Word of the Week
April 17, 2022
Anastasis: Beyond the Obituary
Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.
6,180,128 deaths worldwide from Covid as of April 5,2022. That’s the total according to one source (worldometer.info).
So many graves! And for so many people, the last shovel of dirt on the grave writes “The End” to a life. A person has been snuffed out of existence with no hope of anything more.
Christians bury loved ones too. Their tears roll down their cheeks. But as the apostle Paul said, we do not grieve “as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
There’s Easter, you see – more appropriately known as Resurrection Day. Life and death look different when seen through eyes that know about resurrection. That’s why we are looking today at the Greek word for resurrection.
The usual New Testament word for resurrection is anastasis, which comes from a pair of Greek words meaning “up” and “stand.” Secular society used it to describe routine ideas like the “erection” of a statue, the “building up” of a dam, or “getting up” out of bed. That meaning of the word survives in only one New Testament passage: the aged Simeon meets Mary and Joseph in the temple and predicts that their newborn baby will cause “the fall and rise of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34).
In every other passage, anastasis describes the event of a once-dead person returning to life.
It was an unpopular idea. Greek philosophers might allow for the possibility that your soul could maintain some sort of shadowy existence after death, but when Paul spoke of the resurrection to the Stoics and Epicureans in Athens, they jeered at him (Acts 17:18, 32).
Samaritans rejected the idea of resurrection, and the Sadducees took their scorn for the idea of resurrection as one of the key planks in their platform. A group of Sadducees used a trick question about the resurrection to probe for a weak spot in Christ’s teaching (Matthew 22:23-33: Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40). When Peter healed a lame man in the temple, it was his preaching of the resurrection that brought the Sadducees to order his arrest (Acts 4:2). The apostle Paul once broke up a Sanhedrin hearing by declaring that the resurrection was the issue that had led to his arrest (Acts 23:6-9). The gospel irritated the Sadducees, not only because they didn’t believe in Christ’s resurrection, but because they didn’t believe in any resurrection at all. A risen Jesus contradicted their theology!
The Sadducees unwittingly stumbled on the great implication of the Resurrection: if Christ can rise from the dead, we may do the same!
Anastasis in the New Testament describes the resurrection of Jesus.
At the core of the Christian gospel lay the reality that Christ rose from the dead. More than living in the memories of friends, more than living on through his accomplishments, more than reappearing as a ghost, more than merely reviving from the tomb only to die again – Christ returned to life with a physical body, never to die again!
- The believers in the upper room chose a replacement for Judas for the express purpose of being a witness to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:22).
- The apostles served as witnesses of His resurrection (Acts 4:33).
- Paul’s message on Mars Hill climaxed with the resurrection (Acts 17:18).
- Christ’s resurrection demonstrates that He is the Son of God (Romans 1:4).
- His resurrection gives us a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).
Anastasis also describes the resurrection that we will experience.
The church at Corinth evidently contained members who believed in Christ’s resurrection but denied that resurrection was possible for the rest of us (1 Corinthians 15:12). The apostle Paul spent the rest of that chapter arguing that Christ was the first to rise, but he was certainly not the last. Because He lives, we can look forward to our own resurrection!
In fact, Jesus declared that everyone, both the just and the unjust, will be raised (John 5:29). Everyone who has ever lived will come back from the grave to live forever in God’s presence or away from it.
Paul warned against the false rumor that the resurrection had already taken place – it is a future event! (2 Timothy 2:18).
For those who have put their faith in Christ, the resurrection ushers us into eternity with a body like that of the risen Jesus (Philippians 3:21). As Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25).
This study has focused specifically on the noun anastasis, which occurs 41 times in the New Testament. You can expand the study by including the verb anistēmi or the synonym egeirō. Paul also uses an intensified form of anastasis in Philippians 3:11. The resurrection is such a central topic of the New Testament that a word study is only the startingpoint.
Q: The King James version says that Herod jailed Peter and intended to execute him “after Easter.” That’s the only time Easter is mentioned in the Bible. What does the Greek say?
A: In Acts 12:4, the Greek text says that Herod planned to kill Peter “after the pascha.” That word occurs 29 times in the New Testament and consistently means “Passover,” referring to the Passover feast or to the sacrifice offered at that feast. The King James translators used the term “Easter” because it was familiar to their readers, but it is a misleading translation. Other Bibles consistently say “Passover” at this spot.
We live in a world where warfare perpetually rages, and not all of it is fought with tanks. Next week we will examine the word used to describe the armor of a Christian in spiritual warfare.
©Ezra Project 2022