I am a lifelong Lutheran, have been confirmed, attended a Lutheran college, and teach in a Lutheran high school. In all my years of asking I have yet to receive an adequate answer to the question about one simple word: “again.”
In the Apostles’ Creed, we say that Jesus “rose again from the dead.” My question is simple: “When was His first rising?” I have had several responses but none seems to satisfy my simple, logical mind. One person said it was like getting up every morning; He just did it again. Another said that Jesus was being born again after His death and subsequent resurrection.While my faith does not depend on this word, I am, nevertheless, curious.
Sometimes our use of language may seem strange and give impressions that can lead to false conclusions. The use of the word “again” in the context described is one such example.
While the word “again” can sometimes be used to describe an action or event that occurred at least once before, that is not always the case. One could think of numerous situations where, in colloquial usage, the word “again” would not be used in that manner, e.g., “The boy fell down and got up again.”
If one were to describe what took place in the miracle that Jesus performed with respect to the dead daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:41–42, 51–56; Mark 5:22–24, 35–43) or the dead young man of Nain (Luke 7:11–15), one could simply say they came to life, or rose again. It would not imply they had died another time before, had also come to life at that time, and now had died again and come back to life.
The meaning of the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed is exactly like that. It simply means that Jesus died and that He came to life again. He lived once. He died once. Now He is living again. There is no reason to read anything more than that into those words of the Creed.
The FAQ section of our Synod’s Web page also answers this question nicely. For that explanation, referenced in part here, visit LCMS.org and, in order, click on FAQs, Doctrinal Issues, The Creeds, and He Rose Again.
Editor’s note: As our LCMS.org FAQ page notes, this is a common question, one that The Lutheran Witness also addressed in August 1997. To read our answer from that issue, click here.
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