The Resurrection In Jürgen Moltmann -- By: Randall E. Otto

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 35:1 (Mar 1992)
Article: The Resurrection In Jürgen Moltmann
Author: Randall E. Otto

The Resurrection In Jürgen Moltmann

Randall E. Otto*

“Until Moltmann and Pannenberg, no one conceived that historical inquiry could again be a ground for a Christology based on the Resurrection.”1 Although Moltmann and Pannenberg have founded their respective theologies on the resurrection, Moltmann’s use of “resurrection” diverges significantly from the common conception of the term. An understanding of the social character of Moltmann’s use of this symbol is vital to a proper apprehension of his work.

I. Methodological Considerations

According to Moltmann, Israel’s religion of promise was eminently this-worldly in orientation, repudiating any notion of resignation to the beyond of epiphany religion. For Israel, death cuts one off from God and the promise. The hope of resurrection found on the periphery of Judaism in later apocalyptic has nothing to do with hope for man beyond death or with a recognition of immortal substances in which man participates. In Israel the idea of the raising of the dead was formulated within the framework of the religion of promise. It was not a case of natural reanimation but rather the fulfilling of Yahweh’s promises of life in the dead bearer of the promise. Moltmann’s contention that Israel clung “with obstinate exclusiveness” to the historic and this-worldly fulfillment of the promises thus forms the presupposition for understanding the resurrection of Christ as the resurrection of the crucified One and not as a symbol for the hope of immortality and the concomitant resigned attitude toward life.

Within this context Jesus’ death on the cross signified the end of his life and hopes. The death of Jesus was experienced as the death of the one sent as the Messiah of God and therefore implied also the death of God. His death was experienced and proclaimed as that of godforsakenness, judgment, and exclusion from the promised life. “In this context of these expectations of life, his resurrection must then be understood not as a mere return to life as such, but as a conquest of the deadliness of death—as a conquest of godforsakenness, as a conquest of judgment and of the curse, as a beginning of the fulfilment of the promised life, and thus as a

*Randall Otto is a doctoral candidate at Westminster Theological Seminary, Church Road and Willow Grove Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19118.

conquest of all that is dead in death, as a negation of the negative (Hegel), as a negation of the negation of God.”2 Jesus’ resurrection was not therefore a private Easter for his private Good Friday but...

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