Book Review: “But God Raised Him from the Dead”: The Theology of Jesus’ Resurrection in Luke-Acts


But God Raised Him from the Dead: The Theology of Jesus’ Resurrection in Luke-Acts (Paternoster Biblical Monographs), Kevin L. Anderson, 2007, 392 pp. Wipf & Stock Pub

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most important apologetic topics there is. There has been more than enough work done on defending the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. When I received a copy of  Kevin Anderson’s But God Raised Him from the Dead: The Theology of Jesus’ Resurrection in Luke-Acts, I realized this book is not an apologetic for the historicity of the resurrection. Rather, it is scholarly treatment on the theological issues related to background of  the resurrection of Jesus. Anderson discusses important topics such as what the Jewish Scriptures say about the resurrection  (Dan. 12: 13, Hosea 6:1-3, Ezekiel 37: 1-14).

He also analyzes texts  in the Second Temple Jewish period such as 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch (Ch 3).  But even though the resurrection was birthed in the Jewish world, the Jewish world at the time of Jesus was surrounded by Hellenism (Ch 4).  Therefore, Anderson  also rightly discusses the relationship between Hellenism and the resurrection. One area that Anderson says has been neglected is the relationship between the resurrection and the restoration theme in Luke/Acts (Ch 5). The resurrection of Jesus is the central theme of Acts and it is directly related to the restoration of Israel. Granted, N.T. Wright and others have discussed this issue.

But given the abundance of restoration texts we see in the Jewish Scriptures (Isa. 11:10-16; Jer. 3:11-20; 12:14-17; 16:10-18; 23:1-8; 24:5-7; 30:1-3, 10-11; 31:2-14; 32:36-44; Ezek.11:14-20; 20:33-44; 28:25-26; 34:11-16; 23-31; 36:16-36; 37:1-28; 39:21-29), it should be no surprise that this plays a role in how the first followers of Jesus interpreted his resurrection. In Acts 1: 6-7, Peter asks Jesus if he is going to restore Israel and the same theme comes up in Peter’s sermon in Acts 3. Even Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 is to Jews `from every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:5) and  “the whole house of Israel” (Acts 2:36) which displays evidence for beginning of the restoration of Israel. Ezekiel 37 which is associated with the reunification of the southern and northern tribes and their restoration to the land (37:15-22), the giving of God’s Spirit to revive and restore his people (37:14; 39:29), and the rule of the new David (37:24-25) is in the background of Peter’s sermon here.

Thus, for Second Temple Jews, the resurrection of Jesus  was the mark of the end of the present age and the beginning of the eternal new age, the time of the eschaton. “Resurrection” was much broader then simply the afterlife. Rather, when the followers of Jesus thought of resurrection, they also thought of the “new creation,” “kingdom of God,” “final judgment,” and, in many quarters, the promised “Messiah.”  So, when it comes to Acts, we see the “inaugurated eschatology” theme in which the resurrection of Jesus has  both the “already” and “not yet” aspects to the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the restoration of Israel has started, but it still has a future aspect to it.

Over the years, I have noticed that about 8 out of 10 Christians think salvation is only about the afterlife. When I ask them how they view the resurrection, they seem a bit puzzled. It is a book like this (as well as N.T. Wright’s work) that can help provide a corrective. Also, once again, to try to divorce the resurrection theme from Judaism or the history of Israel is a fatal mistake. Given the centrality of the resurrection of the resurrection of Jesus, Christians can only benefit from learning about the origins of this doctrine.

Anderson’s book is probably too scholarly for the average lay person. There are easier introductions such as N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope. But for those that want to pursue this topic on a scholarly level, I highly recommend this book. It is both rich and rewarding!