Since I am on a bit of ‘ancient lit’ kick I thought I would start picking at the first volume of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. The first work is Clement of Rome’s Epistle to the Corinthians. In one chapter Clement exhorts his readers to consider the resurrection.
Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection.
A nice little bit of rhetoric except what follows is a simple analogical extension of how nature has cycles. This strikes me as completely non-apocalyptic and at best (and I mean that) waters down the resurrection message into something easily accessible and compatible to other systems of belief and thought. Indeed the major example that followed was a little unexpected (though doing a basic google search found that this was a common image for many early Christian writers).
Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phœnix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed.
I don’t think its possible to escape analogy when we are talking about anything but what does it mean for the early church’s theology to find its image and confirmation of the resurrection in thoroughly natural and mythological images?