B Resurrection as Metaphor

As Pannenberg also recognized, we can hardly avoid drawing on the category of 'metaphor' to characterize the concept 'resurrection'.230 As noted above (§ 12.3c), the power of metaphor is the power 'to redescribe a reality inaccessible to direct description' (Ricoeur), 'reality depicting without pretending to be directly descriptive' (Martin Soskice). This point has been missed by those who want to see 'the resurrection of Jesus' as a way of saying something else, which could actually be said more easily and with less intellectual embarrassment than that 'God raised Jesus from the dead'. For to say that 'the resurrection of Jesus' is a metaphor is to recognize that the phrase is saying something which could not otherwise be said. In consequence, to translate 'resurrection' into something more 'literal' is not to translate it but to abandon it. To interpret the first Easter faith into the affirmation that Jesus' significance or message has long outlasted his life (Marxsen) is not to interpret the metaphor but to empty it. To reduce it to an accident of language231 or to the mythical expression of deep human experience232 is to lose the extra nos preserved by metaphorical reference. To re-

229. Cf. Fuller, Formation 22-24.

230. Jesus 74; cf. Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus 508. Chester observes that 'the usage of resurrection terminology from an early stage in the Old Testament is strongly metaphorical in orientation, and serves especially as a symbol of national resurrection' ('Resurrection and Transformation' 77).

Geering prefers the inadequate alternative 'idiom' (alluding here to Resurrection

232. N. Perrin, The Resurrection Narratives: A New Approach (London: SCM, 1977)

move any idea of personal survival from the concept 'resurrection'233 is not to make the metaphor more meaningful but to destroy it. Reality grasped in and as metaphor is no less reality even if it cannot be expressed in other terms.

Christians have continued to affirm the resurrection of Jesus, as I do, not because they know what it means. Rather, they do so because, like the affirmation of Jesus as God's Son, 'the resurrection of Jesus' has proved the most satisfactory and enduring of a variety of options, all of them inadequate in one degree or other as human speech, to sum up the impact made by Jesus, the Christian perception of his significance. They do so because as a metaphor, 'resurrection' is perceived as referring to something otherwise inexpressible, as expressing the otherwise inchoate insight that this life, including Jesus' life, is not a complete story in itself but can be grasped only as part of a larger story in which God is the principal actor and in which Jesus is somehow still involved. In short, 'the resurrection of Jesus' is not so much a criterion of faith as a paradigm for hope.

suggests that Matthew and Luke have differently interpreted the 'primordial myth' of Mark's resurrection narratives into a 'foundation myth' of Christian origins — 'myth' being understood as 'the narrative expression of the deepest realities of human experience' (12).

233. Wedderburn, Beyond Resurrection 147-52.

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