APOSTLE’S CREED 10 On the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the father almighty.

The “third” day did not originally mean the Sunday after a Friday, but rather the day of revelation, the day when an event is completed. The gospels have made this theological adjective into history. So I do not think there is much history in the gospel narratives of resurrection. That judgement includes the empty tomb. I believe in the resurrection but imagine that the bones of Jesus are in Palestine.

Paul mentions the “facts” of the resurrection: Jesus had really died and been buried, but he “appeared” to specific disciples, then to many unnamed disciples and last of all to Paul himself. Paul describes this appearance: “it pleased the Lord to reveal his son in me.” Doubtless, although the description in the book of The Acts is almost wholly an invention by the author, the revelation of which Paul writes is his conversion to discipleship of Jesus.

I conclude that the historical part of a resurrection narrative is a) the conviction of the real presence of Jesus and b) the call to give witness of his aliveness. This experience is then used to assert another fact which is not historical, namely that God has raised the crucified Jesus from the dead to be part of the identity of God. Such a fact cannot be given a place and a time and is therefore presented as an eschatological fact belonging to the action of God in bringing creation to its ultimate perfection. The resurrection witnesses experienced this as a creative act of God; while I think of it also as a creative act of the believers, similar to the act of creating the God of Genesis chapter 1. In response to experience, human beings, including Christians, invent their Gods. The resurrection of Jesus is the creative invention of the God who is ultimately known as the Holy Trinity. That is not to question its truth.

Narratives of the ascension, such as provided by Matthew and Luke are unsuccessful attempts to turn eschatological fact into historical fact. They point to the truth but they do not embody it. Sitting at the right hand of the pantocrator, the all-powerful, is the position of an emperor’s son and heir, but this clause has not taken seriously God’s identity as the father of JESUS, which reveals him as all- related (all-loving) and all- persuasive.

This composite clause in the creed points to the success of Jesus’ mission and the explosion of creative thought and action by the first believers.,who however attribute it to the work of the creative spirit of God.

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