Pope Benedict XVI on the Resurrection
… I have just finished Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, his new book which was published March 10, and I was quite favorably impressed with it.
On this Wednesday before Easter, let me share some of the Pope’s statements about the Resurrection, which I found very close to my own theological position (and also close to the position of the noted New Testament scholar N. T. Wright, whom he does not cite).
Near the beginning of “Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead,” the ninth chapter, the Pope asserts, “The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead” (p. 241). And on the following page: “Only if Jesus is risen has anything really new occurred that changes the world and the situation of mankind.”
The Pope cites New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann on page 246. I write more (and more critically) about him in my book The Limits of Liberalism (see especially pp. 194-5). In his book The Resurrection of Christ (2004) Lüdemann dismisses the “vain resort of accepting the resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact” and then goes on to assert that “we can no longer be Christians even if we wanted to be, for Jesus did not rise from the dead” (p. 202).
In response to what he quoted Lüdemann as saying, Benedict writes, “Naturally there can be no contradiction of clear scientific data.” But, “The Resurrection accounts certainly speak of something outside our world of experience. They speak of something new, something unprecedented—a new dimension of reality that is revealed. . . . Does that contradict science?”
The Pope continues, “Can there not be something unexpected, something unimaginable, something new? If there really is a God, is he not able to create a new dimension of human existence, a new dimension of reality altogether?” (pp. 246-7).
In the last section of the ninth chapter, Benedict says that the resurrection is “a historical event that nevertheless bursts open the dimensions of history and transcends it” (p. 273). He also says that the Resurrection can be regarded “as something akin to a radical ‘evolutionary leap,’ in which a new dimension of life emerges, a new dimension of human existence.
“Indeed, matter itself is remolded into a new type of reality. The man Jesus, complete with his body, now belongs totally to the sphere of the divine and eternal” (p. 274). So, the Resurrection “is not the same kind of historical event as the birth or crucifixion of Jesus. It is something new, a new type of event.
“Yet at the same time it must be understood that the Resurrection does not simply stand outside or above history” (p. 275).