New Testament Scholar NT Wright states that Jesus never prophesied his Resurrection. How Convenient!

You’ve got to love Christian moderates.  They will always find a way to maintain their belief in the core doctrines of orthodox Christianity but do it by denying the literal interpretation of half of the Bible!

New Testament scholar NT Wright believes the core orthodox Christian doctrine that Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead.  One of the primary pieces of evidence he sites for this extraordinary claim is that no first century Jew would have ever invented the concept of the resurrection of one individual.  This belief could have only originated from seeing the actual flesh and blood body of a resurrected dead human.  Yes, many first century Jews believed in a general resurrection of the righteous at the end of the age, but no first century Jew would have ever imagined one person being resurrected prior to everyone else.


Any Christian who attended Sunday School heard his Sunday School teacher read Bible passages in which Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection.  According to the Bible, Jesus had been telling his disciples that he would be killed and that he would be resurrected for quite some time before he was arrested in the Garden:


“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly.”   —Mark 8:31-32


“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  —Matthew 12:39-40


“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”    —Matthew 16:21


 “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  —Luke 9:22


“The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”  —John 2:18-22


What does NT Wright say about these passages?  From an article published in Gregorianum, 2002, 83/84, 615-635, reposted on Wright’s website he says this:

“They [Christians] retained the belief in a coming Messiah, but redrew it quite drastically around Jesus himself.  Why?  The answer the early Christians themselves give for these changes, of course, is that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.  It is Jesus’ own resurrection that has given force and new shape to the Christian hope.  It was, they insist, Jesus’ own resurrection which constituted him as Messiah, and if Messiah, then Lord of the world.  But what exactly did they mean by this, and what brought them to such a belief?

…they really did intend to say that Jesus had been bodily raised, they were not simply using that language to describe something else, a different belief about Jesus or a different experience they had had.  Second we must enquire as historians what could have caused them to say such a thing?

It is out of the question, for a start, that the disciples were simply extrapolating from the teachings of Jesus himself.  One of the many curious things about Jesus’ teaching is that though resurrection was a well known topic of debate at the time we only have one short comment of his on the subject, in reply to the question from the Sadducees–a comment which is itself notoriously cryptic, like some of its companion pieces in the synoptic tradition.  Apart from that, there are the short repeated predictions of Jesus’ passion and resurrection , which many of course assume are vaticinia ex eventu, and two or three other cryptic references. (emphasis, Gary’s)

Vaticinia ex eventu???

Let’s look it up, shall we:

Vaticinium ex eventu:  (“Prophecy from the event”) is a technical theological or historiographical term referring to a prophecy written after the author already had information about the events he was “foretelling”.

Gary:  So what NT Wright is saying is that “of course” Jesus never predicted his resurrection!  Of course Jesus never told his disciples, for three years, that he would be resurrected after being dead for three days!  Of course Jesus never told anyone that he would be resurrected as one individual; resurrected as one individual prior to the general resurrection when every other righteous Jew would be resurrected.  Any one who knows anything about Bible scholarship knows that THESE passages are not authentic/inspired/literal…they are scribal alterations…somebody added them…they shouldn’t be there…only fundamentalists believe that Jesus really said them…

So, since Jesus never predicted his resurrection…

….when he did rise from the dead that first Easter Sunday, his resurrection came as a total…out of the blue…absolute…unheard of…shock…to every Jew who saw him!

So the fact that a small minority of first century Jews came to believe that Jesus had been bodily resurrected (the overwhelming majority did not, by the way), this is excellent evidence that the bodily Resurrection of Jesus did occur because no first century Jew would have ever conceived of such a concept…unless of course…Jesus had been preaching just such a concept…to the small minority of Jews who after this death did believe it, based on grief-induced hallucinations, visions, vivid dreams, false sightings, and misperceptions of natural phenomena.

Good grief.



13 thoughts on “New Testament Scholar NT Wright states that Jesus never prophesied his Resurrection. How Convenient!

  1. I would say Wright is, erm.. right – Jesus did not predict his resurrection. The prophecies Jesus is made to make were written back into the gospels much later, once the hallucinatory version of the faith had taken hold. it goes without saying that Wright is wrong about the resurrection really happening.


    1. I believe that you (and Wright) are probably right…Jesus most probably did not predict his resurrection.

      He also most probably did not predict the destruction of the Temple. Therefore, the Gospel of Mark was written AFTER this event. Another “vaticinium ex eventu”. And not only did the authors of the Gospels invent prophecies, they invented entire pericopes, such as the Empty Tomb Story, and the detailed Appearances Stories.

      But moderate Christians don’t want to admit THAT much invention. They’ll admit that Jesus didn’t predict his Resurrection because that helps their Bodily Resurrection Argument, but the Empty Tomb Story and the Appearance Stories are absolute historical FACTS!

      That is my issue with moderate Christians.

      And I believe that we skeptics should not let moderate Christians off the hook on this one. Can they prove that Jesus was not preaching that he would rise from the dead? I don’t think so. I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but if he had been preaching this concept, this idea would have been planted in the minds of his disciples, and after he was dead, this concept could be revived in a grief-induced hallucination or vivid dream.

      Therefore the claim that no first century Jew would ever have conceived of one person being resurrected prior to the general resurrection is FALSE if Jesus had been preaching just such a concept prior to his death.


      1. Neil,

        Do scholars believe that the original authors invented these faux prophecies or do they believe that the Church inserted them into the text later? What evidence is there for the later theory?


        1. I imagine scholars are divided on the point. Those who think the prophecies are interpolated probably mistakenly think that the Tanakh lacks such predictions and therefore the Christians must have made it up after the fact as an excuse to explain the supposedly failed mission of Jesus.


  2. I’m fairly certain Ehrman and others make the case for the original authors adding the resurrection prophecies. When I’ve more time I will search out where exactly. When you consider that Mark must have been written after 70CE, for reasons you mention, we know that a good deal of ‘vaticinium ex eventu’ was involved.

    I agree with your hallucination theory and your dismissal of the ‘Ancient Jews would never do x, y or z’. There is adequate evidence in the gospels themselves that 1st century Jews – or at least the gospel writers – were predisposed to believing in resurrection, post-mortem survival and even reincarnation (can supply chapter and verse if you like!)

    In short, those who had inner-visions of the risen Jesus were already primed to see them (as I discuss here on my blog:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Several characters in the gospels believe in or acknowledge reincarnation. Nowhere do the gospel writers refute the idea (though they might dispute the detail).

      So, in Matthew 11.13-14 we have Jesus talking about John the Baptist as a reincarnated Elijah: ‘For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.’ Then in Matt 17.11-13 we have: ‘And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And Jesus answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.’

      In John 1.18-25, ‘the priests and Levites’ seem to think John the Baptist is a reincarnated Elijah too: ‘They said to him, “Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?.. They said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” ‘

      In Matthew 14.1-2 we have Herod believing that Jesus is a reincarnation of John the Baptist, whom he’s just murdered: ‘At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! This is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”‘

      In Luke 9.7-8, this is elaborated on: ‘Herod was perplexed, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life.”

      Matthew 16.13-14 when Jesus asks his disciples who people are saying he is, they reply with: ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'”

      There are others, but this is a start. I’m not suggesting that the Bible promotes reincarnation (though isn’t the idea of Christians being granted a new and even better spiritual body after death a form of reincarnation?) The point is, the idea of reincarnation – specifically that a contemporary figure can be a resurrected or reconstituted ancient prophet – seems to have enjoyed wide acceptance in the first century; it was seen, at the very least, as a possibility. It was in the context of such a superstition that the gospels were written and, possibly, that Jesus himself lived.

      Absolute nonsense of course.


  3. In the Targums and talmud, passages about resurrection like Isaiah 53 are correctly treated as Messianic.

    See my website for more information.
    I don’t have a problem accepting that Jesus taught the same thing, except that it meant he was on what many today would call a suicide mission. In that case, it doesn’t make sense why Jesus would follow through with the mission unless he really believed this stuff.


    1. Correctly, says who?

      Plenty of Jewish scholars would say that Isaiah 53 is talking about the nation of Israel as the suffering servant, not the future messiah.


  4. NT Wright is Anglican and AFAIK doesn’t accept that the NT accepts the objective presence in the Eucharist, despite John 6. I am not impressed with his insight abilities therefore. I have read his theorizing on that topic.


    1. Sometimes I think you are an ex-Christian skeptic but other times I’m sure you are still a Christian. I’m still not sure. But that’s ok. We are all on our own path.



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