Origin of the Resurrection Belief: Peter Had Another Vivid Dream

What is Trance? - Ecstatic Trance: Ritual Body Postures

Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 

–the Book of Acts

Christian: I think it’s worthwhile to highlight this comment made by Gary and then consider why it is problematic:

However, we have evidence of people today seeing bright lights and claiming that Mary has appeared to them so why couldn’t the same have occurred 2,000 years ago involving Jesus?

Why indeed? In fact, the answer is obvious. The people who have claimed to see Mary are not her friends and family. Nor do these people believe that Mary has literally come back from the dead. On the contrary, there has never been any doubt that these experiences are visionary in nature. The original events (whatever they may be) have not evolved into accounts in which Mary is physically resurrected. So there is no analogy here with the resurrection of Jesus. The interesting thing, however, is that atheists should resort to making these (spurious) comparisons. It shows that they have no answer. In spite of that they continue to offer the same discredited arguments.

Gary: When the original claimants claimed that Jesus had appeared to them, did they claim they had seen a “resurrected” Jesus or simply a “risen from the dead” Jesus? Answer: We do not know for certain. We don’t know for certain because we do not have their undisputed testimony. You ASSUME that the original claimants instantly believed that they had seen a “resurrected” Jesus, but for all we know they believed that they had seen a “risen” Jesus; the belief that his body was a resurrected body developed sometime later. And again I ask: Must someone see a body to believe that a dead person has appeared to them? You cannot prove this is the case. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the original claimants all saw a bright light and believed it to be Jesus. And the fact is that we know early Christians could believe that someone had seen a bright light and believed it was the risen/resurrected Jesus as this is exactly what the author of Acts tells us happened to Paul!

Christian: What is the difference between a “resurrected” Jesus and a “risen from the dead” Jesus?

Gary: Jewish folklore involves other persons returning from the dead (alleged miracles involving the prophets Elijah and Elisha). It is therefore possible that the early eyewitnesses had experiences which made them believe that Jesus had come back from the dead, in similar fashion to the alleged “raisings” in the OT.

The question remains: Did first century Jews need to see a body to believe that a person raised from the dead had appeared to them? According to the author of the Book of Acts: No. One could see a bright light and believe that a dead person had appeared to them.

Isn’t it possible that the concept of an individual resurrection developed sometime after the original appearances? We really cannot know for sure. Isn’t it possible that early Christians were trying to figure out why a raised from the dead Jesus would appear briefly to people but never permanently return and stay. An individual resurrection was their explanation for why Jesus didn’t return permanently. It was a new twist to an established Jewish concept of a general resurrection.

Christian: I don’t know why you are bringing Elijah and Elisha into the discussion. Those cases involved resuscitations. The widow whose son was raised by Elijah would not have been convinced that her son had been raised from the dead if she had seen a bright light. The whole point of the story is that her son appeared to be dead and then he was revived. If you think that happened to Jesus then you must be advocating the swoon theory. In that case people most definitely would have needed to see a resurrected body.

If you want to stick with the idea that the followers of Jesus saw nothing more than a bright light then you have to deal with the problem of why this made them believe that Jesus was resurrected. You have already made the comparison between Jesus and Mary. But the example of Marian visions contradicts your suggestion. The people who (think they) have seen Mary are fully aware that this is a visionary experience. They don’t believe that it proves she has been resurrected.

Gary: Isn’t the following scenario possible: Peter had a vivid dream or trance. In his dream or trance, Jesus appears to him, forgives him for betraying him, and tells Peter that he has come back from the dead (a resuscitation) to sit on David’s throne as the Messiah and to establish the New Kingdom. Peter is beside himself! He is a changed man! After all, Peter believes that in a very short time he will be ruling as a prince in the New Israel. Peter shares the good news with the other disciples. The group is electrified with excitement. Their hopes and dreams are not dashed after all! Soon other disciples are experiencing appearances of Jesus in vivid dreams. Other disciples experience cases of mistaken identity; seeing a man in the distance or in a crowd who looks like Jesus. The hysteria intensifies. Soon, individual disciples and groups of disciples are experiencing illusions (bright lights, shadows, and cloud formations) which they interpret as appearances of the back-from-the-dead Jesus (a resuscitated Jesus, similar to the alleged resuscitations in the OT).

But why does Jesus pop in and pop out of sight instead of staying and establishing the New Kingdom right now??

Cognitive dissonance sets in (an attempt to harmonize reality with one’s hopes and dreams). Someone comes up with the idea that maybe God took Jesus to heaven.

Jesus will return from heaven to establish the New Kingdom!

Someone else then suggests that maybe Jesus wasn’t just raised from the dead (resuscitated) and taken to heaven like Elijah, but maybe God resurrected him…as the first fruits of the general resurrection of the dead!

That would mean that the general resurrection has begun! At any moment, the remaining righteous dead will be raised! Jesus will soon return from heaven to establish the New Kingdom and sit on David’s throne! It’s happening, brethren!!! Let’s sell all we have, move to Jerusalem, and fast and pray: the Kingdom is at hand!

Dear Christians: You may believe this scenario is improbable, but you can’t say it is impossible. And in my world view, this improbable but possible scenario is much, much more probable than a literal resurrection of a dead corpse.

Christian: You can dream up as many scenarios as you like. What you can’t do is to demonstrate that anything like it has ever led to the conviction among a group of people that their deceased friend has risen from the dead. The most you could say about such a scenario is that it is so improbable that it could not be expected to occur more than once in history. It can’t be more probable than that, otherwise there would be several such cases. On the other hand it could be far less probable than that. It may be that you could rerun the tape of history countless times and nothing like it would ever happen again.

But your problems don’t stop there. If the (false) belief in Jesus’ resurrection was just a freak occurrence then there can be no expectation about what happens next. From your atheist perspective there is no reason to think that this delusion will lead to the most successful religious movement in history. And yet that is what happened. We know that religious movements can be successful without God’s intervention but it is still highly improbable that any particular religious movement will be as successful as Christianity has been. So from your atheist perspective two highly improbable things just happened to have combined in the same case. From a Christian perspective things are different. If God raised Jesus from the dead then the success of Christianity is not surprising.

Gary: No. I don’t have to prove that anything like it has ever led to the conviction among a group of people that their deceased friend has risen from the dead. Even if this assertion is true—that no one else in the history of humankind has ever made the same claim as was made by the followers of Jesus—this very odd, very rare but non-supernatural claim is much more probable in my worldview than your very odd, very rare, never heard of before or since supernatural claim of a bodily resurrection. And, even if we allow for the reality of the supernatural, even you must admit that Christianity only claims that one bodily resurrection has ever occurred. Therefore, your claim is still highly improbable! So if we look at both our claims rationally, isn’t it much more probable, even allowing for the supernatural, that a rare, but natural explanation is more probable for the early Christian resurrection belief than your one-off supernatural claim??

From your atheist perspective there is no reason to think that this delusion will lead to the most successful religious movement in history. …We know that religious movements can be successful without God’s intervention but it is still highly improbable that any particular religious movement will be as successful as Christianity has been.

Experts believe that Islam will soon replace Christianity as the world’s most populous religion and could hold that top spot for the next several millennia, longer than Christianity did. Who knows! I’m sure you believe that Mohammad was delusional, yet his religion is on track to become the dominant world religion! So your reasoning is faulty. The number of adherents of a particular superstition in no way confirms the validity of that superstition.

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34 thoughts on “Origin of the Resurrection Belief: Peter Had Another Vivid Dream

  1. Who is this “Christian” you’re talking to? Is this just a literary “Christian” you’ve made up for the purpose of making a point in conversational form? If so, well, that’s legit (although it’s good to note that the discussion is fictional). If not, then I’d like to read the whole conversation on whichever blog…

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  2. re: “You may believe this scenario is improbable, but you can’t say it is impossible”

    The fact that something is “possible” doesn’t mean squat. It’s possible that I’ve got a billion dollars in the bank. But, nobody’s going to give me a loan for a new house on the “possibility” that I got a billion bucks in the bank…

    I seriously don’t know why you bring up that “possible” think as often as you do. It’s utterly meaningless…

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    1. That is the very point that Christians just don’t seem to be able to understand.

      In my worldview, it is much more probable and possible that you have a billion dollars in the bank than that a first century dead body was resurrected.

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  3. Gary –

    Just a quick comment: I think you’re very confused about “raised up” and “resurrection”.

    In Greek, “raised up” is “egiero”. And, it very literally means just that: “raised up”, as in (for example) “he raised up from lying down”. That’s all the word actually means.

    “Resurrection” is “anastasis” (noun). It basically means “a standing up” (of something). So, a fallen-down pole can be “egiero’ed” to an “anastisis” – “raised up to a standing”.

    What I’m getting at is that both words themselves are metaphoric, when used in regards to Jesus being “egiero’ed to anasasis”. So, you have to figure out what the NT writers meant when they used those words.

    A lot of people (ie, scholars included) want to look at how the words were commonly used in Judaism, and, basically, when it comes to this thing we call “resurrection” (in English), the first century Jews were talking about a dead body being raised up to a standing. But then, you gotta figure out what “a standing” meant, and the only way to do that is to look at how the Jews were describing that – and, those descriptions are all over the map. Some say that the “standing” will be the self-same corpse brought back to an eternal life. Others say the “standing” will be that the corpse will become something else.

    What I’m saying is that “anastasis” – when talking about an “afterlife belief” involving a body being “egeiro’ed” – meant different things in different Jewish views. It’s always defined in context.

    To understand what Christians meant by “a standing” (anastasis), the best you can do is read what Paul says about it in 1 Cor 15. His contention is that “anastasis” is like a seed which is planted in the ground and which becomes something different, and more glorious. And so will the same thing happen to a corpse; A corpse will ceaee to exist as a corpse, due to the process of becoming something else more glorious.

    So, when you’re asking whether the early Christians claimed to see a “risen from the dead Jesus” or a “resurrected Jesus”, you’re trying to make a differentiation that just doesn’t exist.

    I realize you’re attempting to somehow equate “risen from the dead” with resuscitation, and “resurrection” as being something altogether different. And it’s true that a person could be “egiero’ed (raised up) from the dead” in a mere resuscitation. But, in the NT, when talking about Jesus, Jesus was “egiero’ed” to an “anastasis”, and “anastasis” is defined by Paul in 1 Cor 15 to be a body resulting from a transformation.

    BTW – this is just an “educational message”, nothing more.

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    1. But I’m not interested in what Paul thought happened to Jesus or what the authors of the Gospels thought happened to Jesus. I want to know what the earliest Christians thought happened to Jesus, and the only evidence we have, according to the experts, of what the earliest Christians thought happened to Jesus is found in First Corinthians 15:

      For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,

      And the Greek verb used here is: egēgertai

      This is the same Greek verb used by the author of the Gospel of Mark when telling the story of people believing that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead. If these stories are correctly reported by the author of Mark, are you asserting that early Christians believed that John the Baptist too had been resurrected and not resuscitated?

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      1. Mark 6:14

        King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’[a] name had become known. Some were[b] saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.”

        The same Greek verb, egegertai, is used in both passages. I think it is obvious from the usage in Mark that the meaning of the verb is that the person has come back alive, not that they have been transformed into a resurrected body.

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          1. Gary, look… I can’t help it if (a) you can’t read Greek, and (b) can’t understand that a “raising from the dead” does NOT mean “resurrection”.

            Somebody can be “raised from the dead”, then turn around and die again.

            Being “raised from the dead” to an “anastasis” (resurrection) is to be raised up from the dead – to an eternal life.

            Jesus was said to have been “raised up” to an “anastasis”.

            Lazarus was simply “raised up”. He died again, later on.

            This isn’t even “theological”, or “doctrinal”. This is JUST LINGUISTICS.

            Sorry you can’t grasp that.

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      2. Evidently, either you have not read my message well, or, I utterly failed at explaining.

        The Greek verb you posted IS the verb “egeiro” – it’s just another form of it. And it is a VERB, meaning “to rise”.

        That “rising” can indeed refer either to “resuscitation” or “resurrection” — but, which one it refers to is determined from CONTEXT.

        In the NT, the word “anastasis” (a standing up) is the word we translate as “resurrection”. But, “anastasis” can refer to a fallen-down pole that is “raised up” to an “anastasis” – a standing. Again, the MEANING of this metaphor is determined by CONTEXT.

        And the CONTEXT of “egeiro” and “anastasis” can be determined from 1 Cor 15, in which Paul says that Jesus’ body was “raised up” (egeiro) and “transformed” into something glorious – which is what he means when he says “anastasis”.

        I don’t know how to say it more clearly than that.

        A person can be “raised up” (from the dead), but whether it is “raised up” to an “anastasis” (defined as a transformed, glorified body) is another thing altogether, and can only be determined in CONTEXT.

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      1. yep, and in this case, it’s because certain people that are simply IGNORANT of Greek are arguing about stuff they can’t understand, because, well, they’re IGNORANT of Greek…

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        1. HOWEVER! … Simply because one can read a foreign language (in this case, Greek) doesn’t give that individual inside knowledge on what the writer meant. There is still a dividing line between translating and assessing intent.

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  4. Jesus himself sees long dead people somehow returned from the dead. In all three synoptic gospels he chats with Moses and Elijah who appear in front of him. Were they actually ‘risen’, ‘resurrected’ (experts distinguish between the two) or miraculously returned from heaven? What does your Christian think?
    Or were Moses and Elijah a vision Jesus experienced? If so,
    this is evidence of hallucinatory resurrection appearances in the Bible itself (like all those angels people see).
    Or perhaps, as most scholars think, the event is an invented, entirely symbolic story. In which case, isn’t it likely Jesus’ resurrection appearances are precisely the same?

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    1. I consider the simplest explanation is so often the correct one.
      It is all a work of fiction.
      The NT was written by gentiles, for gentiles. It was written in Greek and certain Jewish motifs were simply hijacked and remodelled to suit the new audience.

      There isn’t even a paper trail to follow to source!

      To paraphrase Life of Brian:
      They made it up as they went along!

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    2. Moses and Elijah were a vision, and the text clearly says so. “When they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”

      All it takes is some actual READING of what is written right there in the book.

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      1. The author of the Book of Acts describes Paul’s experience of a “Jesus appearance” using the same language: a vision.

        So why couldn’t all of the eyewitnesses listed in the Early Creed have seen Jesus in a vision (vivid dream or trance)??

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        1. Well, you know I don’t do Gospels (or Acts). I don’t know what Paul or anybody actually saw that caused them to believe Jesus had been “raised up” to a “resurrection”.

          If you could somehow demonstrate that what Acts says about Paul’s Damascus Road experience was indeed historical, then that would be a great starting point. But then, it would seem to be reasonable that if Acts was right about that, then that same author (Luke) was also right about the interactions between Peter (et al) and the risen Jesus…

          BUT – I don’t know about all that stuff. I was just commenting on LANGUAGE, and that’s all.

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          1. Being “raised from the dead” to an “anastasis” (resurrection) is to be raised up from the dead – to an eternal life. Jesus was said to have been “raised up” to an “anastasis”.

            You didn’t answer my question: Where in the Early Creed is the word “anastasis”?

            Unless you can find “anastasis” somewhere in the Early Creed, then you are blowing hot air. I speak 5 languages fluently or at least conversationally, so I don’t buy for one second that the Early Creed’s “context” infers a “resurrection” if the word “anastasis” isn’t in there.

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            1. Here is the Early Creed in English:

              Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters[c] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.[d] 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

              And here is a link to the interlinear Greek of that passage.

              https://biblehub.com/interlinear/1_corinthians/15.htm

              Note: Nowhere in Corinthians 15:3-8 is the word “anastasis” found. Therefore, Mr. Holy Moly is reading Paul’s theology into the Greek text. His claim that the “context” infers a resurrection is baloney!

              Note that the word “anastasis” does not appear in First Corinthians chapter 15 until verse 12! This is NOT part of the Early Creed, an alleged creed of the early church, this is Paul’s theology.

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              1. Gary –

                I never once contended that “anastasis” is in the early Corinthian Creed.

                That Creed indeed does just say that Jesus was “raised up”.

                All I was trying to do was clear up some notion you seemed to have, which was that “raised up” is something different than resurrection – when, the fact is that “raised up”, in and of itself, does not describe what one is “raised up” TO: one could be “raised up” (and destined to die again, like Lazarus), or one could be “raised up” TO an “anastasis” – a resurrection. And, how “raised up” is understood is derived from CONTEXT, just as “anastasis” is derived from CONTEXT.

                Having said that: If you’re trying to say that Jesus was just “raised up” in the same fashion as Lazarus – meaning, the “raised up Jesus” was going to eventually die again, then you just need to make a real case for that. Simply suggesting that as a “possibility” is merely the starting point.

                OR, maybe you’re wanting to argue that Jesus was “raised up” in some totally different fashion – maybe, “raised up” in some fashion that had nothing to do with his corpse at all. But again, merely suggesting that is NOT the same as making a case for it.

                It’s true that “anastasis” is not in the Corinth Creed, but, I do not know that “anastasis” was just Paul’s theology. That, too, is a great suggestion, but, you need to make a case for it.

                In any case, you’re totally welcome to make whatever case you’d like. I’d be interested in reading it.

                But again – I was just responding to a LINGUISTIC issue, and that’s all. I wasn’t making ANY COMMENT WHATSOEVER about anyone’s theology.

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                1. Having said that: If you’re trying to say that Jesus was just “raised up” in the same fashion as Lazarus – meaning, the “raised up Jesus” was going to eventually die again, then you just need to make a real case for that. Simply suggesting that as a “possibility” is merely the starting point.

                  No. I don’t have to prove anything. I’m not the one making a claim. You are:

                  Being “raised from the dead” to an “anastasis” (resurrection) is to be raised up from the dead – to an eternal life. Jesus was said to have been “raised up” to an “anastasis”.

                  Please provide evidence that the original claimants of Jesus appearances claimed that he appeared to them as a body which had been raised up to anastasis. You can’t, and you know it

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      2. Early Christians seemed to believe that a “vision” was another form of reality.

        –The author of Matthew tells us that the stepfather of Jesus moved his entire family to a foreign country in the middle of the night due to a “vision”.

        –Early Christians seemed to believe that Jesus, Peter, John, and James could all see Moses and Elijah in a “vision” all at the same time.

        –The author of Acts alleges that Paul’s experience of a Jesus appearance occurred in a “heavenly vision”.

        –The author of Acts tells us that Peter saw a flying carpet with animals on it in a trance/vision.

        I think it is entirely possible that every claimant of a Jesus appearance in reality had a vivid dream (vision) and believed it was a real event.

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      3. So this time you’re taking the ‘unreliable’ gospels (your phrase, FT) literally. The encounter with Moses and Elijah, which all four people present see simultaneously, is recounted as a vision, as you condescending remind me. I counter then that there’s no reason not to regard Jesus’ own resurrection appearances as of precusely the same nature.
        The Moses/Elijah vision isn’t, however, an actual vision; it’s an invented story about a vision. It didn’t really happen, neither as a vision or anything else; again just like Jesus’ resurrection.
        Why do you persist in asserting your position, FT, when time and again it’s shown to be insupportable? Your arguments, such as they are, are weak and are little more than assertions, often contradictory from one comment to the next. By all means believe in first-century mumbo jumbo if that’s what makes you happy, but please stop inflicting it passively aggressively on Gary and those of us who read his blog.

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  5. re: “You didn’t answer my question: Where in the Early Creed is the word “anastasis”?

    I don’t see where you ever asked me that question at all. Did I miss it?

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  6. Gary –

    I didn’t make ANY claim except that you have no real understanding of Greek.

    I did indeed say “Jesus was said to have been “raised up” to an “anastasis””. I never once claimed that the very EARLIEST of claimants (usually presumed to have been Peter, and maybe some others of Jesus’ followers) said anything about “anastasis”.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, I was simply addressing your complete lack of understanding of Greek. And that was all.

    But, it’s good to know you really have nothing more than “suggestions” about “what might have happened”, and precisely nothing whatsoever to make a case with.

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    1. Baloney.

      You attacked me for my lack of knowledge of Greek because I stated that the Greek word in the Early Creed referring to Jesus being “raised up” and the passage in the Gospel of Mark referring to people thinking John the Baptist had been “raised up” could simply mean “resuscitation”. You insisted that the CONTEXT indicated it could only mean a resurrection.

      Now that you have been shown that in neither passage is there any mention of “anastasis”, you are backpedaling to cover your error. Be a man and admit that the passages I was discussing say NOTHING about anastasis. You were wrong.

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  7. Actually, I was quite open about the fact that “egeiro” (to rise up) could in fact mean either resuscitation OR resurrection, but that the specific meaning HAD to be found in CONTEXT.

    I even was quite open in saying that “anastasis” could have a variety of meanings, and whatever was meant by the writers usage, that meaning had to be made IN CONTEXT.

    Neither word specifically means just “one thing”. Not by any means. And I was quite open in saying that as well.

    I even said “To understand what Christians meant by “a standing” (anastasis), the best you can do is read what Paul says about it in 1 Cor 15.”.

    That’s “the best you can do”. And I chose those words carefully: apart from suppositions about “common usage among Jews” (which, themselves might be quite defensible, if you asked NT Wright), the BEST you can do is look at the CONTEXT of the earliest Christian documents we have.

    So, I call “baloney” on your claim of “baloney”.

    You just can’t read well, I guess.

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    1. Gary, look… I can’t help it if (a) you can’t read Greek, and (b) can’t understand that a “raising from the dead” does NOT mean “resurrection”. Somebody can be “raised from the dead”, then turn around and die again. Being “raised from the dead” to an “anastasis” (resurrection) is to be raised up from the dead – to an eternal life. Jesus was said to have been “raised up” to an “anastasis”.

      I never once claimed that “raising from the dead” means “resurrection”. I pointed out that in both the Early Creed and Mark’s passage about John the Baptist the Greek verb used for “to be raised” could be interpreted as a “resuscitation”. That was my only point.

      You are a gaslighting troll.

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      1. Oh, well…. if THATS all you were saying, then fine. I’d agree. The same verb is used in reference to Lazarus and in a couple of other places that were resuscitations.

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