Who raised Jesus from the dead?

If you were asked about what you think is the most critical belief someone must have to be a Christian, what would that belief be? I don’t know about you, but for me, it would be that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This is the main claim of the Gospels, and the Apostle Paul reiterates this point. We have accounts of how this happened, but the follow-up question that could be asked is, “Who raised Jesus from the dead?” I have heard claims that Jesus raised himself from the dead, because he was God and had the power to do so. However, how can a dead person raise himself? Also, if Jesus raised himself from the dead then why did the apostles not proclaim this clearly throughout the New Testament? Let’s examine Jesus’ words and the apostles’ words to see if we can figure this out.

What is this all about?

I recently came across a video on Youtube where the commentator was verbally chastising another Youtuber who made the statement that Jesus did not raise himself from the dead, but rather God did that. To validate his point of contention he quoted the verses in John chapter 2 verses 19 to 22:

19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

By quoting John 2:19, he highlighted that Jesus said, “… I will raise it [this temple] up”, and also pointed out in verse 21 that Jesus was referring to his own body as the “temple” in a figurative way. The Youtuber then went on to say that Jesus raised himself from the dead, and stated that the disciples understood this as well. He supported his conclusions with the premise that Jesus is God and thus can raise himself from the dead. However, how can a dead man raise himself from the dead? Do all Christians believe, or supposed to believe, this? What about the apostles? Did they also claim that Jesus raised himself from the dead?

If you search online for who resurrected Jesus, you will easily find two prominent articles about it. One is by Dr. John Piper, a well-known Calvinist pastor, and the other by a well known Christian Apologetics site, GotQuestions.org. Dr. Piper clearly says, “It’s true that the New Testament teaches that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead”, but at the same time, he maintains, “it is also true that Jesus himself was acting to bring about his own resurrection”. During his sermon, Dr. Piper goes on to quote John 10: 18, where Jesus says, “I have authority to take it up again”. Similarly, GotQuestions.org also answers the question by saying that “God resurrected Jesus”, but then goes on to explain that all three persons of the Trinity were involved in the Jesus’ resurrection. Although Dr. Piper didn’t talk about the Trinity, both articles reference Jesus saying, “I am the resurrection and the life”. So, neither article gives full credit to God the Father for raising his son from the dead. God is stated as raising Jesus. Jesus is also stated as raising Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is also stated as raising Jesus. Is this the right way to understand Jesus’ resurrection?

Examining Jesus’ words

When I read and study the scriptures and I find any passage or know any doctrine that seem to contradict other passages or teachings, I tend to start with what I consider to be foundational teachings or passages. I also take Jesus’ words as true. Although Jesus can be quite figurative at times, my general rule is to take Jesus at his word. So, let’s look at the words of Jesus first:

John 2:19, 21 & 22
19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

John 10:17 & 18
17. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.

18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

The first thing we notice is that when speaking to the Jewish leaders in the temple, Jesus told them, “I will raise it up”, and he was referring to his body figuratively as the temple, which the apostle John points out to us in verse 21. It is an interesting statement, and most persons infer that Jesus meant to say that Jesus will raise himself. It is easy to make that inference. In verse 22, it says “when he was risen from the dead”. This does not say how or by whom he was risen. It just says that he was risen. So, if you take verse 19, by itself, one may easily say that Jesus claims to raise himself.

In John 10, Jesus gives a discourse about being the good shepherd that gives his life for the sheep. It is in this discourse that Jesus expounds on his resurrection. He says that God the Father loves him because he lays down his life, that “[he] might take” it again. The statement “I might take” is translated from the Greek word, λάβω (transliterated, labo). It occurs 263 times in 48 unique forms in the Textus Receptus, but it only occurs once as labo. The interesting thing about this verb is that is can mean either to take or to receive (Liddell & Scott; pg. 826), and it can either refer to the active or passive aspects of the action, according to Danker. This means that this verb could be legitimately translated as either ‘take’ or ‘receive’ based on the context of the passage. When I read this I immediately thought that ‘receive’ could also work, as life comes from God. Most bible translations translate this word as ‘take’. However, I was able to find two translations, Weymouth new Testament and Good News Translation, which says:

Weymouth New Testament – John 10:17
For this reason my Father loves me, because I am laying down my life in order to receive it back again.
Good News Translation – John 10:17
The Father loves me because I am willing to give up my life, in order that I may receive it back again.

Using ‘receive’ in verse 17 for labo seems like a better fit than ‘take’. This is further reinforced in verse 18 where the word “take” is used twice in English, but those two instances are two different words in Greek. The second instance, where it is quoted that Jesus says, “… I have power to take it up again” uses λαβεῖν (transliterated, labein) the infinitive form of the verb labo. It is the same word that Jesus used in verse 17, so we know that the meaning should be consistent. However, the first instance of “take” is the Greek word αἴρει (transliterated, airei). Notice that the way this word is used is to convey the idea of one taking away from another what is his, which is one of the lexical meanings listed in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. Both Lindell & Scott (page 42) and Danker list the meaning as to take away, remove or carry. What is interesting is that the verb used to express a forceful action is ‘airei’, and not ‘labo’/’labein’. To further support the idea that Jesus received his life from God again, and not of his own self, is the statement at the end of verse 18: “This commandment have I received of my Father”. Jesus tells us that his ‘power’ to receive his life again was given to him by God the Father’s own order. There are various scriptures that can be quoted to show that God gives life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Acts 17: 25; Revelation 11: 11). So, one question we can ask is if Jesus raised himself, then why did he need the Father’s commandment? Jesus has said several times in the book of John, that he can do nothing of himself (John 5:19; John 5:30; John 8:28). Everything Jesus said and did was by the power and authority of God. Even the apostles affirmed this.

Comparing with the apostles’ words

What about the teachings and witness of the apostles? Surely, if Jesus is to be understood as raising himself from the dead, then the apostles should have been the ones to champion this teaching. They died for Jesus, and preached him far and wide. They must have clearly stated that Jesus raised himself. So, what did they say?

Peter’s quotes:
[Jesus of Nazareth] Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. – Acts 2:24 (KJV)

This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. – Acts 2:32 (KJV)

Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. – Acts 3:15 (KJV)

Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. – Acts 3:26 (KJV)

Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. – Acts 4:10 (KJV)

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. – Acts 5:30 (KJV)

Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; – Acts 10:40 (KJV)

Who by him [Christ] do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. – 1 Peter 1:21 (KJV)
Paul’s quotes:
But God raised him from the dead: – Acts 13:30 (KJV)

God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. – Acts 13:33 & 34

Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. – Acts 17:31 (KJV)

But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; – Romans 4:24 (KJV)

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4 (KJV)

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. – Romans 8:11 (KJV)

And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. – 1 Corinthians 6:14 (KJV)

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. – 2 Corinthians 4:14 (KJV)

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he [the living and true God] raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (KJV)

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) – Galatians 1:1 (KJV)

Which he [God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory] wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places – Ephesians 1:20 (KJV)

I found statements in 8 verses by Peter, and in 12 verses by Paul that clearly state that God raised Jesus from the dead. I found one more in Hebrews 13:20, which I did not include. Although Hebrews is typically attributed to the apostle Paul, the author is really unknown from what I understand. I could not find any verse where Jesus is said to raise himself. Also, it is important to note that several of the statements of the apostle Peter were done with the other apostles present. So, we can safely assume that they were all in agreement with his declaration.

The verses that I found definitely solidify the apostles’ understanding that God raised Jesus. The apostles were present when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (KJV)”. They were also present when he said, “I am laying down my life in order to receive it back again (WNT)”. I think they understood Christ best, and would not misrepresent what Jesus said or meant.

Implications and Expectations

So, who raised Jesus from the dead? Theologians and preachers are afraid to say that God raised Jesus without adding that the Trinity did or Jesus also did. Yet, the apostles were not afraid to say clearly and continuously that God raised Jesus from the dead. The apostles never added anything. They never said Trinity did, nor that Jesus did. So, what about Jesus’ own words that said, ‘I will raise it up’. Well, Jesus does not always explain himself to his opponents. When he made that statement, he was talking to the Jewish leaders in the temple. They are the very ones who misquoted Jesus in his trial, and who organized to kill him. When Jesus talks about his resurrection again in John 10, he was speaking to the Pharisees in parables. Although the Jewish leaders killed Jesus, he clearly said that no one takes his life from him. He gives it and receives it again. He also declares that he has the authority to say so because his Father commanded him to have that authority. Because of Jesus’ words, many add that Jesus (also) raised himself from the dead. It seems that they are afraid to imply that Jesus is not God. But, why can’t we just say what the scriptures say, and let the conclusions fall where they should? If the apostles were not afraid to state that God raised Jesus from the dead, then why can’t we be bold enough to say the same thing. They never insisted on saying Jesus raised himself. They never seemed to think that it implied anything negative on Jesus to say that God raised Jesus from the dead. The interesting thing about this entire discussion is that Jesus always pointed to the Father. Jesus said he could do nothing of himself. Jesus glorified the Father in everything he said and did.

God raised Jesus from the dead. What else can I say? How else can I say it? I don’t feel it is accurate to say that Jesus raised himself. I also don’t think it is accurate to say that the Holy Spirit also raised Jesus from the dead. None of the apostles ever made either of these claims. What does this mean for persons like myself who realize this? I have seen how persons are portrayed on Youtube, and how they are ridiculed and name-called by other Christians. I think that for most of my life I have been a technical-minded person. Although we are all prone to making assumptions, I really don’t like to jump to conclusions. It has been my observation that Christians have learned to read their established doctrines into the text of scripture, but I believe that we “shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”. Let the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost, lead and teach us all things. I always aim to represent the scriptures as accurately as I see them, and may God bless you in your journey to know him. Much love to you all.

References:

  1. Brandon Tatum told me Jesus ISN’T God – Whaddo You Meme?? – Site:https://youtu.be/BU4b1il4mTg
  2. Who Resurrected Jesus? – GotQuestions.org – Site: https://www.gotquestions.org/who-resurrected-Jesus.html
  3. Jesus Raised Jesus from the Dead and Why it matters – John Piper – Site: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/jesus-raised-jesus-from-the-dead
  4. The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament – Frederick William Danker (BDAG)
  5. A Greek-English Lexicon – Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott
  6. Lexicon :: Strong’s G2983 – lambanō – Site: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2983&t=KJV
  7. John 10: 17 – Biblehub – Site: https://www.biblehub.com/john/10-17.htm
  8. Lexicon :: Strong’s G142 – airō – Site: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G142&t=KJV

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