Proclaiming the Resurrection. (The First Oak Hill School of Theology)

Written by Peter M. Head (ed.) Reviewed By Paul Blackham

Traditionally evangelicals have a lot to say about the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, but have little to say about the meaning and the significance of the resurrection. This collection of papers is an attempt to grapple with the theology of the resurrection in a deeper and more sustained way.

The first paper, by Mike Butterworth, focuses on ‘Old Testament antecedents to Jesus’ resurrection’. This is wide-ranging, covering general OT teaching about death, the intermediate state and resurrection, before concentrating on the resurrection of the Messiah specifically. Although the fact that the patriarchs lived in tents is taken as a resurrection hope in Hebrews 11, Butterworth confines himself to only the explicit teaching of the OT. His conclusion is cautious: ancient Israelites were not interested in life after death, but they didn’t rule it out either. The only kind of immortality they could conceive of was bodily resurrection, and not the immortality of the soul.

David Peterson looks at the use of the resurrection in apologetics in Luke-Acts from the perspective of Biblical theology. He shows how the proof of the resurrection is the apostolic eye-witness testimony to the bodily character of the resurrection. Peterson argues that the OT general Messianic hope is specifically grounded in Jesus of Nazareth after the resurrection, which also displays the divinity of Jesus. Contemporary apologetics, he concludes, need to imitate apostolic preaching.

Peter Head tackles the place of Jesus’ resurrection in the book of Romans. Paul’s apostleship finds its focus to the gentiles from the resurrection of Jesus. By the resurrection Jesus is shown to be the Lord and Saviour of all. The justification of the believer happens on the basis of Jesus’ own justification, which is his resurrection, when God vindicates Him from the condemnation of the Cross. Paul also sees the resurrection of Jesus as the basis for the Christian’s own resurrection, both now in regeneration and in the future in bodily resurrection. Christians are to be characterised by resurrection hope in a hopeless world.

Rudi Heinze examines the claim that the resurrection is ignored in Puritan theology. He tests the claim against four of the major Puritans (William Perkins, Thomas Goodwin, Stephen Charnock and Thomas Manton). Heinze demonstrates the resurrection occupies a central place in Puritan thought, especially in their pastoral theology. Although the Puritans did not seem to be able to agree on which member of the Trinity was responsible for the resurrection, yet they all agreed that the resurrection was crucial for our justification and sanctification, as well as being a profound source of hope and comfort.

Martin Davie concludes the collection with a study of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the theology of Karl Barth. Barth is so commonly accused, in evangelical circles, of denying the reality of the bodily resurrection, that Davie has done the Church a great service in vindicating Barth. He not only comprehensively demonstrates Barth’s profound commitment to the actuality of the physical resurrection of Jesus, but he also shows exactly what Barth means when he speaks of Historie and saga and legend. Barth’s theology of the resurrection is presented, together with a critique of his description of the resurrection as Geschichte.

This collection has more than enough meat to satisfy the hungriest theological appetite. By approaching the resurrection from five different disciplines, the reader is left with a wide range of options for the further study that the book will certainly stimulate.

Paul Blackham

All Souls, London