Durwell, F.X., C.S.S.R. (1960). The Resurrection: A Biblical Study. NY: Sheed and Ward. pp. 359.
This is the 60th Anniversary of F.X. Durwell’s classic, The Resurrection: A Biblical Study, and the 50th year since its English Edition appeared. Coming soon after Pius XII’s encyclical, Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), which encouraged modern biblical scholarship in Catholicism, Durwell used the higher criticisms to support the Church’s traditional doctrine on the Resurrection, and its universal implications. His exegesis explains the unfolding of God’s salvific action, inaugurated by the Incarnation, and fulfilled in the Resurrection. He presents various pertinent New Testament texts and highlights their salient points. The book provides a much needed review of orthodox eschatology.
Durwell’s research is a corrective to early 20th century exegetes, such as Adolf von Harnack, who used historical-critical analysis of the Bible, leading them to conclude that the miracles it describes never happened, including the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Other concepts that were, and are, often demythologized, or misunderstood—such as Pentecost, the Parousia or Second Coming, and the Last Judgment—are explained by Durwell within the context of the Incarnation-Resurrection event. Durwell warns that “…liberal exegetes conceive the Apostle’s glorious Christ as an ethereal substance dissolved in God, our Lord’s humanity is thus in some way sublimated by the Resurrection into some impersonal power.” This, he says, is wrong. By tracing the teachings found in the Pauline epistles, he shows that “…the physical body of the Savior always remained in Paul’s thought.” The physicality of the Resurrection is of fundamental importance in order to appreciate the dignity of the human body, and its high calling.
Flowing from the Resurrection, Durwell explores the Church as “The Body of Christ.” He states that Paul “…always sees man as a unity, the apostle can say not merely that the faithful are members of Christ, but that their bodies are members of Christ… and that, the Church is identified with his bodily humanity.” Therefore, our “real” union with Christ is established through the Church. Durwell explains how Baptism and the Eucharist join us with the Body of Christ, making us sharers in the Resurrection. In John’s Gospel, he shows how the apostolate of the Christian, consecrated in the Spirit, is a continuation of the Incarnation. These sacraments, he says, cause the Paschal life of Christ to extend to the faithful, anticipating the end of time.
Durwell reminds us that it “…is the coming of the Parousia which will result in the resurrection of men’s bodies.” He then elaborates on Paul’s teaching that, at the Last Judgment, “…the sinner remains in the flesh…” to which entry into the kingdom is denied. Spirit and corruption, he says, are synonymous: the first with everlasting life, and the second with death. He says: “Flesh not animated by the spirit, will thus be condemned forever.” This teaching of eternal damnation certainly needs to be re-emphasized today. Not to do so denies an important part of Divine Revelation, putting souls in jeopardy through false security.
Durwell shows how the Resurrection initiates the renewal and “restoration of all things,” i.e., the material universe, with our Savior’s return at the Second Coming. This is in effect the ultimate end of God’s purpose for all creation. Contemporary preachers should emphasize that respect for creation is in anticipation of the end times, not as an end in itself. This, Durwell says, in conjunction with resurrection and judgment, is the “…mystery of Easter in the fullness of its effects.” The reader is reminded that the re-creation initiated by the Resurrection answers some of humanity’s greatest hopes: the conquering of sickness and death, the elimination of evil, the punishment of the wicked, and eternal bliss for the just.
This classic should be reprinted. Perhaps, Ignatius Press can make it available? Its value, especially after the mechanical way some modern scholars have stripped the scriptures of the truths they contain, is more important than ever. It is a reminder that the Resurrection is the foundation of our faith. It reveals God’s ultimate pronouncement on the value of our physicality, and God’s plan for us.
Rev. Michael P. Orsi
Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, Florida