The resurrection of Jesus as a crucial moment

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					        ACTS 17:16-34 – The resurrection of Jesus as a crucial moment in the
                      encounter between gospel and culture

                                                                                    Johan du Plessis 2006
When writing the first letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul was convinced that Jesus‟
crucifixion posed the major stumbling block for the acceptance of the gospel. He wrote: “…but
we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” (1
Corinthians 1:23) Presently it seems that the crucifixion gradually made way for the resurrection
to be the greatest ζθάλδαιόλ or κωξία for modern and post-modern people. One‟s belief in the
resurrection of Jesus Christ – often supplemented with adjectives like “bodily” – functions like a
present day sjibbolet for orthodox doctrine. Lecturers at seminaries and speakers at large
meetings are called to state their viewpoint on the issue. This crucial role assigned to the
resurrection is not something new. We read about it in the so-called Athens episode in the book
of Acts (17:16-34). The apologetic tendencies in the Acts render it a most appropriate source for
the study of the encounter between gospel and culture in early church history.

Before we continue with that, allow me to make a few introductory remarks about the
relationship between gospel and culture according to Newbigin‟s model – the so-called
conversion-encounter axis:1

            What is the nature of this encounter between gospel and culture? According to a
             “wage negotiation model” the assumption is that it is a process in which both sides
             make some “sacrifices” to accommodate the other. The outcome is a negotiated
             settlement for the present. This is however not a fixed solution, rather but a stage in
             the ongoing process, leading to ever new “settlements.”2 It is clear that Newbigin did
             not have this model in mind. He rather speaks about points of conversion, where the
             culture on account of new insights and experiences provided by the gospel, makes
             adaptations in its “fiduciary framework” to incorporate the gospel. The church‟s task,
             according to Newbigin, is to, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, express the gospel
             and incorporate it into its life style in such a way that the culture is readily convinced
             to make the necessary changes to include the gospel within its own axioms

            How is the “gospel” determined? Newbigin is convinced that the Bible is the
             authoritative guide for the Christian faith, both in private as well as public life. He
             observes that the gospel has been progressively removed from the public spheres and
             restricted to the private lives of individuals, and therefore makes a passionate plea for
             the gospel to regain its rightful place in the public life of the market place.
             According to Newbigin the contents of the Bible message centres around two focal
             points, namely the Exodus-event in the Old Testament and the Jesus-event in the New
             Testament. This enables him to distinguish between centre and periphery within the
             gospel. Although there remain vast differences between different traditions‟ definition



1
         This has been the focal point for the past two years within the GOCN study group in the Western Cape,
resulting in several short papers delivered at meetings held at US. What follows here is but a general introduction to
some issues in the current debate, without going into detail.
2
         Somehow like the process at the meeting in Jerusalem, described in Acts 15. Such a settlement is per
definition a temporary solution and very often implies a reduction of the gospel.

Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                                     page 1
             of the gospel details,3 I am convinced that there is a broad consensus regarding the
             essence of the gospel message. This is specifically the case when dealing with
             particular writings or parts of writings from the Bible.4

            An already contextualised gospel text: A neutral, a-cultural gospel does not exist.5
             This is also true of the biblical texts themselves, being full fledged cultural documents
             in their own right. One can say that the Bible texts have already been contextualised
             by their different authors who belonged to different cultures. Broadly speaking these
             are the cultures of the ancient Near East in the case of the Old Testament, and Early
             Mediterranean cultures in the case of the New Testament. This issue of
             contextualisation is further complicated by the fact that all readers of the gospel assign
             meaning i.e. reconstruct the gospel message, in terms of a vast diversity of cultures.6
             Comparative culture analyses of the different parties in the communication process
             between the text and reader/hearer, throughout the course of the history of
             interpretation, are therefore indispensable.

The current paper progresses as follows: It starts off with a brief overview of the exegesis of
the Athens pericope, making use of the results from various exegetical techniques like
grammatical-historical-, narrative- and structural analyses. This is then interpreted against the
background of early Mediterranean Hellenistic culture to highlight the way in which the
gospel encountered a specific culture towards the end of the first century AD. In terms of a
simple communication model of Sender-Message-Receiver, taking into account the different
obstacles to the communication process, attention therefore must also be paid to the reception
process.7 In this paper it is done by means of a short rhetorical analysis. The paper concludes
with some remarks on the reception of the gospel in a modern, suburban context.

    1.       The gospel to the Athenians
The resurrection of Jesus as the main point of contention
The Athens-episode has a relatively simple structure. Paul‟s speech8 is framed by narrative
remarks. It can be summarised as follows:

3
         Newbigin‟s assertion that divine election poses as a central theme in the definition of gospel, will certainly
be contested in several theological traditions.
4
         I previously argued that the historical discipline of Biblical Theology is extremely helpful in this regard.
5
         This crucial aspect, that the Bible texts themselves are already heavily impacted by culture, has to my mind
not yet been fully recognised in GOCN circles.
6
         Critical deconstruction theories like Queer Theory and Post Colonial Theory, as well as the different
Emancipation theologies showed convincingly how power issues function in these texts, on the one hand confirming
the reigning power structures through patriarchal and heterosexual interpretations and on the other hand themselves
being confirmed as authoritative by the same forces.
7
          Traditionally the major part of exegetical work concentrated on the first two elements of this model, namely
that of the Sender and the Message. It was left to the so-called practical theological disciplines to ensure that the
message was molded into something intelligible for the hearers. There has since been a reassessment with the
rediscovery of the persuasive character of biblical texts that led to a more holistic exegetical approach.
8
          Exegetes readily agree that this speech in its current form, like the others in Acts no matter who the
characters is that delivered it, is also a creation by the author of the book. He seems to be combining two separate
traditions within the speech, namely a “natural theology” taking its clue from creation (not unlike Romans 1:18ff.)
and the more narrowly defined “salvation theology” grounded in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The latter seems
to be the primary concern for the author of Acts.
Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                                        page 2
         17:16-17          The story is situated: Paul became very upset when he noticed the many idols in the city
                           and while he was waiting for his colleagues to pitch up, he used the opportunity to talk to
                           various groups of people, at different venues, about “Jesus and the resurrection”9

         17:18-20          The reaction of the non-Jewish group on the message of the resurrection is disparaging
                           and aggressive.10 Paul was taken to court (the Areopagus) to answer for his message

         17:21             Interjection by the author: The Athenians liked to hear and talk about new things

         17:22-31          Paul‟s speech: He uses the inscription on an altar he saw somewhere in the city, “To an
                           unknown god,” as an introduction (22-23).

                           Then he spells out the identity of this God, who he himself is serving (24-29).

                           The climax of the short speech is reached with the message of a new time, “now” as
                           opposed to the past, in which people are called to repent and thereby escape the righteous
                           judgement of God. Jesus’ resurrection serves as the proof that this (new) message is true
                           (30-31)

         17:32             The reaction of Paul‟s hearers: They regard the message of the resurrection as absolute
                           nonsense and laughable11

         17:33-34          End result: Paul dissociated himself but there were a few people who responded positively
                           to the message and joined the faith community

It is clear from the above that the proclamation of Jesus‟ resurrection forms the framework of
Paul‟s speech in Athens. The hearers respond specifically to it. The resurrection is the main point
at issue.

Why specifically the resurrection?
To try to answer this question one has to look to the broader literary context, that of Luke-Acts. It
seems as if the idea that Jesus‟ death was meant to be a sacrifice on behalf of sinners, is not
advocated in Luke-Acts. Faith in – i.e. esp. in the Lucan context of meals as type scenes,
association with – Jesus in his death and resurrection,12 is crucial for the inclusion into the new

Although there are differences of opinion regarding the original historical context, there are no compelling reasons to
regard the contents of this speech as in conflict with the teaching in the Pauline letters.
9
         The term “because he proclaimed the Jesus and the resurrection” (νηη ηνλ Іεζνπλ θαη ηελ αλαζηεζηλ
επαγγειηδεην) is susceptible to misunderstanding and explains the plural used in the charges brought against Paul,
namely that he seemed to be an advocate for foreign gods.
There is a progression in thought in the three references to the resurrection in the episode (cf. 17:18, “Jesus and the
resurrection”; 17:31, “the resurrection of „the man‟” as a proof of God‟s message; 17:32, a general “resurrection of
the dead”) that shows how Jesus‟ resurrection was reckoned to imply/inaugurate a general “resurrection of the dead.”
10
          The context – i.e. persecution and uproar in the previous cities on Paul‟s journey as well as the allusion to
Socrates‟ fate – explains the use of επηιακβαλω (translated “seize”) which is usually a technical term for making an
arrest. Further, the parallel with Jesus, found throughout the narrative in Acts is verbally suggested at the end of the
episode (17:33 cf. Lk 4:30 - δηειζωλ δηα κεζνπ απηωλ).
11
          I regard the words “We shall hear you again on this” (αθνπζνκεζα ζνπ πεξη ηνπηνπ θαη παιηλ (17:32)) as a
sarcastic remark.
12
          Short summaries of the contents of faith in Jesus found esp. in the speeches in Acts usually contain these
two elements, the death and the resurrection of Jesus, e.g. 1:21-22 (choosing a substitute for Judas); 2:22-24,31-
32,36 (at Pentecost); 3:13-15,18 (Peter to the crowd); 4:10 (Peter and John before the Sanhedrin); 5:29-31 (again
before the Sanhedrin); 7:37,52,56 (Stephen); 13:23-37 (in Pisidian Antioch); 17:3 (in Thessalonica); 26:23 (Paul
before Agrippa).

Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                                      page 3
fellowship of the Jesus community. The resurrection is clearly, also in this speech, regarded as
the authentication or validation of Jesus‟ claim to be the saviour – “He (God) has given proof of
this to all men by raising him (Jesus) from the dead.” (17:31)

What is the nature of Jesus’ resurrection?
Whereas the bodily resurrection13 of Jesus is accentuated in the Johannine writings, and also in
Paul‟s first letter to the Corinthians (ch.15), most likely as a refutation of Gnostic teaching about
Jesus, I am of the opinion that, although part of the oral tradition, it is not on the foreground in
Luke-Acts, nor is it a matter of dispute. According to Luke 24 Jesus’ resurrection becomes
especially clear at a meal, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (cf. the verbatim allusions
to the earlier institution of the Last Supper), which is an indication of the metaphorical character
of the language used by the author.14 The author of Luke-Acts asserts, through the proclamation
of the resurrection, that Jesus is indeed alive (cf. Acts 1:3)!

Paul’s conversational partners in Athens (in terms of a narrative analysis, the focus here is
on the characters and setting)
Paul talks to different two groups of people, each at a different location. Firstly, he addresses the
Jews and god fearers, a religious community, in the synagogue. So, the
conversation/confrontation (δηαιέγνκαη) within the religious community takes place in a religious
building, i.e. in a “private” setting. Secondly, he daily speaks to the people he met at the market
place. This encounter with the non-religious community takes place in a very “public” setting. In
both instances the setting is emphasised by placing it first in the sentence, and in the second
sentence also the time receives focus (ελ ηε αγνξα θαηα παζαλ εκεξαλ (acc. of duration)) –
secular people do not adhere to a religious timetable, and most probably are absent from
religious places!
The rest of the episode deals with Paul‟s encounter with the second, i.e. the non-religious, group.
This receives all the attention. Among these daily conversational partners, some followers of the
two main philosophies of the time, some Epicureans and Stoics, start to argue with Paul. There
are initially two reactions on Paul‟s message: some (from the syntax it is the Epicureans) regard
him as a babbler; the others (i.e. the Stoics) are curious about the “foreign gods” he spoke about.
The νηη-sentence gives the reason for both reactions, “because Paul proclaimed Jesus and the
resurrection.” The author does not elaborate on the doctrines of the two groups – he simply
presumes that the reader has the basic knowledge about it. In the first century A.D. the Stoics
were the more influential of the two groups. Paul is arrested and brought before the court, the
Areopagus, to defend himself – again this is a very public setting for the encounter. A lot has
been written about Paul‟s defence but Neyrey is probably correct to state that Paul initially aligns
himself with stoic ideas – because Epicureans did not accept either God‟s providence, or his final
judgement – to show the court that he himself is presenting what can be called a “respectable
theology.”
As the climax of his defence, Paul himself goes on the offensive stating that (cf. 17:30-31):
         -       God overlooked the times of ignorance in the past15
         -       But now He commands all people, everywhere, to repent16


13
         The belief in Jesus‟ resurrection is currently a burning issue within the Dutch Reformed Church. I refer for
example to the exchanges in the Kerkbode earlier this year between prof. Julian Müller and others on the issue of
Jesus‟ bodily resurrection.
14
      For a short, clear discussion of the limits and possibilities of metaphorical thinking and language, see
Brümmer: 3-19.
15
        “Ignorance” here, like elsewhere in the Bible, has definite ethical implications: it deserves punishment.

Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                                     page 4
          -       For He has set a day when He will judge the world in justice (ελ δηθαηνζπλε)
          -       Through a man He has appointed (ελ αλδξη ω ωξηζελ)17
          -       As proof of this to all people, He resurrected him from the dead

The overwhelming, initial reaction to Paul‟s message of the resurrection is negative.

The different emotions and actions arising from the contact situation
Paul became severely distressed18 when he observed the many idols in the city. This motivates
him to publicly proclaim the message about Jesus, and more precisely, the message of his
resurrection. In Athens, as also in Philippi (Acts 16) and Ephesus (Acts 19), it is mainly the non-
Jewish communities who rebel against this proclamation. They aggressively belittle and ridicule
the resurrection message. In the end Paul left the council with exasperation.19
There is but little positive reaction to Paul‟s message – only a few people, of whom two are
named, become followers of Jesus.

Repentance and judgement
The encounter between gospel and culture in Athens has a sharp edge: It requires nothing less
than repentance from people belonging to a specific culture, to escape God‟s imminent
judgement.
One finds a structural-typological similarity with the earlier story of the rich young man (Luke
18:18-30): For him there also arose a moment of decision, namely to forsake his material
possessions and distribute it among the poor, and to become a follower of Jesus (18:22). That
means that he had to become a follower (and imitator) of a highly a-typical male (Moxnes
2003:96) in terms of the first century Mediterranean society, to enter into God‟s kingdom.
Only through repentance – that is a radical re-alignment in thinking, values and norms, and
association with Jesus – entrance into the new dispensation is possible. In Luke‟s gospel, as here
in the story of Acts, this choice and its implications for people who encounter the gospel cannot
be avoided.

     2.       The aim is to persuade the hearers and readers of the story
Luke-Acts is persuasive literature. This is clear from the prologues to both narratives, Luke 1:1-4
and Acts 1:1-8 respectively. This is true all New Testament literature: It challenges the reader to
align him- or herself according to the narrative. One can therefore expect that Paul in the episode
under discussion make a big effort to establish a favourable rapport with his hearers. Through his
characters the author of Acts aim to persuade the reader to make the necessary changes to
become a follower of Jesus (i.e. to “repent”), or in the case of a reader already being a Christian,
to confirm him/her in discipleship.
16
         In Acts “repentance” (κεηαλνηα) is consistently linked to the act of associating with Jesus. To repent is to
recognise that Jesus‟ claims are valid and true, to align yourself with it, and to act accordingly. This indeed also has
social-ethical implications, but these are in the background in the Athens-episode.

17
       The identical dative construction shows that the “appointed man” is identified with “righteousness” by
which God is going to judge the world – a specific feature of Lucan Christology.
18
       The expression, παξωμπλεην ην πλεπκα απηνπ ελ απηω, is used to denote severe emotional concern (cf. Nida
& Louw, vol 1 § 88.189)
19
         I already mentioned the parallel between Paul at the Areopagus and Jesus in Nazareth (Lk 4:30). Note also
the fact that the author repeats the setting of the narrative in 18:1, thereby emphasising the end of the Athens-
pericope. I therefore take the expression, δηειζωλ δηα κεζνπ απηωλ, as meaningful in that it denotes not only locality,
but also purposive emotional distancing from Paul‟s side.

Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                                       page 5
Paul establishes rapport with his hearers by linking his message to something fairly well known
to them, namely “the altar of an unknown God”20 somewhere in Athens, and also by putting them
in a good light; they are “in every way very religious.” Furthermore, in the fist part of his
defence, he uses concepts of God known to his hearers with whom they most likely would also be
willing to identify – that is, the Stoics among them.21 The utilising of apologetic material from
the Old Testament (Isaiah 43) is well attested and to expose his argument Paul also uses a well-
known citation from Greek literature, “We are his offspring” (17:28).22

What persuasive techniques are used by the author?
According to classical rhetoric, a person has three different methods, depending on the situation,
at his/her disposal with which to persuade the audience, jury or judge. These are logical
argumentation (especially in a legal setting, as is the case in the Athens-episode), ethical
argumentation (the choice between right and wrong), and emotional appeal (according to modern
American TV stories, this is the most effective way to persuade juries…).
          Logics (λογος): Paul widely uses logical argumentation in his defence. Conjunctions
           like ηε…θαη, νπδε, θαη γε, etc. establish the easy flow of the argument; others like ωο,
           γαξ, νηη provides a logical sequence – according to Neyrey, Paul tries to present his
           message as “respectable theology.” The sudden break in this logical sequence at the
           end is therefore all the more conspicuous and unexpected.
          Ethics (ηθος): Ethical argumentation plays a minor role in Paul‟s speech, yet it is
           present. Terms like “ignorance,” “judgement” and “repentance” have ethical
           connotations. These terms are utilised at the end of Paul‟s argument and in the
           narrative framework of the scene. It is therefore not so much a logical conclusion to
           identify oneself with Jesus‟ resurrection; it is rather the strange/illogical, right thing to
           do.23
          Appeal to the emotions (παθος): Emotion does not play a part in the defence
           (dialogue) as such, but there are references to fierce emotions in the narrative
           framework, depicting Paul‟s own reactions and those of his hearers... This narrative
           framework provides the setting and the tone of the episode, and that has a significant
           effect on the reader of the story and is a major instrument used by the author to
           persuade readers to associate with Jesus‟ programme.

Conclusion: The strangeness of the gospel never disappears
As stated at the beginning of this paper, the “gospel” as it is encountered in the writings of the
New Testament, is cast in the moulds of early Mediterranean and Palestine cultures, which make
it strange – and sometimes even illogical, unrealistic, unfair and unintelligible – to a modern

20
           The expression is elsewhere generally used in the plural.
21
         A brief survey of sermon collections show that this part of Paul‟s speech is quite popular among preachers,
whereas the last part (vv. 30-31), consisting of his main argument, is regularly left aside. The theological debate
about the existence of a generally accepted “natural theology” which can be utilised by the church in the
proclamation of the gospel cannot be taken up here. Paul is clearly using similar ideas to that of the Stoics about
God, as a rhetorical device to persuade his audience and one should take care not to over-interpret it.
22
           Although the citation is usually ascribed to Aratus, the idea is present in the work of several classical
authors.
23
         In the light of Paul‟s initial logical argumentation about God, one might be tempted to describe the
association with the resurrection, as accepting a kind of “metaphysical logic” – a kind of logic above ordinary human
conceptions. The Christian faith is sometimes defended along these lines, but this gives too little credit to the sudden,
conspicuous change in the tone at the end of the argument.

Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                                       page 6
reader. Therefore the gospel must be constantly modelled and translated within new cultures
with their own sets/frameworks of ideas and values.
But there is more to it… Jesus himself, his conduct and the message about salvation through his
death and resurrection, are all per definition a-typical. It also sounded strange to the
contemporary cultures in which the early church operated. In that sense the gospel of Jesus
constantly deconstructs every society which it encounters; it never loses its unexpected, odd
identity. Newbigin is correct when he describes the acceptance of the gospel as repentance that is
the acceptance of a new “fiduciary framework.”


     3.       The encounter between the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection with
              modern, affluent culture in the suburbs of Bellville/Durbanville
The gospel must constantly be inculturated.24 One “cannot simply repeat the (previous)
words…” It also seems to me an oversimplification to only assert that “the gospel speaks for
itself” without taking into account the huge cultural differences that exist between current
societies and that of the New Testament. In the following paragraph I want to make a few
remarks with the hope of stimulating a renewed concern for the conversion/encounter axis in
Newbigin‟s model and to make a case for the gospel‟s retrieval of the public sphere in our
society.

Some conspicuous aspects of the current cultural context in a suburban congregation like
DRC Kenridge…25
I am not convinced that the transition to a post-modern era is completed in the affluent, suburbs.
Typical modernist views like the conviction that good organization and management remain the
primary solution to all problems that financial considerations need to be top priority that success
is extremely important and must be attained at all cost, etc., still have the upper hand.
          Generally speaking there is a strong preference for a more optimistic theology and
           spirituality (in Rahner‟s terminology: a summer faith vis-à-vis a winter faith). People
           resent to feel uncomfortable in church, or to be made uncomfortable by the gospel.
           The strong insistence that the individual needs of people must be addressed primarily,
           leads to a consumer-type of spirituality. The church is seen as a vendor of religious
           goods, competing with other similar institutions, having to market itself in such a way
           as to ensure its market share.
          This all happens against the background of growing isolation between different
           societies and even groups within a community, to such an extent that suburban people
           are often unaware and unaffected by the harsh realities of poverty, aids, estrangement
           (cf. the 7 “giants” at SACLA in 2003). There is little evidence of the profound
           inclusiveness that should be characteristic of the faith community. Members usually
           operate with strong “insider vs. outsider” paradigm. Non-members often experience
           the faith community as closed and inaccessible.
          The absolute premium placed on (material) success and on accumulating tokens of
           success, comes at a high price, namely the very high levels of stress and anxiety of a
           performance-driven society. In our affluent suburbs the effects of rationalisation in the
           work place, with the accompanying loss of (senior) jobs, are devastating…

24
          The term “inculturation” is a composition of two other terms, namely that of incarnation and acculturation.
25
         The following remarks are based upon personal contact of the past twelve years and demographic
tendencies that became clear from an analysis done by BUVTON in 2003.

Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                                     page 7
             Families are under great stress. The need to succeed is prevalent, but very often there
             is an inability to start and maintain long-term relationships. Family life is fragmented.
            There is generally little hope for the future of the RSA and Africa as a whole. The
             prospect to leave the country is very attractive for many people from all generations.
             My colleague, who specifically works with high school pupils, is of the opinion that
             this young generation is more positive about the future, but that they are often
             negatively influenced by the older generations.
            There is a strong individualization of faith – faith is regarded as a private affair. This
             is true of both the contents and the exercising (ethics) thereof. Strangely enough, this
             individualism is balanced by a strong identification with role models and in this
             instance communities are still relationship-driven.

How do people from this society hear and understand the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection?
In a well-written article Crossan pointed out that the pre-Enlightenment world and the post-
Enlightenment world have different problems with the message of the resurrection. Whereas the
latter must be convinced that it could really have taken place – i.e. a debate between the anti-
Christian “impossibility option” and the pro-Christian “uniqueness option” – the former asks
questions about its relevance, the so-called “so what?” or “cui bonum” criterion. It seems as if
both of these sets of questions might be present in the reactions of Paul‟s adversaries: the
Epicureans championing the impossibility option and the Stoics having reservations about the
relevance of Jesus‟ resurrection.

Even in a post-Enlightenment world the debate in the private sphere, i.e. within the faith
community itself, seemed to centre on the question of relevance (cf. Heidelberg Catechism). It
has been only recently that the question of possibility entered the discussion inside the church; in
the public sphere however this question had dominated debates.

One of the ways Crossan put forward to deal with the problem of the impossibility of a (bodily)
resurrection of a dead human being is to regard the message of the resurrection as a metaphor of
God‟s justification of the world, thereby removing the demand to regard the resurrection as a
literal event.

Metaphorical language
Speech about God is per definition metaphorical language, in the sense that it refers to the
“conceptual activity in which we understand things by comparing them to each other.”
(Brümmer: 6) This can be a very handy tool, but it also has definite limitations that can become
dangerously misleading when they are ignored. Some of these limitations are as follows:
Metaphorical thinking tends to be generalising, it ignores individuality; it is selective and
especially when developed into conceptual models, it is prone to a kind of “illegitimate totality
transfer,” whereby metaphors (which work with analogy) are treated as if it denotes identity.

Is the gospel of the resurrection to be understood metaphorically or literally?
The answers to this question to this question vary. To my mind the results from the exegesis point
in both directions. Crossan is correct in ascertaining that the New Testament writers have a
literal, bodily resurrection in mind, which in itself is not the main point of contention for them.
What is special about Jesus‟ resurrection is that it signifies/inaugurates the general resurrection of
all mankind, when God will finally judge the world – some will be vindicated and saved, others
will receive their due punishment. Furthermore, especially in the Lucan narratives, the
resurrection is a vindication of Jesus Himself. In that sense it completes the divine plan of
salvation.


Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                        page 8
To my mind a limitation of the message of the resurrection to either metaphorical or literal
meaning, will seriously jeopardise the integrity of the gospel and in some way involves a
reduction of it.


     4.      How do the death and especially the resurrection of Jesus shape the
             dialogue between the Christian and Muslim faith?26
One of the advocates of a dialogue between Islam and Christianity is Vincent Brümmer,
philosopher of religion at Utrecht. Brümmer uses the metaphor of a true, loving relationship
between God and human beings as the matrix of faith. In the closing part of the book he then
draws a parallel between Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith, all deriving from the Abraham-
tradition and all having the same basic matrix of faith (117). He ends with an appeal for
inclusiveness in the dialogue between these three traditions “to discern the faith of their common
father, Abraham, in each other and thus together seek their ultimate happiness in the loving
fellowship of Abraham‟s God.” (121)

I am however convinced that this is a denial of the real point of difference between the Christian
and Muslim faiths, namely the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The
Qur‟an does not mention the resurrection of Jesus at all, most probably because of the specific
tradition about his death, i.e. that Jesus was saved by God (Surah IV, 157). Newbigin‟s insistence
that the encounter between gospel and culture must lead to repentance, i.e. the acceptance of a
new fiduciary framework, is also applicable in this instance.

Epilogue
The contents of the gospel includes more than the resurrection. In the short summaries of the
gospel contents regularly found in the speeches throughout the book of Acts, the resurrection is
usually accompanied by the passion and death of Jesus. Several other themes are frequently
mentioned in proposed missiological theologies for the modern, Western world: Newbigin
emphasised the importance of eschatology, freedom, a theology for the laity, church unity,
insight in one‟s own culture, faith and praise and worship. Bosch mentions six important
dimensions for a missional theology for the Western world, namely “ecological, counter-cultural,
ecumenical, contextual, ministry of the laity, and worship.”

A missional theology for the African context should at least address the issues of land, poverty,
sickness, family (including the ancestors), and the position of women in society and church.
Perhaps the challenge to this workgroup for the next few years is to start developing a
missional theology for modern African society.




26
         I am not an expert on Muslim theology, but it seems to me that comparative studies of the so-called
Abrahamite religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam), as well as the promotion of dialogue between them, do
not always give due recognition to the death and resurrection of Jesus as the corner stone of the Christian faith. In the
discussion within the forum group an example was given of how the death of Jesus can be incorporated into the
dialogue with Islam, but the resurrection of Jesus remained a problem in this regard. Maybe the fact that a general
resurrection of the dead is also accepted in Judaism and Islam, can pave the way for an inclusion of the topic of
Jesus‟ resurrection in the discussions between these three religions.
Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                                       page 9
Bibliography
Apart from the general commentaries on Acts, the following short bibliography can serve as a
reading list:

Bosch, D.J. 1995. Believing in the future. Toward a missiology of Western culture.
      Pennsylvania: Trinity Press
Brümmer, V. 2005. Atonement, Christology and the Trinity: making sense of Christian
      doctrine. Hampshire: Asgate
Crossan, J.D. 2003.”The resurrection of Jesus in its Jewish context.” in Neotestamentica 37(1)
Du Plessis, 2005. “The „apostolic decree‟ (Acts 15) – stroke of genius or a reduction of the
      Gospel?” Article on the GOCN website at Buvton
Elliger, W. 1978. Paulus in Griechenland. Stuttgarter Bibelstudien 92/93. Stuttgart: Katolisches
      Bibelwerk
Hunsberger, G.R. 1991. “The Newbigin gauntlet: Developing a domestic missiology for North
      America.” in Missiology: An international review, Vol XIX, no. 4
-            1998. Bearing the witness in the Spirit: Lesslie Newbigin’s theology of cultural
      plurality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans
Louw, J.P. and Nida, E.A. (ed.) 1988. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament based on
      semantic domains. Vol 1 & 2. New York: UBS
Moxnes, H. 2003. Putting Jesus in his place. A radical vision of household and kingdom.
      Louisville: Westminster/John Knox
Newbigin, L. 1986. Foolishness to the Greeks. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans
O‟Neill, J.C. 1970. 2nd Ed. (revised). The theology of Acts in its historical setting. London:
      SPCK
Punt, J. 2005. “Queer theory, Postcolonial theory, and biblical interpretation. A preliminary
      exploration of some intersections.” Paper read at SBL meeting in Singapore, 2005.
Soards, M.L. 1994. The speeches in Acts. Their content, context and concerns. Louisville:
      Westminster/John Knox
Witherington, B. 1998. The Acts of the apostles: A socio-rhetorical commentary. Grand
      Rapids: Eerdmans




Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club                                 page 10

				
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