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The resurrection of Jesus Christ

Beliefs by various religious groups

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Beliefs about resurrection:

Most Christian faith groups teach that Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) was resurrected about a day and a half after his execution by the occupying Roman army circa 33 CE. By "resurrection" they believe that he returned to life in the same body in which he had died.

To most Christians, Jesus' resurrection was a miracle, and a required belief like his virgin birth, his divinity, his sinless nature, and other cardinal religious doctrines. In fact, many Christian leaders consider his resurrection to be the fundamental belief underpinning Christianity.

However, not everybody accepts Jesus' bodily resurrection as literally true. Most public opinion polls ask whether the subjects believe in the resurrection or not. However, a Beliefnet poll -- current as of 2008-OCT -- went into further depth. They found that:

  • 72% of its visitors believe that Jesus was bodily resurrected.
  • 20% believe that he was raised from the dead, but only spiritually.
  • 8% do not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.

Beliefs taught by various faith groups:

  • The Baha'i Faith teaches that Jesus conquered death and triumphed over the grave. But these are understood in a spiritual, not physical sense. Walter Martin recorded an interview with a teacher at the Baha'i temple in Illinois. The teacher explained:
    "The alleged Resurrection of Jesus and His Ascension into heaven may or may not be true depending upon your point of view. As I said before, we are concerned with Baha'u'llah and the new era or age, and while we reverence Jesus as we do the great prophets of other religions, we do not believe that it is necessarily important that the Baha'i faith recognizes every tenet of a specific religion. We believe that Jesus conquered death, that he triumphed over the grave, but these are things which are in the realm of the spirit and must receive spiritual interpretations." 9
  • Christian Science teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross. Mary Baker Eddy wrote:
    "His disciples believed Jesus to be dead while he was hidden in the sepulcher, whereas he was alive...Jesus' students...saw him after his crucifixion and learned that he had not died." 5
  • Muslims, who constitute almost 20% of mankind believe that Jesus did not die on the cross; he was not crucified. Most believe that he ascended bodily into heaven without having first died. They believe that God would not have allowed his prophet to die an ignoble death by crucifixion. Various traditions within Islam hold different beliefs. Two are: that Jesus substituted Judas Iscariot for himself on the cross, or that God intervened and removed Jesus from Roman captivity before the crucifixion took place.

  • The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus "was raised from the grave not a human creature, but a spirit." They reject the concept of bodily resurrection. 6,7 In support of this belief, they note that:
    • Mary Magdalene beside the garden tomb (John 20:14-16),
    • Peter and six other disciples by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:4-7), and
    • Two unnamed disciples on the road to from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-16)
    did not recognize Jesus at first.  These are a strong indicators that Jesus looked quite different. That is, he was not raised in his original body.

    Also, Jesus allegedly passed through the walls of a locked room in John 20:19 and John 20:26. 5 This suggests that Jesus was resurrected as a spirit. 11
  • Followers of Ascended Master Teachings organizations within Theosophy believe that Jesus resurrected and later ascended to heaven with his original physical body. Neo-Theosophists Alice A. Bailey, and Benjamin Creme taught that Jesus of Nazareth re-incarnated as Apollonius of Tyana (16-97 CE). In that subsequent incarnation, he became an Ascended Master and resurrected at the time of his death. 10

  • The Unification Church teaches that after Jesus' crucifixion, he was spiritually resurrected, although his body remained in the grave.

  • The Unity School of Christianity teaches reincarnation. Article 22 of their Statement of Faith states:
    "We believe the dissolution of spirit, soul and body, caused by death, is annulled by rebirth of the same spirit and soul in another body here on earth. We believe the repeated reincarnations of man are the merciful provision of our loving Father to the end that all may come to obtain immortality through regeneration, as did Jesus."
  • The World Wide Church of God, under Herbert Armstrong, taught that Jesus' "resurrected body was no longer human...", and that Jesus was resurrected as a spirit. After Armstrong's death, the church altered its teaching and aligned itself with conventional Evangelical Christian beliefs which are that Jesus was bodily resurrected.

There are other non-miraculous explanations of Jesus' resurrections, which we discuss elsewhere.

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  1. Mather & Nichols, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, Zondervan (1993), P. 331-332
  2. Philip Melanchthon, "Augsburg Confession" (1530 CE) is at: http://www.iclnet.org/
  3. The Gnostic view, and quotations from "Acts of John" can be seen at: http://www.enemies.com/
  4. William Barnstone, Ed., "The Other Bible", Harper San Francisco, CA, (1984) Page 418-20
  5. Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." A copy can be ordered from 1-800-633-1300 or by Email to mbebook@csps.com
  6. "The Kingdom Is at Hand", Pages 258, 259
  7. "Let God be True", Pages 40, 138, 276
  8. Martin Luther, "The Small Catechism (1529 CE) is at: http://www.iclnet.org/
  9. Walter Martin, "The Kingdom of the Cults," Page 255.
  10. "Master Jesus," Wikipedia, 2008-SEP-10, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  11. Robert M. Bowman, Jr., "Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus' Resurrection, and the Gospel of John Part One: the Resurrection as Jesus' Climactic Miracle," The Watchman Expositor, at: http://www.watchman.org/

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Copyright © 1998 to 2008, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Essay last updated: 2008-OCT-06
Written by. B.A. Robinson

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