What’s the Difference Between the Resurrection of Lazarus and the Resurrection of Jesus?

When it comes to the Christian faith, one of the most important doctrines is the resurrection of the dead/the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. From a soteriological perspective, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even of he dies.” Jesus could not have made full atonement for our sins without the resurrection. Also, through the resurrection, Jesus took on the role as advocate and intercessor (1 John. 2:2; Rom. 8:34). His resurrection also guaranteed us the opportunity of having a resurrected body’s like His (1 Cor.15:20-23, 51-53; 1 Pet.1:3; Phil. 3:20-21; John. 5:25-29).

An important aspect of possessing eternal life is the ability to raise the dead. The Jewish people knew the God of Israel as the only one who could raise the dead (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13).Therefore, by claiming the authority to raise the dead, Jesus was exemplifying both the same actions and attributes of the God Israel. The resurrection also marked Jesus as the one who will be the judge all men (Acts 17:31).

The Difference between Resuscitation and Resurrection

The Greek word for resurrection is “anatasis” which means “a raising up” or “rising.” I think the key is to differentiate between a resuscitation and a resurrection. There are resuscitations in the Tanakh (the Old Testament) such as the example of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35).

Likewise, there are three resuscitations in the Gospels (Lk. 8:49-56; Jn. 11:38-44; Lk. 7:11-15). So if look at the life of Lazarus it seems like he was resurrected. He was “raised up.” However, Lazarus went on to live on in his old mode and still had to face a second death. Hence, Lazarus and these other accounts are similar to the raising of the dead as already mentioned in the examples of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35).

As far as Jesus, he was not only but resurrected, he was changed. His body was transformed into what Paul calls a glorified body. He never died again. Therefore, one way to approach this is to say Jesus is not the only one in human history that has been raised from the dead (if we call it resuscitation). However, He is the only one who has been raised immortal!

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2 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between the Resurrection of Lazarus and the Resurrection of Jesus?

  1. nonsupernaturalist January 9, 2016 / 6:11 pm

    According to the Bible, how many Old Testament prophets raised people from the dead? Answer: Two. Elijah and Elisha.

    That’s it. And they only did it three times. So the act of raising someone from the dead would have been seen as a very, very big deal. It was not like healing someone of a disease or casting out demons. Lots of people, it seems, could do those miracles. Nope, raising someone from the dead was the big kahuna of all miracles!

    In the Gospel of John chapter 11, we are told that Lazarus had been dead for four days. His body was decomposing to the point that he stunk. Lazarus death and burial were very public events. His tomb was a known location. Many Jews had come to mourn with Mary and Martha and some of them were wondering why the great miracle worker, Jesus, had not come and healed his friend Lazarus; essentially blaming Jesus for letting Lazarus die.

    Let’s step back and look at the facts asserted in this passage: Only two OT prophets had raised people from the dead, and these two prophets were considered probably the two greatest Jewish prophets of all time: Elijah and Elisha. If this story is true, the supernatural powers of Jesus were on par with the supernatural powers of the greatest Jewish prophets of all time! If this event really did occur, it should have shocked the Jewish people to their very core—a new Elijah was among them! This event must have been the most shocking event to have occurred in the lives of every living Jewish man and woman on the planet. The news of this event would have spread to every Jewish community across the globe.

    And yet…Paul, a devout and highly educated Jew, says not one word about it. Not one. Not in his epistles; not in the Book of Acts. Think about that. What would be the most powerful sign to the Jews living in Asia Minor and Greece—the very people to whom Paul was preaching and attempting to convert—to support the claim that Jesus of Nazareth himself had been raised from the dead? Answer: The very public, very well documented raising from the dead of Lazarus of Bethany by Jesus!

    But nope. No mention of this great miracle by Paul. (A review of Paul’s epistles indicates that Paul seems to have known very little if anything about the historical Jesus. Read here.)

    And there is one more very, very odd thing about the Raising-of-Lazarus-from-the-Dead Miracle: the author of the Gospel of John, the very last gospel to be written, is the only gospel author to mention this amazing miracle! The authors of Mark, Matthew, and Luke say NOTHING about the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Nothing.

    This is a tall tale and nothing more.

    • chab123 January 9, 2016 / 11:56 pm

      Hey there,

      I don’t do a ton of online debating. But a few things:

      1. The Gospels are written to different audiences for different purposes. If they all mentioned or repeated the exact same things, they wouldn’t be unique at all. There has been enough written about this for decades now.

      2. I would caution you to be careful about appealing to arguments form silence. That is not a good way to do history. If we tried to use that approach, we could say many things didn’t happen in history.

      3. The genre of the Gospels aren’t fiction. See Richard Burridge’s What Are the Gospels?: A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography as well as other works on genre criticism.

      That’s about it.

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