Monday, 23 January 2006

Bultmann on the resurrection: criticisms

A couple of days ago I posted an appreciation of Rudolf Bultmann’s view of the resurrection. Some very insightful criticisms were posted in the comments, and I want to add my own general criticisms here as well. I think Bultmann’s interpretation of the resurrection is immensely valuable and important—but I don’t think we should appropriate Bultmann’s view uncritically.

I outlined three main contributions of Bultmann’s view; and in each case I would also raise a specific criticism:

1. I agree with Bultmann that Jesus’ death and resurrection should be correlated—but, unlike Bultmann, I would also want to say that Jesus’ death temporally precedes his resurrection.

2. I agree with Bultmann that the resurrection is an eschatological event—but, unlike Bultmann, I would also say that this event is eschatological precisely as something that happened to the “body” (whatever that might mean) of one particular historical man.

3. I agree with Bultmann that faith and resurrection should be correlated—but I would also want to insist that this is a correlation from the direction (so to speak) of the resurrection, so that the resurrection precedes and constitutes faith.

These three criticisms by no means undermine Bultmann’s contribution. They simply indicate the need to move beyond Bultmann—and we cannot go beyond him until we have first gone through him.


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