Saturday, 22 April 2017

The startling surprise of resurrection

I am currently researching for some further chapters in my book, Mutated Faith, which is a serious historical re-think about how belief in the Trinity arose in what I believe is a two-stage process over the first four centuries of the common era.

I am absolutely loving looking again at a very cherished book of mine, The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N. T. Wright, published in 2003 (which is also when I bought it). The reason why this is an important book for me again is that I need to demonstrate why this "mutation" talk is so relevant, since I am applying it to the Trinity. There is a fundamental issue that historians of early Christianity have had to come to terms with, which is to answer: how could it have been possible that the first Christians were also Jews? Furthermore, why even did they hold to the Jewish Scriptures - surely the occasional New Testament citation should have been sufficient? Heck, we could just call it "The Testament". Something similar to this was indeed attempted by a Second-century Christian called Marcion, who dissociated the loving Father of Jesus from the vengeful YHWH of the Old Testament.

The answer to these questions lies in the word "mutation". Although other vocabulary can be and is applied (e.g. "innovation"), fundamentally, Christianity described as a mutation of Judaism provides a good historical understanding of how the movement rose up from within an existing religious framework, before their points of incompatibility became too great.

"I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with..."

I have spied out three key contributions to understanding the Christian mutation, all of which can and are described as mutations in their own rights, and all of which prepare for the understated "mumma" of all mutations: the religious core, a.k.a. the Triune Hub.

One of these three key mutations to prepare my presentation of the Trinity (which is founded on developed subjective understanding and not ontological fact claims, thus attempting to adopt Ricoeur's voie longue), is resurrection - hence my interest in Tom Wright's tome. The other two are dyadic worship patterns (worshipping Jesus alongside the Father) and participative eschatology, actively including the people of God in ushering in God's kingdom, instead of waiting for God to do it by himself. These three combine to prepare for the dramatic reconfiguration of the core of the Judeo-Christian faith into three inter-locked entities.

Why is resurrection such a startling surprise? Wright does an excellent job showing how in Judaism and in the ancient greco-roman world, no-one had been resurrected. He also forcefully differentiates where others have assimilated 2nd temple Jewish eschatological hopes in the resurrection from liberating platonic escape for the soul. Why are these two not the same? For second temple Jews, I think more so than second-century Christians, the foundation was Yahweh, their God, who created all things and created all things well. He was a redemptive God, saving his people powerfully from the hand of the Egyptians through the Red Sea. He is not in the business of throwing out duff stuff that he loved, but instead of fixing it.

Despite that drastic difference, and maybe some sense of veneration of former heroes of the faith like Enoch, David, Abraham, Moses and so on, there was no talk of them being raised from the dead. At the same time, hope was crystalising as needs intensified for a Messiah-King to coordinate another great act of Yahweh (aka the LORD) to save his people from oppressive foreign forces. As Wright puts it:  "nobody put those two hopes together until the early Christians did so" (p205). As a result, Judaism was "quite unprepared for the new mutation that sprang up [Christianity], like a totally unexpected plant, within the already well-stocked garden" (p206). My emphasis.

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