Thursday, 24 May 2018

Lazarus was resurrected (not just brought back to life)

This seems plainly stated in the Fourth Gospel, here:

John 11:17-27 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Well, that seems conclusive to me; but the mainstream view is that Lazarus cannot have been resurrected because Jesus was the first to be resurrected - therefore this passage must be explained-away; and it is.

When we regard Lazarus as having been resurrected, it does change a great deal of the 'standard' understanding of what Jesus did, and how he did it. It seems that being resurrected 'at the last day' was already expected among Jesus' followers, and was not an achievement of Jesus.

What new thing Jesus brought was not resurrection; but the quality of that resurrected life; which is probably the main subject of the Fourth Gospel - in its many 'metaphors' (water, wine, bread, light etc) contrasting this mortal life with 'everlasting' life.

It was already expected that Men would be resurrected to dwell in Paradise (ie. a better after-life, but qualitatively similar to mortal life); and what Jesus newly-brought was resurrection into Heaven.


5 comments:

Chiu ChunLing said...

It's not clear what you're saying here.

If being resurrected is more than just being raised from the dead, then of course it would be a qualitatively different form of life.

But if this qualitative difference were not instituted by virtue of Christ's own death and resurrection, then it should not be a quality that requires dying at all.

This would fit even better with the text, implying that not only Lazarus, but everyone who believed Christ, was resurrected even without dying.

I believe that salvation (or eternal life) is the more appropriate term for this difference between the carnal life and the Christian life. It is signified here by the phrase "and the life." In other words, it is another thing entirely from resurrection.

Eternal life is to be liberated from Hell, through faith in Christ leading to repentance of sin and obedience to Christ's commandments. Resurrection is being raised from the dead and freed from the grave, through Christ's death and resurrection.

There is an important sense in which salvation was available to people in the ages prior to Christ's mortal ministry, and other important senses in which salvation was temporally contingent (that is, came chronologically after) His Incarnation. The same may be said to be true of resurrection, every person has lived with the promise of eventually being resurrected, and every person who has not yet been resurrected must face (even if they do not actually undergo) the prospect of confinement in the grave.

I myself do not find all of this doctrine particularly interesting...I'm less concerned about your apparent errors on the subject (which arise from not seriously considering the importance of death as such) than with the degree of significance you seem to be attributing to those errors.

Failed eschatology is commonplace, and does no real harm as long as one does not go betting everything on it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - The lack of understanding between us is mutual!

Bruce B. said...


I always regarded the resurrection as a sign/proof of the coming resurrection (of both Jesus and us) but I assume it was a real resurrection so in a sense Lazarus was the first. The Saducees taught no resurrection, the Pharisees taught resurrection - Jesus confirmed the latter view and that he is God by resurrecting Lazarus.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - Yes; although to be precise, Jesus seemingly credits his Father with performing the resurrection of Lazarus -

John 11: 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

Daniel said...

Hi Bruce, my understanding (currently - it changes frequently) is that the difference between the two is that Lazarus is a resurrectee while Jesus is an auto-resurrector (please forgive the ugly terms). This is shown in their resurrected natures: Lazarus is recognisable as the dead man, while Jesus is mistaken for the gardener. Lazarus' returning as his former self was necessary in order to draw men to Jesus otherwise it could be dismissed as a mere stunt. Jesus through his work on the Earth gained the power to resurrect himself ("Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it up again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father"). The spirit of Christ after death regenerated itself from the minerals of the earth passing through the various stages to become a man. At the last day, when time expires and all has been said and done, those who have lived by Christ, consuming him - as in your other post - will be resurrected from the entire fabric of the universe. The new thing that Christ gives us is the power to resurrect ourselves by believing in him and seeing him in all things and in ourselves.