Richard Hays. “Reading Scripture in Light of the Resurrection.” The Art of Reading Scripture, ed. Ellen  F. Davis and Richard B. Hays, 216-238. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2003.

Hays in this article calls on Christians to take on a firmer position on the resurrection: “We interpret Scripture rightly only when we read it in light of the resurrection, and we begin to comprehend the resurrection only when we see it as the climax of the scriptural story of God’s gracious deliverance of Israel” (216). To underscore the essence of the resurrection, Hays cites John Shelby Spong, who sees what is at stake in the supernatural event: take away the resurrection, and Christianity is doomed.

Modern interpretations, however, have caused the credibility of the resurrection to erode away: Rudolf Bultmann was convinced that the accounts of the bodily resurrections did not happen, and were mere expressions of the “Easter faith” of the disciples.

Luke Timothy Johnson, though not ready to give up the resurrection entirely, still followed Bultmann’s expressions of historical subjectivity, by arguing that the problem of the resurrection is a problem of history’s limited knowing. The religious experience is the foundation of knowing the resurrection.

Robert W. Funk attempted to undermine the resurrection by entirely overturning all “metaphysical” views of God, giving Jesus a “demotion,” deeming the Christ story as archaic, and denying any resuscitation of a real corpse, except in the metaphorical sense.


Hays begins his response with the question: “But what if God really did raise [Jesus] from the dead?” To the plausibility of the resurrection, Hays turns to three Gospel passages on the resurrection. First, John 2:13-22 is where Hays identifies what he calls the “hermeneutical key” in the disciples’ recollection of Jesus’ description of his body as a temple after Jesus was raised from the dead. Hays identifies the structural pattern in “his disciples remembered that…” which occurs twice—in 17a and 22a. Both the disciples and the church were reflecting on the resurrection in light of Psalm 69, which formed a “post-resurrection perspective” for the believers.

With Mark 12:18-27, Hays points to the knowledge and the power of God, neither of which Jesus claims that the Sadducees had. They were thus unable to believe in the resurrection. This power of God, Hays suggests, may refer to any of these three things: 1) the general power of God to raise the dead, 2) the power of transformation beyond the life of this world, and 3) an understanding of the three patriarchs, being not dead, but alive, found among the living.

In the story found in Luke 24:13-35, Jesus encounters Cleopas and a friend after the resurrection. Jesus reproaches them for not believing in the prophets. Jesus essentially shows them that the testimony about himself is to be found “in all the scriptures.” Hays observes that Scripture forms the hermeneutical matrix, even the resurrection.

In the last section, Hays offers some guidelines to the Christian practices of reading Scripture: 1) God is the ultimate subject in the biblical accounts. 2) The resurrection is an attestation of God’s power, which gives Christians life. 3) The resurrection accounts in the NT guide the reading of the OT in the context of the church community. 4) The events of the resurrection offers a “figural reading” of the OT, which bear witness to Christ. 5) The resurrection offers eschatological hope for the church.  6) The belief in the resurrection offers an “epistemological transformation,” which allows the readers to encounter a new reality with the risen Christ. 7) The resurrection of Jesus instills humility in Christians. 8) The practice of interpretation occurs within the circle of believers, as portrayed in the practice of breaking bread. 9) The supernatural event of the resurrection will shape the way Christians view Scripture, instead of resorting to the principles of Enlightenment thinking.

Hays suggests that Christians heed Schlatter’s words in letting dogmatics permeate the whole of the historical work.

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