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(rĕz'ərĕk`shən) [Lat.,=rising again], arising again from death to life. The emergence of Jesus from the tomb to live on earth again for 40 days as told in the Gospels has been from the beginning the central fact of Christian experience and a cardinal feature of Christian doctrine (Mat. 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; Acts 4.2; Romans 6). It was the guarantee not only of Christ's mission and the seal of redemption but also of the resurrection of all men. The general resurrection or resurrection of the body has been understood in diverse ways, always in the light of St. Paul's teaching on the risen or glorified body. In the conventional theology the material body is identified with the glorified body (since the soul is the substantial form of each) and is in some way spiritualized so that it is made incorruptible and immortal. At the end of the world (see Judgment DayJudgment Day
or Doomsday,
central point of early Christian, Jewish, and Islamic eschatology, sometimes called the Day of the Lord. References to it throughout the Bible are numerous.
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) the souls of all men will be reunited with their risen bodies. The Christian doctrine of resurrection of the body is thus fundamentally different from the resurrection beliefs of the ancient Egyptian religionEgyptian religion,
the religious beliefs of the ancient inhabitants of Egypt. Information concerning ancient Egyptian religion is abundant but unsatisfactory. Only certain parts of Egyptian religious life and thought are known; whole periods remain in the dark.
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 and other ancient religions (see fertility ritesfertility rites,
magico-religious ceremonies to insure an abundance of food and the birth of children. The rites, expressed through dances, prayers, incantations, and sacred dramas, seek to control the otherwise unpredictable forces of nature.
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). Belief in a resurrection of the body distinguished the Pharisees from the Sadducees. It is also a tenet of Muslim belief.


See C. W. Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336 (1995).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed the "Feast of the Resurrection" is another name for the festival. The verb "to resurrect" means to raise from the dead. According to Christian scripture God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion (for more on crucifixion, see Cross). This event, referred to simply as the Resurrection, astonished Jesus' followers (see also Mary Magdalene; Peter). More importantly, it convinced them that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God was offering humanity a new means of salvation.

During Jesus'lifetime some Jews believed that the dead would be resurrected to face judgment for their deeds on earth. The Jewish doctrine of resurrection differed from other contemporary doctrines concerning the afterlife, such as the Greek belief in the immortality of the soul. The notion of resurrection insists that the body rises along with the soul or spirit, in other words, that the total person enters the afterlife. Furthermore, it implies that life after death is a gift from God, since it is God that raises the dead to new life. By contrast, belief in an eternal soul suggests instead that the soul is by nature immortal. According to this belief system the soul lives on after the body's death as a matter of course. Behind the doctrine of resurrection lies a positive evaluation of life in the physical body, since God sustains both the body and the spirit after death.

Over the centuries Christian theologians have disputed the exact manner in which the body joins the soul in the afterlife. Many Christian thinkers follow the lead of St. Paul, who asserted that the physical body becomes a spiritual body, which God will raise up to eternal life:

. . . flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and the mortal nature must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)

Christian scripture asserts that God resurrected Jesus from the dead on the Sunday after his crucifixion and that he appeared to his followers on a number of occasions before finally ascending into heaven (see also Ascension Day). In one passage Jesus invites his disciple Thomas to touch the wounds inflicted during the Crucifixion in order to verify Jesus'identity (John 20:27). In another story Jesus eats a meal with his disciples, proving that he is not a disembodied ghost but rather a resurrected man (John 21:12-13). Nevertheless these passages also imply that some change had indeed taken place in Jesus' physical nature. For example, his followers sometimes failed to recognize the risen Jesus at first. Moreover, the risen Jesus did things that ordinary human beings could not do, such as suddenly appearing in a locked room (John 20:19) and disappearing into thin air (Luke 24:31). Thus Christian scripture teaches that resurrection is not merely the same thing as resuscitation or reanimation of the physical body but rather involves a transformation of that body.

These encounters with the risen Jesus transformed the previously dispirited disciples into energetic and effective leaders and teachers of the new, Christian religion. They also shaped some of the fundamental doctrines of that religion. Jesus' resurrection not only convinced his followers that the resurrection of the dead would actually happen, but also led them to believe a new era had begun in God's efforts to save humanity (Acts 17:31). Jesus' resurrection was seen as a token of what was to come for all of humankind (1 Corinthians 15:22). It was also interpreted as an affirmation of Jesus'role as savior (see also Salvation). Animated by these encounters and these beliefs, the disciples founded the Christian religion. New believers joined themselves to Christ in baptism, which was viewed as a death of the old self, in order to share in his resurrection (Romans 6:4-11, 1 Peter 3:21). Resurrection was understood both literally and metaphorically to include spiritual transformation while on earth as well as life after death.

Over the centuries Christian artists have conveyed the concept of resurrection in visual images. Standard symbols have emerged, including the butterfly, the peacock, the phoenix, and the number eight, which also stands for eternal life.

Further Reading

"Easter." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997. Fuller, Reginald H. "Resurrection." In Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. The Harper- Collins Bible Dictionary. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. Myers, Allen C., ed. "Resurrection." In The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987. "Resurrection." In Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998. "Resurrection of Christ, The." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997. "Resurrection of the Dead." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997. Seely, David Rolph. "Resurrection." In David Noel Freedman, ed. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002


vegetation god, reborn each spring. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 10]
after dying in place of her husband, she is brought back from the dead by Heracles. [Gk. Drama: Alcestis]
Amys and Amyloun
sacrificed children are restored to life. [Medieval Legend: Benét, 31]
god whose cauldron restored the dead to life. [Welsh Myth.: Jobes, 241]
raised from the dead by St. Peter. [N.T.: Acts 9:36–42]
restored to life by John the Evangelist. [Christian Hagiog.: Golden Legend]
god of regeneration and resurrection. [Sumerian Myth.: Jobes, 476]
symbol of Christ’s resurrection. [Art: Hall, 110]
breathes life back into child. [O.T.: I Kings 17:18]
Fisher King
old, maimed king whose restoration symbolizes the return of spring vegetation. [Medieval Legend: T. S. Eliot The Waste Land in Norton Literature]
Jairus’ daughter
Christ raises her from the dead. [N.T.: Mat-thew 9:18–19; Mark 5:21–24; Luke 8:40–42]
Jesus Christ
arose from the dead three days after His crucifix-ion. [N.T.: Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20]
Lazarus Jesus
calls him back to life from the tomb. [N.T.: John 11:43–44]
McGee, Sam
Tennessee native freezes to death in Alaska but is brought back to life in the cremation furnace. [Am. Poetry: Service “The Cremation of Sam McGee”]
fabled bird, rises from its ashes. [Gk. Legend: Brewer Dictionary, 829; Christian Symbolism: Appleton, 76]
bursting with seed, it symbolizes open tomb. [Christian Symbolism: Appleton, 77]
symbol for Ra, sun-god; reborn each day. [Animal Symbolism: Mercatante, 180]
god died annually and rose each spring. [Babyl. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 1071]
widow’s son of Nain
touched by mother’s grief, Christ brings him back to life. [N.T.: Luke 7:11–17]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a supposed act or instance of a dead person coming back to life
2. belief in the possibility of this as part of a religious or mystical system
3. the condition of those who have risen from the dead
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


The word resurrection has positive and miracles implications. Jesus was resurrected on the third day, and He also resurrected Lazarus. The theme of resurrection is explored in all cultures and religions. It is always something awesome and wondrous. Dreaming about resurrection may point to the awakening of your spiritual nature. If you came into knowledge or “enlightenment” that you never had before, the dream could be referring to the resurrection of the spirit. This dream could also represent insight or a new energy. Some think that dreams about resurrection are symbolic of reincarnation.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
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