The Resurrection of Jesus and Human Beings in Medieval Christian and Jewish Theology and Polemical Literature
By Steven J. McMichael
Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, Vol.4 (2009)
Abstract: The resurrection of Jesus was considered by Paul and the early Christians as the central truth claim of Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15). This article shows how the resurrection of Jesus was argued by medieval Christians in their polemical literature and how medieval Jews approached the same subject matter.
Introduction: The resurrection of Jesus was a significant issue in Jewish-Christian polemical literature in the Middle Ages, though it does not appear to be the most prominent one in relation to other issues that appear in polemical texts. Themes of Jesus as Messiah, his incarnation and divinity, the abrogation of the Mosaic Law—all these took center stage then and remain central in Jewish-Christian dialogue even today. Nevertheless, the theme of resurrection was important because of its place in Jewish and Christian theology in general.
The theme of resurrection was very important for medieval Jews and Christians because of its association with the salvation question. It actually illustrates different views of salvation. In the Christian belief system, Jesus, as the Messiah, not only was the first to be raised from the dead but also was acknowledged as the primary agent of the resurrection of human beings. Those who believe this gain at least the possibility of entrance into eternal life. Everyone will rise to face final judgment, but things will go better on that day for those who believe in Jesus, the true Messiah and Risen Lord, than for nonbelievers.
Jews, on the other hand, have different ideas about who will rise and who will enter into the World to Come. Generally, only the righteous will rise, regardless of their beliefs. But one thing is certain: Jews do not acknowledge that Jesus has any role in the salvation process, and therefore, his resurrection has no bearing on their theological understanding of resurrection. What is at stake in regard to the resurrection issue for both communities is the answer to the major question: who is the true people of God who will be raised by God at the end times?