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Liturgical Press


I last saw Raymond Brown a few weeks before he died. By strange coincidence our conversation on that day turned to death, its inevitability, its meaning for us personally and for our work, and what lay beyond that mysterious frontier. Ray told me he had been asked if, following the publication of his massive Death of the Messiah, he planned to write a work on the Resurrection. He had replied, "I prefer to research that topic face to face." It was such a quintessentially Raymond Brown remark, deep spirituality buried in a self-effacing bon mot. Little could either of us have guessed how soon that research would begin. I venture as fool where his wisdom forbade him to tread. I hope he will accept this essay on the Resurrection as a tribute to his enormous contribution to scholarship, his even greater gift to the church, his wise mentorship, and our friendship.

My purpose in this lecture is to explore the contribution of the Fourth Gospel (henceforth FG, which I will also refer to as John)1 to our understanding of the meaning of the Resurrection of Jesus, which is the foundation and the distinguishing feature of Christian faith. As such it is, or should be, at the center of Christian spirituality, that is, of the lived experience of the faith. I am going to propose that bodiliness is the linchpin of resurrection faith. The Church professes belief in the resurrection of the body. However, the bodiliness of the Risen Jesus is often discreetly circumvented in both scholarly treatments of and preaching on the subject of resurrection. I suspect that the reason for this reticence is that, for the post-Enlightenment critical mind, bodily resurrection is imaginatively implausible and thus intellectually unassimilable.2 On this topic faith seeking understanding runs into an imaginative impasse. The Gospel of John might offer the critical mind some resources for negotiating that impasse.

I will proceed in five unequal steps. First, I will lay out some methodological presuppositions for my reading of the text of John 20, the Resurrection Narrative. Second, I will briefly sketch the contours of Johannine anthropology, and third, I will offer a brief synopsis of Johannine eschatology, particularly as it differs from that of the Synoptics. Fourth, I will look at the texts in John that form the context for the interpretation of 20: 19-23, the raising of the body of Jesus as the New Temple.3 Finally, I will interpret John 20: 19-23, within the context of the chapter as a whole, as the textual expression of Johannine faith in the personal glorification of the human Jesus, his bodily resurrection, and the spirituality that expresses that faith.

Chapter of

Life in Abundance: Studies of John’s Gospel in Tribute to Raymond E. Brown


John R. Donahue


Copyright © 2005 Liturgical Press. Reprinted with permission.

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