Jews of Jesus day DID believe that the dead could be raised. A Layman’s Review of NT Wright’s, The Resurrection…, Part 33

Matthew 10:1-8

Then Jesus<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-23419a" value="[a]”>[a] summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-23421b" value="[b]”>[b] Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-23425c" value="[c]”>[c] Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers,<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-23426d" value="[d]”>[d] cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

NT Wright, page 435:

In Matthew’s version (above) of the mission charge to the disciples, Jesus instructs them not only to perform the same kind of healings of sickness that he is doing, but even to raise the dead (10.8).  Though this is without parallel, it is of course cognate with the double-tradition passage in 11.5:  it denotes the kind of ‘raisings’ of people recently dead which Jesus is reported to have done, like Elijah and Elisha.  It may be a sign pointing to the greater resurrection to come, but at the moment it simply counts as the most remarkable sort of ‘healing’.

NT Wright, page 204:

Nobody (among the Jews of second-Temple Judaism; the period in which Jesus lived) imagined that any individuals had already been raised, or would be raised in advance of the great last day. 

The martyrs were honoured, venerated even; but nobody said they had been raised from the dead.  The world of Judaism had generated, for its rich scriptural origins, a rich variety of beliefs about what happened, and would happen, to the dead.  But it was quite unprepared for the new mutation that sprang up.

Gary:  So Jesus is telling his disciples, in this passage of God’s inerrant, holy Word, to go raise people from the dead, prior to his own resurrection, but NT Wright claims that NOBODY believed that individuals would be raised from the dead prior to the general resurrection of all the righteous.

Rev. Wright is trying to build the case that NOBODY, no Jew and no pagan, would believe that a dead person could be brought back to life in a body, but he has just listed two instances, Herod Antipas and this passage, where people in the time of Jesus, prior to his resurrection, at least according to God’s inerrant Word, did believe that dead people could be raised to live in their bodies once again. 

So why does Rev. Wright discount the view of Herod Antipas and his court regarding the possibility that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead, and discount the fact that Jesus’ disciples were raising the dead, and that Jesus himself was raising the dead (Jairius daughter and Lazarus), but still expect us to believe that no Jew or pagan in the first century would believe that a man had been resurrected from the dead??  In other words, no Jew or pagan would believe that Jesus had been resurrected unless they had seen his resurrected/walking/talking body with their own two eyes??

Here’s why:  Rev. Wright sees a huge difference between resurrection and resuscitation!

In other words, Jairius’ daughter and Lazarus were brought back to life but would one day die again, just as any other mortal body.  All the dead that Jesus commanded his disciples to raise from the dead, would die again one day.  And even if Herod Antipas and his court believed that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead, it would be preposterous and impossible to believe that Herod  would believe that this resurrected John the Baptist had a transformed, immortal body.  (Sheesh!  You ignorant hicks!)

My response to Rev. Wright is this:  WHAT THE HELL DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE!

The people who were converting to Christianity in the first several centuries were not, for the most part, the intelligensia of society.  They were not the educated elite who could understand the difference between a ‘resurrected’ dead man and a ‘resuscitated’ dead man.  All that these fishermen, carpenters, farmers, tax collectors, and other peasants were told was that a dead man had come back to life, proving that he was the Messiah, the Son of God.  And since there is evidence from the Bible itself that some people in first century Palestine did believe that it was possible for a dead person to be raised in an individual ‘raising of the dead’ apart from the general ‘raising of the dead’, it is certainly therefore possible that uneducated, superstitious, first century Jews and pagans could believe that a man who had been crucified, died, and was buried for three days…COULD COME BACK FROM THE DEAD…without seeing his ‘resurrected/resuscitated body’ with their own two eyes!

Rev. Wright’s premise that belief in ‘resuscitation’ does not carry over to belief in ‘resurrection’ is silly nonsense. 


2 thoughts on “Jews of Jesus day DID believe that the dead could be raised. A Layman’s Review of NT Wright’s, The Resurrection…, Part 33

  1. You say:
    “The people who were converting to Christianity . . . [could not] understand the difference between a 'resurrected' dead man and a 'resuscitated' dead man.”
    The wiki- page “The historical reliability of the Gospels” dates all four Gospels in the first century, and the page for the Pauline 1 Corinthians (see chapter 15) dates it at AD 57. The oral tradition which resulted in the four Gospels made clear, in the narrative-telling (e.g. Mark’s details are dated AD 60!), the difference between a resuscitated Lazarus and a resurrected Christ. Many early disciples of the Risen Lord were well educated, e.g. Acts 6:7. Priests were trained in the Jewish Law, and the best minds among them would have learned not only Hebrew and Aramaic, but also Greek (the then universal language in the East). Those who travelled west to visit the Jewish diaspora would have learned some Latin, too. Travel north introduced them to Syriac. Paul was well trained intellectually, and he appealed not only to the ignorant but also to the educated, e.g. King Agrippa, Acts 26:28. Paul knew his readers were intelligent when he said in AD 57 of Jesus’ risen body, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15: 57). So, the narrative invites us to distinguish between two kinds of body, one mortal and the other immortal, one limited as we are, the other able to walk through doors, and appear or disappear at will. Keeping all this in mind, there was plenty of time in the first century for the first Christians to thoroughly study the resurrection story and know the difference between Lazarus, who rose only to die again, and Jesus, who rose never to die again.


  2. I'm not saying that Christians were not taught the difference between “resuscitation” and “resurrection”. I'm just saying, what difference does it make as far as whether or not a first century pagan or Jew would believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?

    The entire argument, at least so far, by Wright, is that no one in the first century Roman world would have believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead because neither pagans nor Jews believed that individuals who are truly dead can return from the dead in a body. Spirits and ghosts, yes, but not in a body.

    My point is to demonstrate that according to the Bible, dead people were coming out of their graves left and right. So the story that Jesus also had been raised from the dead would NOT be unbelievable. A miracle, yes, but an impossibility, no.

    If a dead man came out of his grave today and claimed to be God I probably wouldn't stop to ask if he had been “resurrected” or “resuscitated”. I would soil my pants, pass out, and need therapy for six months, but I doubt I would spend a lot of time, at least initially, debating in my mind whether this walking, talking zombie was resurrected or just resuscitated. I would just believe that a fantastic miracle had happened, and probably believe any story the zombie told me for how he returned to the land of the living.


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