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Question

What does it mean that Jesus rose “again”?

Jesus rose again
Answer


In a few Bible verses, such as 2 Corinthians 5:15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (depending on the translation), and many of the popular and ancient creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, the phrase rose again is used in reference to Jesus’ resurrection. As a result, rose again has become commonly used terminology when referring to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This can be confusing, since again often means “an additional time” or “once more.” Jesus “rising again” sounds like Jesus rose from the dead more than once.

While again can mean “an additional time” or refer to a further instance of an event, it can also mean “anew” or “afresh.” Again can also be defined as “in return” or “to a previous place or condition.” For example, in The Merchant of Venice, Portia speaks of one who “swore he would pay him again when he was able” (I:ii). In describing a business transaction, Portia uses the word again to mean “in return.” Similarly, when used in reference to the resurrection of Jesus, rose again does not mean “arose a second time.” Rather, it means Jesus rose anew. He returned to life. He came back to His previous condition. Jesus was alive before; then for a while He was dead; now He is back.

Similarly, the English word resurrect comes from the Latin word resurrexit. Notice the prefix re- in both the English and Latin words. Normally, when the prefix re- is attached to a word, it means the action is occurring an additional time, i.e., repeated. But, just like the word again, the prefix re- can also mean “anew” or “back.” When we say that Jesus was “resurrected,” we do not mean that Jesus was “surrected” a second time. We mean that Jesus returned to life. He has life anew. What is being repeated is not the act of coming back to life but the state of being alive.

Saying, “Jesus rose again,” is simply a way of referring to the resurrection of Jesus. Any confusion over the word again should be dispelled by the knowledge that words often have multiple definitions. The key point is this: “Jesus rose again” does not mean Jesus rose from the dead more than once. Rather, it means Jesus returned to life. Jesus was, for a time, dead but now is alive again.

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This page last updated: April 26, 2021