Did It Happen on 9 April?

Frank Kermode

  • BuyThe Resurrection by Geza Vermes
    Penguin, 168 pp, £7.99, March 2008, ISBN 978 0 14 103005 0

In about 56 AD, St Paul writing to the Christians of Corinth, made his position very clear. Somebody had been suggesting that the dead cannot be resurrected, and this was his response: ‘If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain.’ The creeds still require the faithful to declare their belief that Jesus died, was buried, descended into hell, and on the third day rose again. Paul explains that the requirement is reasonable: provided the dead can rise, there can be no reason to suppose Jesus did not do so. In fact if he didn’t, ‘we are of all men most miserable.’ Like Paul, the creeds also insist on ‘the resurrection of the body’, though Paul had in mind not every body but those of the brethren who had died between the death of Jesus and the postponed but imminent day of judgment. As Geza Vermes remarks, he seems not to have given any thought to the very large numbers of dead between Adam and his own day.

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