Resurrection Appearances: The Heart of the Resurrection Story

In yesterday’s DM, we considered Resurrection stories today and yesterday from the perspective of appearances of the deceased.

Aedicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, containing the Angel’s Stone and the tomb itself. Photo by Jorge Láscar on Flickr.

I appreciate many things in New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton’s recent book on Resurrection Logic: How Jesus’ First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead. In it, he criticizes the “obsessive” quest for an empty tomb that often dominates contemporary discourses on the Resurrection. 

He attributes this “obsession” to the fundamentalist wing of Christianity that arose in the late 19th century and has grown in influence since.  An emphasis on the empty tomb ignores “the substance of the claims of Jesus’ disciples, that they encountered him after his death.”  Thus the “appearances” that we emphasized in yesterday’s DM.

Thus the “appearances” that we emphasized in yesterday’s DM.

Chilton asks the question whether the resurrection should be “considered historical in the first place?”  A changed view of history has occurred in our time.  

Attempts to bridge scripture and history: title page of the collected works of Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, first published in 1602. Wikimedia Commons.

History arises precisely when events are not fully explained….History is the record of reactions to unique events in a plurality of forms, not of successful efforts to explain events away, on whatever ground. 

The plurality of explanations of Christ’s resurrection in the gospels and Acts and Paul reveal this.

What is witnessed, in one way or another in all the texts—however they are presented—is the awareness that Jesus is alive after his public execution.  The execution is public, as are consequences of the resurrection, but the resurrection itself is not.  The conviction that those consequences result from God raising Jesus from the dead is not in itself an historical event but an interpretation that involves experiencing him alive after death.

Chilton proposes that while the resurrection is not itself a historical event, it “becomes historical when Jesus’ agency exerts itself among his followers” and we know much about what those followers underwent whether in their writings and sharing of the story or in their organizing community and pursuing their lives including their often-violent deaths akin to that of Jesus.  Deaths triggered by their acts of faith challenged an empire and are historically verified. 

“The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer,” painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme, ~1873. Wikimedia Commons.

Chilton summarizes their story this way: Within the movement of Jesus itself, believers conceived that Jesus, alive after his death, appeared in visions, conveyed purity, assured the promise of the coming age, provoked an extension of the message beyond historic Israel by means of baptism….*  

To be continued


*See Bruce Chilton, Resurrection Logic: How Jesus’ First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Deadpp. 185-188, 196. 

See also Matthew Fox and Bruce Chilton, “Resurrection: Conversations with Matthew Fox and Bruce Chilton.”

See “Resurrection” in Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 128-132.

And Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 359-364.

And Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas, pp. 167-172.

And Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 144-151.

Banner Image: “Stoning of St. Stephen,” c. 1100 C.E. Fresco transferred to canvas, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Wikimedia Commons.


Queries for Contemplation

Do you see the appearances of Jesus after his death to have impacted history?  And yourself in a deep way?  How do you experience the Resurrection today?


Recommended Reading

Stations of the Cosmic Christ
By Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.

This is a book of meditations on the Cosmic Christ, accompanying the images of 16 wonderful clay tablets by Javier Ullrrich Lemus and M.C. Richards. Together, these images and meditations go far beyond the traditional Stations of the Cross to inspire a spirit awakening and understanding of the cosmic Christ Consciousness, Buddha consciousness, and consciousness of the image of God in all beings, so needed in our times.
“A divinely inspired book that must be read by every human being devoted to spiritual and global survival. It is cosmically brilliant.” — Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.



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4 thoughts on “Resurrection Appearances: The Heart of the Resurrection Story”

  1. Avatar

    Yes, yes and …..

    “Experience Every New Day in Every New Way”
    Every new day, every new breath is our moment of resurrection. What has happened before this moment has come and gone, birthed and died. We are renewing constantly and endlessly, and thus being, we need to ‘let go’ of what is gone. Call that ‘hope’ in outcomes, but it is also a ‘faith’ that can be held close, dearly and acted upon, all the while we rejoice in its splendor. Love, truth and ‘the Way of the Cross’, underpins faith, and ‘faith manifested’ unpins our hope. We can experience every new day in every new way and that is our hope manifested. Praise be to the Lord of All Creation. — BB 04 02 2024. —-

  2. Avatar

    Personally on my spiritual journey, the Resurrection of the COSMIC CHRIST is an ongoing understanding/transformation/consciousness of the LIVING LOVING PRESENCE within All of Us and All ongoing Evolving CREATION, physical and non-physical spiritual dimensions of Our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse COSMOS… in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  3. Avatar
    Happy Go Lucky

    Jesus’ appearance after his crucifixion, to his apostles in the safe room has impacted me in a deep way. The purpose of Jesus’ resurrection was revealed then. He told the apostles that he was leaving but had brought the Holy Spirit to them to be their comforter, protector, and power. In one account, he breathed on them the Holy Spirit. In other accounts, a mighty wind blew all around the room, terrifying them. That is the Holy Spirit, the new conduit to God. The Holy Spirit filled the apostles with life, fire, and fearlessness. They now had the strength to go out into the crowds to heal, to preach, and to raise the dead; to continue Jesus’ mission, their mission. In Catholicism, the Church’s Sacraments give us the same mission and the same power from the Holy Spirit. The Church fails to follow up on this and we have been left alone to find our way which has been detrimental for many. Pope Francis is making much headway though.

  4. Avatar

    After the Western Church pivoted away from mysticism towards intellectualism, and the Enlightenment proclaimed religion dead, men declared that THEY could fully understand the whole universe through science and rationality. They created the prison of calcified intellectual egotism that has trapped and harmed Western people ever since.

    And the Protestant Church, falling in love with their “logical” deduction that (their version of) a “history” in its stories was THE correct framework which “rationally” tied the texts together, ignored the fact that the Bible had never been interpreted as “God’s history lesson in a book” — it was understood as multi-layered from the beginning.

    Biblical interpretations were intuitive-intellectual (poised in a creative tension), and were treasured for being richly layered, subtle and complex. The Truths that God and the Bible astonished into Awareness in hearers, the lessons that people found ONLY by continually pondering, integrating, “and “walking within,” WERE A TRUE, SACRED REALITY. People didn’t need a measuring stick, microscope, or historian to document these Truths in order for them to be legitimate. That was the rich Judaic spiritual legacy that Jesus and his disciples walked within and bequeathed to His followers.

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