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Oyen, Geert van, and Tom Sheperd [Eds.]


Resurrection of the Dead. Biblical Traditions in Dialogue.


Leuven u. a.: Peeters Publishers 2012. XVI, 632 S. = Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, 249. Kart. EUR 85,00. ISBN 978-90-429-2689-9.


Andrew Chester

This volume consists of 32 papers given at a conference in Louvain in 2010. The essays are divided into four sections (Hebrew Bible, New Testament, extra-biblical traditions, historical and hermeneutical perspectives). According to the editors, the aim of the conference was to show how the biblical traditions are in dialogue with each other and with extra-biblical traditions, and how the re-interpretation of these traditions always stands in continual dialogue with the present. This is more obvious in some essays than in others (some of which seem at best marginal to the main focus); the qual­-ity of the essays also varies considerably. It would have been helpful to have had a longer Introduction, making clear how the volume overall coheres, how effective the dialogue has been, and what specific gains have resulted from it.
There is some interesting discussion of the ways in which texts from the Hebrew Bible are used in relation to resurrection in the New Testament. A. Wénin argues that a number of these texts are of central importance: several of the Psalms for Acts, Isaiah 52–53 both for Acts and also Philippians 2, and Exodus 14 for baptism bound up with resurrection (as in Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 10), while Ezek 37.1–14 may underlie Acts 2, as also Rom 8.11 andJohn 5.18. E. Eynikel sees Isaiah 52–53 as important for ›intertestamental‹ eschatological reflection as well as for the New Testament, and argues that this shows how the move could be made for setting an end to animal sacrifice and putting the death and resurrection of Christ in its place. H. Ausloos argues that John 11.11, and the rais­ing of Lazarus narrative more generally, represent an allusion to Job 14.12, and interprets it as unequivocally referring to the resurrection (even though the Job text itself, in both Hebrew and Greek traditions, is not at all clear in this respect).
Not surprisingly, Dan 12.1–3 is given some attention. J. B. Doukhan argues that this passage, as the only clear expression of resurrection in the Hebrew Bible, portrays it both as physical, historical and individual, yet also as universal and relating to all humankind – although (with its eschatological emphasis) essentially to the righteous. He sees two contrasting theologies, set in tension with each other, underlying what is said here: that of retribution (with resurrection bound up with judgment, and determined on the basis of merits), and that of redemption (with resurrection as a ­gracious act of salvation). S. J. Bedard sees the tradition in Greek mythology of heroes experiencing apotheosis (and being trans­-formed into gods) as having marked similarities with early Jewish resurrection traditions, depicting it as an angelic transformation. He cites Dan 12.2–3 as a clear example of this, but also sees a borrowing of this Greek tradition in further Jewish texts – e. g. 1 En 100, Apoc.Abr 13, 2 Bar 51, Ps-Phoc 102–104, 4Q491, and 2 En 22; but the question needs to be raised here of the extent to which these texts have been influenced directly by Dan 12.
Within the New Testament section, the two editors both focus on narrative readings of Mark 16.1–8. Thus G. van Oyen argues that this perspective shows that 16.8 is indeed where the Gospel originally ended, and suggests – using Foucault’s category of Heterotopia – that the challenge thus presented to the reader is not ›Who is Jesus?‹, but ›Where is Jesus?‹, so that the reader has to enter into the mystery of the passion and resurrection. T. Shepherd uses a narra-tive analysis of the textual traditions in Codex Vaticanus and Codex Washingtonianus to show the different ways in which they portray the significance of the resurrection. In B, the resurrection is central– the event that changes everything and calls for mission, so that the reader must have courage to tell this story in a hostile setting – whereas in W, it serves as a prelude to meeting with Jesus, and the emphasis is more triumphalist, set on the cosmic power of Christ to predict and empower mission. G. van Belle, in discussion of John’s Gospel, agrees with Bultmann that the resurrection and resurrection narratives here are described as semeia, but argues that it does not therefore follow (with the crucifixion as the point of exaltation and glorification) that the resurrection is no longer essential, and has only symbolic meaning. In fact a stark physical and material emphasis, in the resurrection as in the semeia otherwise, is very plausibly what John sees as belonging integrally to it. Among the discussions of Pauline texts, M. R. Malcolm argues that in 1 Corinthians Paul reinforces his challenge to the community to identify with the crucified and humiliated Christ, so that they can thus expect resurrection, and not with those who boastfully scorn the meek, and will perish. J. R. White argues that the ›firstfruits of the Spirit‹ in Rom 8.23 is best understood as an intertextual refer­ence to the ›firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep‹ in 1 Cor 15.20 and denotes the resurrection of Christ, which thus provides a ­guarantee of resurrection for believers. In discussion of Revelation, M. Labahn argues that the concept of resurrection here has the rhetorical purpose of convincing its readers that they should accept its interpretation of reality, so they can have courage and follow the demands that Revelation makes: they have to see the true reality as contrary to their present experience of suffering in a meaningless and godless world. Thus Revelation is to be seen as a subversive narrative, with its call to live at the margins of society.
The third section has discussions of resurrection and related themes in, for example, 4Q521, in relation to Matt 11 and Luke 7 (C. Pogor); Did 16.6–8 (J. A. Draper); the Shepherd of Hermas (M. R. C. Grundeken); the Odes of Solomon (G. Vleugels); Apoc.Pet 4 (T. Nicklas); the Nag Hammadi Treatise on the Resurrection (R. E. Craig); and Origen (P. B. Decock). (There is also, in the first section, an essay by J.-S. Rey comparing post-mortem hope in Sirach and 4QInstruction.) The final section (on History, Theology and Hermeneutics) is rather thinly represented; the only piece of historical theology is on the question of resurrection or immortality of the soul in Reformation Exegesis (G. Juhász). There is also an interesting essay by C. Clivaz, who argues that it is necessary to take seriously Gerd Lüdemann’s position on the resurrection of Jesus, while also noting its very obvious deficiencies (in the only other essay in this section, Lüdemann presents another version of his explanation for how belief in Jesus’ resurrection ever came about: this time, he holds that Peter’s decisively influential Easter vision of Jesus arose from the psychological effects on him of his mourning and guilt-feelings following Jesus’ death). Clivaz suggests that the ready reception of the story of the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection must be set with­in the Hellenistic and Egyptian cultural context of the Second Sophistic. It is necessary also to be aware of the fragile nature of the earliest accounts of the resurrection, and to be open to a Christian belief in the resurrection of the body-self in the care and memory of God.
Overall, then, despite the somewhat disparate and uneven na­ture of the essays in this volume, the contributions not only range over quite a variety of Jewish and, especially, Christian texts, but also, in some cases at least, have discussion that is worth pondering.