“Tell Me What Shall Arise”: Conflicting Notions of the Resurrection Body in Fourth- and Fifth-Century Egypt
In the turmoil around the turn of the fifth century, controversy over the legacy of Origen took center stage, and questions regarding the nature of the resurrection were among the main points of contention. What was the nature of the resurrection body? In what sense will post-resurrection life represent a continuation or a break with the present one? How are key scriptural passages, such as 1 Cor 15 to be understood? What is the role of ritual or ascetic practice? This essay shows how, when compared with more well-known players of the controversy, two texts from the Nag Hammadi Codices and writings by the powerful Upper Egyptian abbot Shenoute of Atripe may give us additional insight into how these questions were debated. It is argued that on the level of phrases, terminology, and allusions there is much agreement, while important disagreements regarding how to conceptualize the resurrection leads to distinctly different interpretations of the key biblical texts. And while creeds were introduced to curtail certain interpretations, they also led to new interpretations, as creedal phrases were also redefined and reinterpreted to suit the preferred conceptual models of different interpreters.
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