About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Mytho-Logic of Empty Tomb

This is my opening thesis which I would like to defend, illustrate and expand in this lecture.

The Mosaic in the St. Mark Basilica in Venice is a clear illustration of that powerful  mytho-poetic imagery of the story of the empty tomb. The resurrected Christ (still with crucifixion wounds!) tramples on the personified Hades (who is bound), the gate of netherworld is broken, its lock and keys useless. Jesus is pulling/resurrecting  Adam (and Eve) surrounded by other OT figures such as David and Solomon (two figures with crowns at the right side).

This is how the ancient tomb looked. Newer development allowed for a more efficient use of space. 
Tombs were expensive to make and were often shared by large families of clans. Ossuaries were boxes for bones after the body decomposed.

This is the historically oldest known preserved story (and first ever mention!) about the empty tomb of Jesus as translated by NRSV. It dates to the early 8th decade of the Common Era.

The diagonal red line in this slide represent the time axis of the early Common Era. Upper left side contains some events from the history of the texts which later became part of the NT canon. Lower right side represent some events important for early church and their relation to the passage of time.

After the Easter Event, the first disciples struggled to find words to describe or even think about their experience. For them it was a completely new experience without the precedence and without adequate vocabulary. The first attempt to express their experience consisted in simple acclamations such as “Jesus is Lord” KURIOS IESUS! And the like. Later, the disciples developed simple statements or formulas such as “Son of God Formula” stating that the crucified Jesus was the Son of God. “Self Giving Formula” Jesus died for us, and the “Pistis formula” which is quoted on this slide.
     The Easter Event had several parallel and simultaneous ways in which it was being described as:
1) Inspiration (the disciples felt a gift of spirit and they lost fear) the Pentecost tradition was originally closely associated with the Easter event.
2) Exaltation (The Crucified was lifted up to the divine presence, became Son of God etc.) Ascension was also originally closely associated with the Easter event.
3) Resurrection (The presence of the crucified was felt and experienced - the inter-testamental Jewish political justice concept of resurrection was used to explain this aspect)
4) Only quite late in the process it was it also described in an archetypal/mythical way (this would be the story of an Empty Tomb)

The traditional Orthodox depiction of the Ressurection (H ANASTASIS). Venetian mosaic actually took inspiration from the broadly established orthodox mode of depicting the resurrection.

These three slides represent outlines of the resurrection story as narrated in biblical and extrabiblical gospels. We can observe uncertainty about the number and identity of women. Gradual addition of male characters to compensate for legal untrustworthiness of women in patriarchal society. Development in the presence and moving of the stone. Changes in numbers and roles of angelic figures, introduction of the guards and attempt to explain their silence. Similarly we can observe slowly creeping in antijudaism of the early church which is absent from the earliest accounts.

The text critical (more precisely tradition criticism) approach is further supported by the historical context and archeology of crucifixion as we discussed in the previous lecture. Minor inconsistencies in this explanation only strengthen it.
     As we stated in our opening thesis: The story of an opened and empty tomb is ahistorical, (unconcern about matters of history). On the other hand the historical-critical method can help us describe and interpret its emergence and gradual development.
     The story’s original function was kerygmatic (sharing the message). Its popularity grew from powerful symbolism and its veracity is that of mythical metaphors and deep spiritual archetypes.


DG said...

I found this and others of your posts very interesting, I stumbled upon it from a mutual friend that we have. I am interested in discussing an idea that I have with you.

Andrew Stehlik said...

Thank you for your comment, happy to get together or exchange some e-mails.