ASK A PRIEST – What Exactly do Catholics Believe About the Resurrection of Jesus?

22 Jan 2013

Jan 22, 2013

Do we really believe that Jesus rose from the dead and walked around on earth?

The resurrection of Jesus is a central dogma of our faith.

The Catechism says that: “The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross.”
(No. 638)

As St Paul said: “”If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:14). The fact that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead is affirmed repeatedly in the New Testament. St Paul says:

“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.” (1 Cor 15:3-8)

Over the centuries some have called into question the resurrection of Jesus. As Pope John Paul II pointed out these theories do not stand up in the face of so many witnesses who saw Jesus following his death on the Cross. In one of his weekly audience addresses John Paul II said:

“those hypotheses are untenable which seek in different ways to interpret Christ’s resurrection by abstracting it from the physical order in such a way as not to recognize it as a historical fact. Such, for example, is the hypothesis that the resurrection was merely a kind of interpretation of Christ’s state after his death (a state of life, and not of death).
Again, another interpretation reduces the resurrection to the influence which Christ, after his death, did not cease to exercise on his disciples and indeed resumed with new and irresistible power. These hypotheses seem to imply a prejudicial opposition to the reality of the resurrection, which was considered solely as the “product” of the situation, that is to say, of the Jerusalem community. Neither the interpretation nor the prejudice is supported by the facts. St. Paul, on the contrary, in the text quoted has recourse to eyewitnesses of the fact. His conviction about Christ’s resurrection is therefore based on a fact of experience.”

As one article on the subject by Peter Kreeft points out: “No alternative to a real resurrection has yet explained: the existence of the Gospels, the origin of the Christian faith, the failure of Christ’s enemies to produce his corpse, the empty tomb, the rolled-away stone, or the accounts of the post-resurrection appearances.”

Further reading: