Saturday, February 21, 2015

Resurrection as Liberation (Rom. 8:23)

τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν τοῦ σώματος ἡμῶν.

“…the liberation of our bodies.” Romans 8:23b.

All of creation has been groaning under the bondage of slavery and the forces of death. In some sense, human beings are tied to this. A certain echo can be found in Exodus, where Israel was under the oppression of a foreign power.

Paul seems to press this into something more unique, as we await the “ransom” or “liberation” of our bodies. The genitive use indicates that this ransom is not “from” or “out of” our bodies, but rather ransoming’ of our bodies.

The flesh (that is, the entirety of the human person) is ransomed, likely from death.

The reference to the “απαρχηε” (first fruits) is likely in line with Paul’s view of resurrection, with Christ as the “απαρχηε” of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-28). In that context, Death is seen as task-master, and death-dealer, as king or as one who reigns over (ἀλλὰ ἐβασίλευσεν ὁ θάνατος). The personification of θάνατος (with an article) likely indicates that Paul viewed Death as an impersonal yet ‘living’ force, something that had the ability to dominate or control. Yet, through the resurrection of Christ, θάνατος has no power over those who attach themselves to Christ. In this sense, we are liberated from the oppression of death. In the same way as Israel was oppressed by Egypt, Assyria and Babylon, so did God ransom them from said oppression.

Yet this is uniquely personal. It affects a corporate group of those in Christ, and yet it affects their bodies as well. It is the setting free of something from something.

The writer also indicates that Christ is a ransom in 1 Timothy 2:6 “αντιλυτρον,” though death is not within the immediate context and it is not certain what we are ‘ransomed’ from. Perhaps the “kings and those in authority” in v2. See also the ransoming of Titus 2:14 (λυτρώσηται), the purification of the people of God.

The adoption of us is the salvation of a people from death, from oppression. The body, both individually and corporately, is healed and restored. Resurrection, then, is liberation.

Just some thoughts.