτια…ἔλαβεν τὰ ἱμάτια). It would be a rather tortured understanding of λαμβανω in that context to suggest that it means Jesus “has the prospect” of receiving his clothes back again (as the result of someone else’s actions).

    “A dead man can’t raise himself.” For the record Jesus never quite says that as “a dead man” he will raise himself. That may be reading too much into his words. What he claims is that he alone has the authority to effect BOTH his death AND his resurrection. But even if he does mean “while dead” he has the authority to raise himself, it would seem no less paradoxical than for him to be born in the age of Augustus and to speak of existing before Abraham.

    • Bill: You’re simply reasserting the viewpoint of several other commenters. John 10:17 has Jesus say “I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” He takes it again when God gives it to him by resurrection. The text says nothing about Jesus resurrecting himself. The “exousia” (right/authority) is not the power of resurrection, but the (God-given) right to live again. The “pre-crucified” Jesus here is portrayed as affirming that he lays down his life in confidence that God will give him life again, and he will “lambano” (take/accept) it.
      Cf. e.g., John 1:12-13, where the same words are used–“Whoever received [elabon] him [Jesus], to them he gave the right/authority [exousia] to be the children of God . . . those begotten of God”. Their “authority” isn’t a power to make themselves begotten of God, but a right/status conferred by God’s action.

  4. Dr.Hurtado , your statement “But, the NT texts also insist just as firmly that Jesus of Nazareth was a real first-century Jewish male from Galilee, genuinely mortal” is slightly confusing me. I understand Jesus of Nazerth is presented in the NT as a Jew from Galilee but where does the NT says Jesus was genuinely mortal. If he is genuinely mortal then how could Paul compare Jesus with Adam.
    Was Adam genuinely mortal when he was created? Paul clearly says that death entered this world because Adam’s transgression and Adam became mortal. Please clarify how do you account Jesus as second Adam. If first Adam was not genuinely mortal( Adam experienced mortality when he sinned or disobeyed) how Jesus could be genuinely mortal. Does mortality takes a different meaning in theological world?

    • Sekarrose: “Mortal” = susceptible to death, which Jesus clearly was. When crucified, he died. The rest of your comment is immaterial to that point

  5. Hon Wai Lai permalink

    Dr. Hurtado, there is something I don’t get in these exchanges with your blog followers concerning the interpretation of John 10. Suppose your interlocutors are right, contra your interpretation, that the verse intends to convey Jesus raised himself to life by his own power . . . .I fail to see, contra your interlocutors, why this feeds into the question of whether the Johannine author intends to convey that the resurrection demonstrates Jesus’ divinity.

    • Yes, you have a point. There are two matters that shouldn’t be confused. (1) Do NT texts make Jesus’ resurrection his own action or that of God? and (2) Does Jesus’ resurrection make him “God/divine”?
      Yes, even if Jesus was given power by God to resurrect himself, this wouldn’t make him divine.
      Jesus’ divine status in the NT writings is based on God exalting him to share the divine throne (at God’s “right hand”), divine glory, divine name (e.g., Philippians 2:9-11).

      • From my limited perspective, Larry summarizes the matter very well here. Exclusively by a command received from his Father, Jesus is given authority both to lay down his life and take it up again. To understand this “taking up” in an active sense still must understand that Jesus has the “authority” (or, probably, better, the “right”–cf. ἐξουσία in, e.g., 1Cor. 8-9) only because it has been given to him: it is a derivative authority over his human mortality.

  6. Bobby Garringer permalink

    You write, “The NT writings portray a truly dead and helpless Jesus raised from death by God”. But in John’s Gospel, the one who had been granted authority to lay his life down was also granted authority to take up his life again. (I think you have not done justice to this conception.)

    According to John, Jesus’ role in his resurrection is not passive and helpless. Any attempted explanation of Jesus’ dual authority – authority in his death and authority in his resurrection – must recognize Jesus’ active role in both, as one who controls (has authority) in each event.

    It seems that a broad exegetical understanding of God’s role in Jesus’ resurrection in the NT would be more accurately stated: “Jesus was raised by God in the sense that God granted him the ability to accomplish – in the power of the Spirit – his own resurrection.”

    • Bobby: I suggest that your reading of John 10:17-18 is (unconsciously?) shaped by later creedal formualations. All the text actually says is that Jesus lays down his life and will take it up again (v. 17), and then reiterates the point that Jesus’ death is voluntary, he having the right/authority to lay it down, and to take it up again. But the text does NOT say that Jesus raised himself from death. Nor does any other text, in GJohn or elsewhere in the NT. The role of God in Jesus’ resurrection is so explicit and clear in so many texts that your final statement is egregiously erroneous.

  7. johnbburnett permalink

    To be sure, with the verb ἐγείρω, God is always the subject, and Jesus is the object: God raised Jesus, like you say; and this is the case sometimes with ἀνίστημι as well.

    But in Mk 8.31; 9.9,10,31; 10.34; 16.9; Lk 24.46; Jn 20.9; and numerous other passages that use ἀνίστημι— literally, ‘stand up’, in the sense of ‘rise’ or ‘arise’— Jesus does this under his own power.

    Other people besides Jesus of course also ‘stand up’ (ἀνίστημι) from the dead— e.g., Mk 12.25 etc; Lk 9.8,19— but the context of these always suggests that they do so by the power of God.

    And as i mentioned, Jn 6.40,44,54 etc; Ac 2.24,32 and lots of others use ἀνίστημι in the sense of ‘raise up’: e.g., Ac 3.26, ‘God, having raised up (ἀναστήσας) his servant…’.

    Indeed, BDAG gives 5 definitions that speak of ‘raising’, and 6 that speak of ‘rising’.

    So while I agree with what you wrote, above, and i don’t in any case think ‘proving he was God’ was the purpose of the resurrection (it is rather as you said)— still i’m wondering what you make of all those passages that suggest Jesus ‘stood up’ under his own power?

    Can you really say that “the NT writings portray a truly dead and helpless Jesus raised from death by God”, as if that were the ONLY story?

    • John: Yes to your question. Of course, Jesus “rose” from death. But in the context of those passages and in the context of the NT writings more broadly, he “rose” through the power of God raising him. As I’ve written, this is both the unambiguous notion projected in NT writings, and also of profound significance for the form of the “salvation” that they project as offered to believers. Jesus raising himself by his own divine power removes his resurrection as the model and “first fruits” of the full resurrection of the elect.

  8. Ron Minton permalink

    Dr., earlier you said ” It’s not about who performed the resurrection, but about Jesus’ God-given authority.” Actually, this discussion has mostly mostly about who performed the resurrection. Exousia means right, authority, power. So you seem to be saying God the Father gave the dead man Jesus authority. Authority for what? to raise himself from the dead? I must have missed something. Maybe you can explain.

    • Ron: John 10:17-18 has Jesus claim to have *received* from God “authority” to lay down his life and to “take” or “receive” it again (Greek: lambano). It’s a claim that his death isn’t the last word. It’s not a claim to raise himself.

  9. Calvin Scott Taylor permalink

    Larry, the NASB renders John 10:18, “I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” It could, however, just as legitimately be translated, “Authority I have to lay it down, and authority I have to again receive λαβεῖν it. This commandment I received ἔλαβον from my Father.” λαμβάνω in its various forms often simply emphasizes the taking/receiving of what someone else may have to give (and not necessarily the inherent authority of the one doing the taking/receiving). For example:

    “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive λαβεῖν, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

    “When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive λαβεῖν alms…And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive λαβεῖν something from them.” (Acts 3:3, 5)

    “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives λαβεῖν forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

    “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received ἔλαβον from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

    “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received λαβών authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.” (Acts 26:10)

    “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive λαβεῖν forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ (Acts 26:18)

    “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive λήμψεταί anything from the Lord” (James 1:7)

    At any rate, thanks for the stimulating discussion.

  10. For what it’s worth, in the Orthodox Church’s Octoechos (Book of Eight Tones), we find the following in the Aposticha for Saturday evening in Tone 4:

    The lawless people, O Christ,
    Handed you over to Pilate, condemned to be crucified,
    Thus proving themselves ungrateful before their benefactor.
    But voluntarily you endured burial,
    RISING BY YOUR OWN POWER ON THE THIRD DAY AS GOD,
    Granting us life everlasting and great mercy.

    Whether or not it is found explicitly in Holy Scripture, it is the Orthodox belief that Christ RAISED HIMSELF from the dead AS GOD.

    In Christ,
    Dn. David Maliniak
    Orthodox Church of Christ the Saviour, Paramus, NJ (OCA)

    • Interesting, Deacon DAvid, but (respectfully) irrelevant to the question of what NT texts say.

      • Equally respectfully, Dr. H, the Orthodox perspective takes a holistic view of what is termed Holy Tradition, of which Scripture is but a subset. In and of itself, Scripture does not outweigh other components of Holy Tradition, which includes (but is not limited to) liturgical texts and the writings of the Church Fathers. Orthodoxy considers Holy Tradition to be the “deposit of faith” that is at the core of everything we believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi, and all that, you know?

        …..
        All of the above likely means nothing to you, I’m sure. But to millions of Orthodox believers worldwide and throughout the ages, Christ’s raising of Himself is a rather important element of Orthodox Christological doctrine. Forgive me, but I felt compelled to make the point clear.

        In Christ,
        Dn. David

      • Dear Deacon David: No forgiveness necessary. You did no wrong. You are simply confusing two things: (1) what the earliest accounts of Christian faith claim about Jesus’ resurrection (that it was God’s action of raising Jesus), and (2) the theological developments of later centuries. My posting had to do with the first question. What Christians in various traditions later came to think is historically interesting, but not relevant to the exegetical question that I addressed.

  11. Eric Rowe permalink

    In John 20:24-28 it seems to me that Thomas viewed the resurrection of Jesus as proof that he was God.

    • ERic: The Gospel of John rather clearly doesn’t confuse Jesus “the Son” with God “the Father.” I don’t know what you mean by “he was God.” If you mean that “God” = Jesus, full stop. That’s plainly not what GJohn projects, either in 20:28 or elsewhere.
      But it’s also off the point. Which is now the NT portrays Jesus’ resurrection as the decisive act of God.

      • Eric Rowe permalink

        Thomas speaks to Jesus and calls him God. He does this in response to verifying that he had risen from the dead.

        The words you quoted that pastor saying were that he referred to Jesus “rising from the dead, proving that he was God.”

        Whether Thomas thought Jesus’s rising from the dead was solely his own doing, or solely the Father’s doing, or a combination of both, it’s still the case that Thomas’s calling Jesus “God” resulted from his coming to believe that he rose from the dead.

      • Eric: First, you really have to take the Johannine passages in their wider context. For example, the author states as his high aim (20:30-31) “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God . . .” So, the words of Thomas (whatever they mean) don’t comprise what the author regards as the optimal and aimed for confession.
        Also, note that Thomas’ exclamation is a kind of inclusio with 1:1-2, which both refers to Jesus as “theos” and has him “with God [ho theos]”. You can only read the one statement in light of the other.
        Yes, it is the risen Jesus, bearing the marks of crucifixion, that elicits the exclamation from Thomas in the story. But read that exclamation in light of the words of Jesus to Mary Magdalene in 20:17, “I ascend to my Father and their Father, to my God and their God”.

  12. Hon Wai Lai permalink

    Dr. Hurtado, I agree that the primary and immediate message NT authors wanted to convey about the resurrection wasn’t that it showed Jesus is divine – a common but exegetically sloppy claim by preachers. Instead, as you argued here, it vindicated Jesus as messiah and Son of God (the term used in a non-divine sense here), and God thereby elevated Jesus to a position of supreme authority, sharing the divine name throne and authority. However, just to play devil’s advocate, one could incorporate your thesis about Jewish apocalyptic thought on top of this primary message, in order to arrive at the conclusion that the resurrection proves indirectly Jesus is God:
    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/jesus-pre-existence-etc-responding-to-questions/
    In the 2014 post, you argued that according to logic of apocalyptic thought, eschatological events were God’s purpose from the beginning, and were the revelation of heavenly realities from before creation. Hence in conferring divine attributes including being worthy of worship to Jesus at his resurrection, God showed Jesus possessed these attributes all along from before creation. Hence NT authors conveyed that Jesus has always been divine.
    How’s this for devil’s advocate?

    • Hon Wai Lai: Yes, but you’re confusing things. The attribution of “pre-existence” to Jesus is one thing. The question of whether Jesus’ resurrection was his own action or that of God, quite another. It’s the latter question with which we’re concerned here. As such a text as Philippians 2:6-11 shows, even the notion that the “pre-existent” Jesus was “in the form of God (or a god)” did not prevent the assertion in the same context that Jesus assumed fully the human form of existence, was truly crucified (not a sham), and that it was God who exalted him to status as Kyrios.

  13. Mr Dominic Shiells permalink

    Haven’t you yourself published books on the nomina sacra and the early worship of Jesus among the Jews which would be considered idolatry if Jesus was not God , you do believe Jesus was fully God and man ?

    • Dominic: I know that it may be difficult, but we have to try to distinguish things. There are subsequent Christian theological categories (e.g., “persons” of the “Trinity”, “one substance”, “two natures”, etc.). But, as a NT exegete/historian, my task is to try to grasp the terms, categories and manner in which earliest Christian texts refer to “God” and Jesus, etc. My own beliefs are not the issue.
      Now, of course, as I have shown in many publications stretching over 30+ yrs, from the earliest observable moments in the “post-Easter” period, Jesus-believers treated him as sharing in divine glory, and so in the reverence given to God. That doesn’t pertain to the question of who raised Jesus from death.

  14. Calvin Scott Taylor permalink

    Larry, your point is unassailable. As early as Pentecost, the apostles declared, “This Jesus did God raise up, of which we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:32) This is in accord with Peter’s earlier announcement that Jesus was the one “whom God did raise up, having loosed the agony of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24)

  15. philsanders permalink

    Larry,

    Romans 1:1-4 (ESV) 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

    The resurrection proclaims Jesus to be the Son of God but not God. Other passages teach His Deity (Jn. 1:1; Phil. 2:5-11; Tit. 2:14; etc.).

    Phil

  16. Dr. Hurtado,

    Given Jesus’ words “I will raise” in John 2:19 (in the active voice), and the narrator’s explanation “was raised from the dead” in 2:21-22 (passive voice), as well as Jesus’ words “I will take/receive (psychē mou)” / “I have authority/power to take/receive [it] again” in John 10:17/18 (labō autēn / exousian echō palin labein, in the active both times), wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that, according to John, He raised His own body / took up His own psychē? Of course, it is also clear from the other texts you cite (and others) that His body was raised by God. The question becomes, then, as I see it, how to reconcile these verses in John with the rest of the NT and what is to be inferred from that reconciling.

    • Craig: See my responses to Stackhouse and others on these verses.

      • Sorry, I came in a bit late, and I didn’t see them until after I posted my comment. However, I must ask, given that 10:17/18 is in the active voice, can a dead body actively take/receive its psychē? I would be fully on board with your position had these verses been in the passive voice.

      • Craig: Again, the key word in the passage is “exousia”, authority/right to lay down his life and to take/receive it again. It’s not about who performed the resurrection, but about Jesus’ God-given authority.

      • I’ve read your most recent exchanges with Stackhouse, and while I’m more amenable to Stackhouse, I see things a bit differently. Thus, if you’ll indulge me a little longer, I’d like to engage further, taking these into account.

        I agree with you that exousia was conferred to Jesus and that exousia is the more important concept in this context. However, in 10:18d lambanō is in the active voice. So, with all due respect, it’s not “an authority to live again”, but ‘authority/power to (actively) take/receive up his own psychē [“life”] again’. This is bolstered by the near-parallel in 2:19. The “divine passive” in 2:22 does not negate Jesus’ 1st person active in 2:19. He clearly said “I will raise it [ton naon]”.

        Now, quite simply, a dead person—a person who by definition is necessarily unable to be ‘active’ in any sense of the word—would be unable to exercise the power/authority (conferred or not) to take/receive up his psychē. Yet, we must make grammatical and logical/theological sense of the active voice here. The two natures doctrine provides such a reconciliation. (This needn’t be construed as anachronism, but instead a means by which to explain the 1st c. text.) The very fact that Jesus expresses lambanō in the 1st person active militates against Nestorianism. I think Leo II’s Tome provides a good methodological framework: In Jesus’ human nature he died, but in his divine nature he yet lived, and three days later ‘took up his psychē’. In other words, the ‘raising’ was performed by his ‘God side’, so to speak. Thus, we can say, and by the grammar must say, that Jesus raised ‘the temple’ / took up his own psychē. This is no more ‘Nestorian’ than Jesus having slept (and etc.), while God “never sleeps nor slumbers”.

        Jesus’ claim that he’d raise himself need not be construed as contravening our hope for the resurrection. If such were the case, surely someone would have raised this as in issue at Chalcedon in 451. God raised Jesus and God will raise us!

      • Craig: Your whole discussion is framed in categories centuries later than the texts you’re trying to exegete. “Two natures,” “Nestorian”, etc.
        More to the point, John 10:17-18 explicitly says that God gave Jesus “exousia” (right, authority, authorization) to “take/receive” (the active forms have this broad meaning), and in the context this must mean to take his life from God. As much else in GJohn, this text looks ahead to the post-Easter setting, presenting Jesus as declaring ahead of the event that he will have his life again. No need for the Cappadocian Fathers or our other later friends here!

      • I think Raymond E. Brown (The Gospel According to John I-XII, The Anchor Yale Bible; [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974], p 399) has an important contribution to this conversation: “We note that in both vss. 17 and 18 it is Jesus himself who takes up his life again. The normal NT phraseology is not that Jesus rose from the dead but that the Father raised him up (Acts 2:24; Rom 4:24; Eph 1:20; Heb 11:19; 1 Pet 1:21—also see NOTE on 2:22). But since in Johannine thought the Father and the Son possess the same power (10:28–30), it really makes little difference whether the resurrection is attributed to the action of the Father or of the Son. This is a profound theological insight on which later Trinitarian theology would capitalize.”

        Of 2:22, Brown writes (p 116): “…Egerthē is passive in form but may be either passive or intransitive in meaning (ZGB, § 231; C. F. D. Moule, Idiom Book of New Testament Greek [2 ed.; Cambridge, 1963], p. 26). In the earlier Gospels the passive is probably to be preferred, in line with the nineteen times that the NT says that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. But in the Fourth Gospel it has become clear that the Father’s power is also Jesus’ power…and John insists that Jesus rose by his own power (10:17–18).”

      • Thanks, Craig. On this (as on very few matters), I have to disagree with the great R.E. Brown.

  17. That pastor seems to be fighting against a socio-historical battle of a non-deific Christ. It is sad when we fight for orthodoxy by punting hermeneutics. The soteriological implications of the resurrection would be mute if Jesus raised himself back from the dead. What hope would I have of justification if Jesus raise himself?

    It is interesting that you posted this at this time, for I actually had a theological discussion with some junior high students about this very point last night. I asked them “Why is Good Friday called ‘Good’?” and also asked them “Why is the resurrection important?” That helped direct the conversation about what the Scripture teach regarding the vicarious atonement and the resurrection of Jesus.

    Thanks for the post!

  18. clarkbates97 permalink

    How would this work in light of Jesus on statements? Perhaps this in your book, but in John 2:19, Jesus declares that he will raise his body up in three days. In your examples, you have what others have said regarding the resurrection, not what Jesus said.

    Is it not possible that both perspectives are correct? That the resurrection served BOTH as the justification of Jesus’ claims to deity AND as the fulfillment of the promise and hope for all who believe?

    With respect.

    • Clark: I think that my posting indicated that NT statements about Jesus’ resurrection make it BOTH a validation of him and his claims, AND the archetype of salvation. But his resurrection is rather consistently an act of God. E.g., even in John 2:19-22 (always read the context) though Jesus is portrayed (by John) in 2:19 as “raising” the “temple” (his body), in 2:22 note the passive verb form, “when he was raised” (by God).

  19. …await “his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead.” Question: does Paul mean that they’re waiting for the Son *who is/came* from heaven or that they wait for the Son *to come* from heaven? Thank you.

    • Lorenzo: It’s a reference to awaiting Jesus’ “parousia”(return) or “second coming” (in traditional Christian parlance).

  20. George permalink

    Doesn’t it indirectly prove he was God? God’s raising Jesus from the dead validates Jesus’ claims, including his claim to be God.

    • Well, George, you’d first have to show that Jesus claimed “to be God.” It depends on what you mean by that statement, perhaps. But it’s not the language ascribed to Jesus in the NT.

  21. Ron Minton permalink

    It is clear, as Dr. Hurtado said, that the NT says God raised Jesus. It also seems clear that the speaker, believing that Jesus was God/divine, also believes in the trinity so I think he must have been referring to the divine nature of Jesus who raised the human body of Jesus. Jesus himself said he had power to raise himself from the dead (John 10:18), and I do not think he was saying a dead man has power to raise a dead man’ he had to be speaking about his divinity. Sometimes the resurrection of Jesus is said to be by God the Father’s power (Gal.1:1; Eph. 1:17, 20), and sometimes by God the Son’s power (John 2:19, 10:18). The precise reasons why the speaker said the resurrection proved Jesus’ deity were not given in the blog. Maybe it was because if the father and the son both had this power, they both must be God and this proves Jesus’ deity. Maybe that is what the preacher meant. But on the other hand, sometimes divine attributes are seen in the man Jesus and human attributes are seen in the second member of the trinity, so maybe that was not his thinking. I confess I have not read all the articles involved.

    • Ron: “members of the trinity” reflects theological/philosophical developments far later than the NT texts. We don’t see that discourse in them. Moreover, both in John 2:18-22 and 10:17-18, the immediate context clarifies that Jesus “was raised” (NB: passive verb, 2:22) by God, and was given (by God “the Father”) the “authority” to take up his life (God’s resurrection conferred this authority). Actually, there’s a fairly consistent pattern to the NT statements.

  22. Wicked Willie permalink

    How does GJohn 10:18 fit into all this?

    • Willie: John 10:17-18 (context important) explicitly states that “the Father” conferred on Jesus “authority” (Gr: exousia) to take up his life again. This in fact seems to allude to the promise of Jesus’ resurrection (by God).

  23. Because we’re discussing a question of religion (as opposed to, say, astrophysics), my judgment on these matters is as good as yours, Larry. (Let the reader understand.) And *I* say you are importantly wrong in your categorical ruling out of NT texts indicating Jesus’ agency in his resurrection.

    Exhibit A: John 10:17-18–and, last I looked, GJohn is in the New Testament.

    So, yes, while your thesis does, in my view (which is, I hasten to reiterate, just as good as yours in these wonderfully populist days), govern most of the texts, it does not govern all of them.

    And in appropriate troll-ish fashion, may I conclude thus: Whatever you make of the claim, it’s at least important to understand accurately what the NT writers were trying to assert!

    • John: See my response to another commenter who pointed to John 10:17-18. It actually makes my case.

      • No, with respect, it doesn’t. Yes, Jesus speaks of receiving authority from the Father…to do some things. If Jesus has no agency in the situation, if he is as passive as you made him out to be (above), then this interesting passage doesn’t make any sense.

        “I have authority to lie down dead and have Someone Else resurrect me” doesn’t sound like “authority,” much less what the passage says: “I have authority to lay down my life and take it up again.” The latter doesn’t sound *anything* like the former, but the former is what you’re implying Jesus must have meant.

        I suggest that John 10 is the wrinkle in your otherwise smooth generalization–a generalization with which I agree. But it seems to me to be, perhaps, one of those Biblical oddities that keep us from concluding that we’ve got a full grip on the situation…

      • John: With even greater respect (even though you’re wrong!), there’s no question about what the author of the Gospel of John thinks about Jesus’ resurrection: In any of a number of unambiguous texts the author ascribes the act to God “the Father” (often by use of the “divine passive”, as in 2:22; 12:16, et al.). In John 10:17-18, Jesus is portrayed as conferred “authority” to “take up” his life again. The statement seems anticipatory of the status of Jesus in and after his resurrection. As the case in 5:24-28, where in the future (“the hour is coming”) the risen/exalted/glorified Jesus will himself summon forth the believing dead.
        I repeat: It’s not an indifferent matter. The NT makes Jesus’ resurrection God’s faithful act in the face of his death, and makes the risen Jesus the archetype of the salvation of believers. A “self-raising” Jesus is no such hope!

      • With utmost respect, Professor H, you seem to be working too hard to save the appearances. Again, I agree with your thesis as a general description of the NT. I think you’re right, both exegetically and dogmatically, to challenge that preacher’s phrasing. I even see the other GJohn texts at least mostly the way you do. BUT: John 10 seems to me a real conundrum, not easily explained by *anyone’s* reading.

        Yours, it has seemed to me, makes no sense: “I have authority to, uh, be dead and be raised again by Someone Else.” Big deal there, Jesus. That’s pretty much *everyone’s* authority!

        Mine, however, has its own problem: “I will die and then, while dead, will make myself alive again.” Unless one engages in some pretty un-Chalcedonian splitting of Jesus’ divine and human natures (the “God” part of Jesus raises the “human” part of Jesus), then it’s not at all clear what Jesus means.

        I still think mine is the better reading of THAT text, weird as its implications clearly are. Your reading, alas, just seems flatly wrong.

        With respect. 😉

      • John: (Isn’t this fun??) You practically admit the absurdity of your preferred reading: A dead man can’t raise himself. And John 10:17-18 doesn’t refer to the *power* that raised Jesus, but to his “right/authority” (Gr: exousia). Jesus states that he dies by his own choice, having been conferred by God with the right to lay down his life. And then he states that (again, by God’s conferral), he has (or has the prospect) of an authority to live again. That doesn’t go against the flow of various NT passages that make Jesus’ resurrection the act of God.
        But, if you insist on your reading, then I consign you to it 😉

      • Oo: “consign.” Good verb! I’m tapping out now…

      • It’s been fun, John.

  24. Bob permalink

    Dr. Hurtado, thank you for your ministry. I’ve been reading your blog since I discovered it a few years ago. One quick question: In light of what you said that Jesus didn’t raise Himself, how do you interpret Jn. 2:19–22?

  25. Thank you for your very illuminating note. I’ve a question concerning Romans 8:11. There it is the Spirit through whom God raised Christ from death and whose dwelling in us will also give us life. And this Spirit is named as both “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from death” and “the Spirit of Christ”. On the other hand, during his earthly life Christ does all his miracles through the Spirit (e.g. Mark 3:28-30). Cannot we conceive of this intimate belonging of the Spirit to Christ as somehow indicating Christ’s divinity shared with him by God even before his exaltation?

    • Zurab: Paul refers to the Spirit as the divine power/agency through which God raised Jesus in Rom 8:11, et alia. Paul also states that, by virtue of Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation as Kyrios, he has been made himself “a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45). So, in light of Jesus’ resurrection, the divine Spirit can be referred to by Paul as the “spirit of God” and “the spirit of his Son”. But this is language reflective of the “post-resurrection” status of Jesus.

  26. Dr. Hurtado. I’m not contesting your point, but what about passages in John such as in the cleansing of the temple where Jesus says, “Destroy this Temple. I will raise it up again in three days.”

  27. 1thingiask4 permalink

    One might arrive at the inference “rising from the dead, proving that he was God” based on this idea that “Son of God” == “God, the Son” when reading Rom 1:4, “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (NAS).

    • Yes, but that would be to substitute the biblical discourse of Rom 1:4, “the son of God,” for another “God”.

  28. M Matthew permalink

    Hi Dr. Hurtado,
    Then what did Jesus mean when He said in John 10:18-18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

    Isn’t this a divine statement?
    Thanks
    Manoj MATHEW

    Sent from my iPad – MKM

    • Again, see my response to another who pointed to this text.

      • Michael permalink

        Dr. Hurtado you have brilliantly responded to the challenging questions here. Thank you for committing your valuable time and knowledge to engage and clarify matters raised here.

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