Sample Essay on the Resurrection

It is not possible to have a theology of the cross without resurrection. The powerful attacks launched against even best of human works that put the sinner to death would simply not be possible if the resurrection were not presupposed. Some of the theologians of the cross seem afraid to bring in talk of resurrection because they apparently fear it will mitigate the unrelieved “tragedy” of the cross and its attack. But the opposite is the case. Bodily resurrection is cardinal teaching of the Christian faith, which lies at the heart of New Testament teaching. “In fact, the New Testament describes the centrality of Christ’s bodily resurrection and the expected resurrection of the bodies of the believers in likeness to his resurrected body” (McGrath 244). Moreover, McGrath argument suggests that Paul based the resurrection of the believers on the fact that Jesus Christ had resurrected, thus providing the believer with the hope of resurrection.

These declarations from Christian scholars that narrow the meaning of or dispense with the resurrection stand over against the long history of the Christian faith. If a theology is going to align itself with both the biblical witness and the tradition of the church’s proclamations, it cannot easily eliminate or reduce the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. From the apostolic age to the medieval Church to the Reformation to important contemporary theological voices, the resurrection has stood at the center stage of the Christian faith. Around 400 CE, Augustine preached that “the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the distinctive mark of the Christian faith” and that “faith in His resurrection saves and justifies us.” Twelve century later, Martin Luther declared: When one wants to preach the Gospel, one must treat only of the resurrection of Christ.

Four centuries beyond Luther, Karl Barth claimed, “To know him (Christ) is identical with knowing the power of His resurrection (Phil 3). And a decade later Jurgeon Moltmann put it succinctly: “Christianity stands or falls with the reality of the raising of Jesus from the dead by God…..a Christian faith that is not resurrection faith can therefore be called neither Christian nor faith.

“This tradition of understanding resurrection as central to the Christian faith is grounded upon the biblical witness, for the resurrection of Jesus is a presupposition of the writers of the New Testament” (Wood 344). Unlike other features of the New Testament, for instance, the story of virginal conception of Jesus, found in only two books (Matthew and Luke) and only in the first two chapters of each, the proclamation of almost every author in the New testament is permeated by the resurrection faith. According to Wood, the primary example of the centrality of belief in the resurrection in the witness of the New Testament is Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 15:14-19

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

To make the claim that the resurrection of Jesus is essential to the Christian faith does not yet clarify what one should believe in when holding this doctrine (Philippians 2:9-11). For many Christians the first image that comes to mind is the drama of the empty tomb, as it is portrayed in the Gospels. Easter sermons regularly stress the reality of Jesus resurrection by appealing to the empty tomb and the appearance stories that follow. Some scholars have gone far beyond the claim of the probability of a historical empty tomb to the use of the empty tomb as part of an apologetic strategy in support of the actuality of the resurrection itself, which in turn provides a foundation for the faith. Traditional Roman Catholic fundamental theology, responding to the enlightenment critiques, tried to prove the resurrection as a historical fact by showing philosophically the possibility of such an event and then demonstrating the historicity of the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. “Along with these predictions, it said, the factuality of Jesus’ miracles provided the basis upon which to accept the miracle of the resurrection” (Nah 276). Then historical argument for the empty tomb and appearances of the risen Lord, which, it was claimed, could not have been preached in Jerusalem “unless the tomb had in fact been empty” were given to prove the factuality of the resurrection. According to this theology, the resurrection was not itself an article of faith but a demonstrable fact that provided an apologetic basis for the faith.

To support the resurrection, Pannenberg gives evidence for both the appearance of Jesus and the empty-tomb tradition. Pannenberg asserts that Paul is arguing for the factuality of the resurrection, because the person on the list could have been interrogated. For the historicity of the empty tomb, Pannenberg uses some common arguments, such as the claim that the Jerusalem Christians could not have proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection without an empty tomb; for without it the claim that Jesus had been resurrected could have been refuted by inspecting the place of burial.

My suggestion based on the first available witnesses to the resurrection, is that we must understand the resurrection of Christ as an “open,” relational event; an even t that implies and at the same time anticipates the new heaven and the new earth, when God will be all in all. Between its genesis and its fulfillment is the time of discipleship and mission where faith is understood as participating in God’s passion to reconcile with God what God has created.


Advancing beyond the conversation with recent representative theological voices, I have sought to show that resurrection is not a replaceable metaphor, but that it is a metaphor that is grounded in and witnesses to the ontological foundation of the Christian faith and its social dimension, the Christian church.

The Christian understanding of Easter necessarily includes God and faith, and I contend that apart from that divine foundation there is no ontological basis for our personal hope beyond the grave and for our struggle for peace and justice here and now. On the basis of the resurrection, we can affirm that history can be changed in the direction of truth and justice, and that God is involved with such change. The resurrection cannot be limited to its anthropological consequences. The symbols of “ascension” and “exaltation to the right hand of God” express the fact that the resurrection has ecological and cosmic implications (Nah 352).

In conclusion, to this argument, we cannot know precisely what happened to Jesus, and while ultimate verification of the resurrection will only occur eschatological with the general resurrection, we can gain provisional but reliable evidence that supports the resurrection.

Work Cited

McGrath, Alister E. Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. Print.

Nah, David S. Christian Theology and Religious Pluralism: A Critical Evaluation of John Hick. Eugene, Or: Pickwick Publications, 2012. Print.

Wood, Laurence W. Theology As History and Hermeneutics: A Post-Critical Conversation with Contemporary Theology. Lexington, Ky: Emeth Press, 2004. Print.