Answering The Atheist
July 25, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 30
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead? Acts 26:23 says He was, but a host of Scriptures reveal that others had risen from the dead before Him (1 Samuel 28:11, 14; 1 Kings 17:22; 2 Kings 4:32-35; 2 Kings 13:21; Matthew 9:23-25; Luke 7:12-15; Luke 9:30; John 11:43). Is there a contradiction?
Not all the texts listed are incidents where one was raised from the dead. Samuel was not brought back to life in physical form. His spirit was merely "conjured up" by a medium (1 Samuel 28:11, 14). Likewise, when Jesus spoke with two (Elijah and Moses) at the mount of transfiguration, these were not revived to life in their physical bodies, but temporarily appeared in their spirits (Luke 9:30). Every other instance mentioned, and others which are not listed, are examples of people who were brought back to life (ie. raised from the dead).
So, how can it be said of Jesus that "...he should be the first to rise from the dead..."? The word "first" (Gr. protos) certainly can mean first in regard to time, but also carries with it the idea of first in regard to importance (ie. preeminence). He is the "head" of all those who should raise from the dead. He is elsewhere called the "firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18), and the "firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). It is also noteworthy that Jesus is the first to have raised from the dead, never to die again. Each one listed above (and those not listed) who were raised to life again, died again. Jesus did not.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible