Ancient Greeks, Resurrection, and the Gospel of Luke.

“It was left to Christianity to democratize mystery” A. D. Nock

Greeks apparently did not believe in resurrection. At least, this is what we are told or what is suggested by pretty much the consensus in biblical studies. Individual resurrection is most often presented as a wholly unique Christian category (even against Jewish categories–though one wonders why Herod Antipas could at one time imagine that Jesus was “John the Baptist, risen from the dead”; read: a human individual physically resurrected at one point in time); I don’t agree with the consensus, and neither should you.

Now the problem with this maverick attitude of ours is that, in biblical studies, if one does want to talk about the relevance of “Greek resurrection beliefs”–or beliefs in resurrection in the ancient world–(as I do want to do) the “dying and rising god” motif is invariably raised by every Tom, Dick, and Harry as foundation or foil for the resurrection of Jesus. This of course creates a false dichotomy: either the myths had nothing really to do with the resurrection, or the resurrection is essentially the same tale, stripped of the trappings of one Asiatic/Greek religion, and filled with those of another (i.e., Christianity, according to them).

But then we miss the more interesting set of observations that emerges from the similarities and differences between the message about Jesus and the prior beliefs of the people who first heard it in the decades and centuries after Pentecost.

I’ve written a paper that looks into one aspect of this intriguing set of concerns. If you’re interested in early church history, Greek religion/mystery, thought, and history, the Gospel of Luke, and/or the study of language itself, I’d be very happy for you to take the time to take the paper seriously. It’s a bit sweeping and so a little shallow/summative in some places, but that’s by design.

You might enjoy it or find it helpful:

Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: Contexts for Consideration

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