The Language And Nature Of The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ In The New Testament -- By: Samuel Oyinloye Abogunrin

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 24:1 (Mar 1981)
Article: The Language And Nature Of The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ In The New Testament
Author: Samuel Oyinloye Abogunrin


The Language And Nature Of The Resurrection Of
Jesus Christ In The New Testament

Samuel Oyinloye Abogunrin*

I. The Problem

The resurrection of Jesus Christ constitutes the center of the NT message. The cynosure of Christianity from its very beginnings is the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. But what exactly happened on Easter morning? Can modern man believe in the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave? Is the resurrection of Jesus an historical event? If so, is it an event in the actual sense of the word or a mere expression of early Christian faith in Jesus as a divine person?

About two generations ago R. Bultmann spoke of the “incredibility of a mythical resurrection of a corpse.”1 But throughout Christian history the resurrection of Jesus has remained one of the major pillars of the Church’s doctrine. This subject in its various aspects has been of fundamental concern from the beginning and the point of examination by scholars over the centuries. One of the major problems has been the language of the resurrection. The NT and the Apostles’ Creed unhesitatingly speak of Jesus’ resurrection in terms of being raised bodily. The thorny question is closely related to the empty tomb and the nature of Jesus’ resurrection. It is often questioned whether the resurrection from the grave is an accurate description of what took place at Easter. Of course the fact that some scholars question the validity of the resurrection language does not mean that they are questioning the validity of Jesus’ victory over death, which is the Christian mystery that underlies the resurrection language. But on the other hand, those who are unable to distinguish between a religious truth and its formulation regard the questioning of the resurrection language as a loss of faith in Jesus’ victory over death.2

Apart from the language and nature of the resurrection, there is the perennial problem of the gospel texts concerning this stupendous event. But the examination of the gospel texts is beyond the scope of this paper. Our major concern here is a critical review of the various objections to the resurrection of Jesus based on the language and nature of it, especially the question of the empty tomb. We want to see to what extent the language and NT description of the resurrection of Jesus are still justifiable.

*Samuel Abogunrin is lecturer in New Testament literature and theology at the Unive~ity of Ibadan in Nigeria.

II. Early Criticism

Apart from Matthew’s record (28:11-15), which is confirmed by Justin Martyr (

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