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Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead Oscar Cullmann

Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead Oscar Cullmann



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Published by Loyola
A very good study about the early christian truth
A very good study about the early christian truth

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Published by: Loyola on Aug 30, 2008
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Oscar Cullmann's
 Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?
The Internet Edition
Completed January 2002
I first encountered Cullmann's work in my first year at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. I hadfor some time been convinced that the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body fromthe dead (so authoritatively stated in our early creeds) was in direct opposition to the pagannotion of the inherent immortality of the human spirit or soul, a notion held today by the vastmajority of Christians. While my friends who embrace process thought assure me that thesetwo views are not mutually exclusive, I am not convinced.The Christian tradition, anchored in God's unique revelation in Jesus Christ as proclaimed inthe New Testament, has affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead from the firstcentury. The Apostle Paul makes allusion to the idea in his first letter to the Thessaloniansbefore following up with the definitive Christian statement on the "end times" in the fifteenthchapter of 1 Corinthians (perhaps only the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2 has found a closerplace in my heart).Paul's declarations are essentially Hebrew in origin (Paul was, of course, a Pharisee bytraining and remained a devout Jew his entire life) and carry with them certain ideasconcerning the nature of the human soul. To the Hebrews, Paul, the early Christians, andJesus himself (another devout Jew), each person
a human soul, created by God. Eachperson is in sin, and sin brings on death. God is by very nature LIFE, and death therefore isseparation from God. What a miserable fate! Is there a finer, more concise definition of hellthan that of total separation from God? This does not rule out other definitions for Hell anddamnation, of course, but it does seem to be a powerful - and quite Biblical - view.God's grace in Jesus Christ thus becomes so important...essential. We cannot escape death onour own, and therefore cling to the coming into the world of the Incarnation (again, seePhilippians 2). By conquering sin and death through incarnation, life, crucifixion, andresurrection, Jesus Christ performed the greatest act in the history of the cosmos...the defeatof death, the great enemy of God and creation. Thus, those who are in Christ will rise from thedead on that great day of Christ's return, to live and reign with him eternally in the fullyreconciled and transformed creation. This is the promise of Scripture which has been properlytermed "the Christian Hope".The Greeks of the New Testament era were not from the Hebrew tradition, but were pagans,alternately worshiping an abundance of false deities and engaging in Platonic philosophical
discussions. The world into which Christianity was born was a Hellenistic world, dominatedby Plato and paganism.One of these pagan ideas was the belief that the human body was little more than a shell,housing an eternal life force alternately called a spirit or a soul. (Quite obviously, what Paulmeant by those terms was very different.) At death, then, the spirit was free to fly away intothe heavens to whatever gods truly existed, or to float down into the nether regions for eternalpunishment.The Good News that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and had conquered death once and for allmade little sense to the Greeks, who viewed death not as an enemy to be conquered but ratheras a friend to be embraced. Hence Paul's frustration with the philosophers in the Acts of theApostles. No, Christians maintained that each person, each body,
a soul,
a soul, and of sacred worth.The Church maintained this doctrine strongly in its earliest years, although pagan ideasalways lurked in the background. St. Augustine's powerful influence combined Biblicaltradition with Greek thought, and redefined our terms to a degree. In the late nineteenth andearly twentieth century came the rise of "premillenial dispensationalism", which had beenunknown to Christians dating back to Paul. As the premillenialists so strenuously embracedthe idea of a "rapture" (the faithful will vanish one day, rather than rise with Christ's return),pagan ideas seemed more attractive. While others have decried the cancer of extremefundamentalism (perhaps second only to pluralism as the greatest enemy of contemporaryChristians), I will merely say that the greatest victory of this movement has been its injectionof pagan notions of the soul into the Christian dialogue.On April 26, 1955, Oscar Cullmann, a theology professor at the University of Basel and at theSorbonne in Paris, delivered the Ingersoll Lecture on the Immortality of Man at HarvardUniversity's Andover Chapel. The lecture was subsequently published as IMMORTALITYOF THE SOUL OR RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD?: THE WITNESS OF THE NEWTESTAMENT. Cullmann, a traditional Reformed theologian, was at the time a well knownNew Testament scholar, noted especially for his works on the early Church.IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL OR RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD? was to be hisfinest work, proclaiming the Christian truth in a culture which had forgotten it. It not onlyaffirmed my own views but challenged them and enhanced them as well. He states thetraditional Christian view far more capably and eloquently than I ever could. This book is notfor the weak at heart, for the truth it espouses is far more exciting than any pagan notion of flying spirits...it is the Good News that Jesus Christ has conquered death and is aliveforevermore...and because he lives, we too shall live.I present this Internet edition of Cullmann's brief masterpiece to the Church with the prayerthat the Church may experience renewal in examining the work, that the Body of Christwould be built up, that we could recapture some of the sense of urgency of the early Church,and that some may come to know Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father now andforevermore. Amen.
 Rev. Keith H. McIlwain, May 1998
 Internet Edition completed January 2002
Preface Introduction Chapter 1: The Last Enemy (Socrates and Jesus)Chapter 2: The Wages of Sin - - Death (Body & Soul - - Flesh & Spirit)Chapter 3: The Firstborn from the Dead (Between the Resurrection of Christ and the Destruction of Death)Chapter 4: Those Who Sleep (The Holy Spirit and the Intermediate State of the Dead)Conclusion IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL OR RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD?:THE WITNESS OF THE NEW TESTAMENTby Oscar Cullmannwas first published in 1958 in London by Epworth Press.© 1958 The Epworth Press.© 1998 / 2002

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