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Resurrection: A Symbol of Hope by Lloyd Geering

Lloyd Geering is a Presbyterian minister and former Professor of Old Testament Studies at theological colleges in Brisbane and Dunedia, and Professor of Religious Studies at Victorian University in Wellington, New Zealand. He is author of Tomorrow's God (1994), The World to Come (1999) and Christianity Without God (2002). Published by Hodder and Stoughton: London, Auckland, Sydney, Toronto, 1971.

Chapter 8: The Diversity of Views on the Resurrection Hope

We have now reached the most vital period for the proper understanding of our subject. The three centuries from 200 BC. to AD. 100 form the immediate background of Christianity and the context in which it came to birth. The fact that only the Rabbinic form of Judaism and the Catholic form of Christianity eventually survived can easily blind us to the complex, and at times chaotic, nature of the religious beliefs held within the Judaeo-Christian stream during this critical period. It was a time of increasing political tension and international upheaval, which in turn caused the more rapid spread of previously foreign beliefs, destined to influence both Jews and, later, Christians.

The Jews were caught up in the cultural ferment which unsettled the Eastern Mediterranean world of the time. Jewish thought was stimulated to explore new, and sometimes conflicting, avenues of thought and this led to the formation of parties or sects within Judaism. Even the New Testament tells us of the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots, Galileans, Samaritans and the disciples of John the Baptist. From other sources we know of the Essenes, the Ebionites and the Qumran community. It is most likely that there were others which have left no trace. Modern studies have helped us to realize more clearly than before, that, for the first thirty years of its existence, Christianity itself was one of the many sects or movements which existed within Judaism, and that when Christianity finally became divorced from the Jewish community, it too was already branching out into some diverse forms. R. H. Pfeiffer has summed up the period by saying, ‘These Palestinian sects, parties, schools, and movements flourishing during the centuries about the beginning of our era attest, by their contrasting aspirations and tenets, the vitality of Judaism and its manifold variety.’1

Nowhere was this diversity more obvious than in the subject of eschatology. We have already pointed to the earlier beginnings of that concern with the end-time at which, it was believed, both nations and individuals would come up for final judgment. The political tensions and cultural confusion now served only to increase the conviction that the end-time was rapidly drawing nearer. A cosmic catastrophe, involving a great conflict, was expected to precede the end of the present age. Then, after the process of divine judgment, a new and quite different age would commence. Some saw it all as the restoration of the former Davidic kingdom: some saw it on an international scale. Some associated it with a Messiah, and others did not. Mythological ideas were being freely drawn from various sources, particularly Persian, in an attempt to describe the end-time in more detail, but no standard picture was produced.

It was in this eschatological context, as we have seen, that the idiom of resurrection had finally taken root in Jewish thought. We are now to examine the various ways in which this idiom came to be understood. Some rejected it altogether, some looked for the resurrection of the few, some looked for the resurrection of all, some saw it in spiritual terms, some in physical terms, some saw it as taking place on earth, some referred it to Sheol, some pictured it in a heavenly sphere. This diversity will now be illustrated from the extant writings of the period, commonly called the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha.2

First, there were those who steadfastly supported what had eventually become the traditional Israelite view of human destiny. They regarded man as a mortal creature, whose life ends in death, and whose death must therefore be in some sense final. They rejected any notion of a general resurrection and showed no interest in the mythological concepts with which the apocalyptic writers were inclined to describe their eschatological convictions. This section included the Sadducees, and perhaps quite a considerable proportion of Jews, for theirs was the dominant view reflected in the books of the Apocrypha.

This point of view is well expressed by that great scholar of Jewish wisdom called Jesus, son of Sirach, who compiled his impressive work, commonly known as Ecclesiasticus, about 80 BC. He taught that death must be accepted as part of human nature; the important thing was to leave behind a good name.

Death, how bitter is the thought of you
to a man living at ease among his possessions,
free from anxiety, prosperous to all things,
and still vigorous enough to enjoy a good meal!
Death, how welcome is your sentence
to a destitute man whose strength is failing,
worn down by age and endless anxiety,
resentful and at the end of his patience!
Do not be afraid of death’s summons;
remember those who have gone before you, and those who will come after.

This is the Lord’s decree for all living men;
why try to argue with the will of the Most High?
Whether life lasts ten years, or a hundred, or a thousand,
there will be no questions asked in the grave. . .

. . .Whatever comes from earth returns to earth;
so too the godless go from curse to ruin.
Men grieve over the death of the body,
but sinners have no good name to survive them.
Take thought for your name, for it will outlive you
longer than a thousand hoards of gold.
The days of a good life are numbered,
but a good name lasts for ever.3

Next we turn to those who spoke in terms of a future resurrection. The only book of the Apocrypha where such ideas are to be found is 2 Maccabees. The compiler of this book informed his Jewish kinsmen in Egypt in an opening letter, written in 124 BC., that for their entertainment and profit he had undertaken to summarize five books on the history of Judas Maccabaeus, which had been written by Jason of Cyrene. The passages we are about to quote indicate the direction in which some Jews were turning their thoughts in the second century BC.

To illustrate the cruel persecution of the Jews undertaken by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, 2 Maccabees related a story of the torture and ultimate martyrdom of seven sons. As each died in turn, proudly defying the king in the worst that he could do, they expressed their confidence in their ultimate vindication with such words as: ‘Fiend though you are, you are setting us free from this present life, and, since we die for his laws, the King of the universe will raise us up to a life everlastingly made new.’4 ‘Better to be killed by men and cherish God’s promise to raise us again. There will be no resurrection to life for you!’5

As the mother watched her seven sons all die in one day she encouraged each of them in their heroic stand with the words, ‘You appeared in my womb, I know not how; it was not I who gave you life and breath and set in order your bodily frames. It is the Creator of the universe who moulds man at his birth and plans the origin of all things. Therefore he, in his mercy, will give you back life and breath again, since now you put his laws above all thought of self.’6

Later in 2 Maccabees we learn that some of the Jewish soldiers fallen in battle were discovered to have been wearing pagan amulets under their tunics. Consequently it was concluded that their death had resulted from their breaking of the Jewish law. The narrator uses this occasion to point out that Judas Maccabaeus believed in a future resurrection, for he ‘levied a contribution from each man, and sent the total of two thousand drachmas to Jerusalem for a sin-offering -- a fit and proper act in which he took due account of the resurrection. For if he had not been expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been foolish and superfluous to pray for the dead. But since he had in view the wonderful reward reserved for those who die a godly death, his purpose was a holy and a pious one. And this was why he offered an atoning sacrifice to free the dead from their sin.’7

2 Maccabees clearly portrays a resurrection after death and one which probably implies a physical fleshly form.8 But it is certainly not a general resurrection of all men that is contemplated, and perhaps not the resurrection of even all pious Jews. Resurrection is here closely associated with martyrdom; it is a ‘wonderful reward reserved for those who die a godly death’.7 This kind of resurrection hope arose spontaneously, but perhaps irrationally, from those who, observing martyrdom, had no other way of expressing their conviction that the martyr had not died in vain. Although not inconsistent with the growing eschatological concern at that time, the hope of resurrection for the martyrs was not wholly dependent upon it in the way the apocalyptic visions and the idea of general resurrection were.

It is not surprising that 2 Maccabees later became popular among Christians. In many ways it constituted the prototype for the books of Christian martyrs, and Origen regarded the story of the seven brothers as a wonderful pattern for Christians to follow. In our present study it is important to note that it preceded the rise of Christianity. However true it was that the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church, the readiness to die for one’s faith in the hope of a vindicating resurrection was not unique to Christianity, but was already part of the Jewish faith out of which Christianity sprang.9

In the Old Testament and the Apocrypha the hope of a resurrection from the dead has been expressed in a clear but restrained way. In the non-biblical writings we find that the writers have often allowed their imaginations much greater freedom to speculate. One is inclined to agree with Martin-Achard when he suggests that these writers were ‘motivated perhaps rather by a desire to penetrate into the mystery of the Beyond than by a real devotion to the Living God’10 and consequently their answers to the destiny of the departed ‘were as varied as they were confused’10 In most societies there are some who feel a peculiar attraction to the occult. The period we are studying offered ample opportunity for this, and there is an element of it in the apocalyptic writing that became so popular. One can well imagine a wisdom teacher like Jesus, son of Sirach, having much the same attitude towards those of his fellow Jews who were fascinated by apocalyptic, as an orthodox churchman today may feel towards some of the stranger Christian sects.

The mysterious Enoch of Genesis 5:21-4, since he had never died but had been taken to be with God, was an obvious figure to become the subject of creative legend by the imaginative mind. The book of Enoch, which became popular among Jews and later among Christians, is believed to have been written at various times between 150-80 BC. It presents a variety of views on the resurrection, illustrating to us how some Jews of this period were delving into speculations about life after death.

The book describes how Enoch visited the underworld of Sheol, and after observing the prison for fallen angels in which a great fire blazed, he was led by the angel Raphael to a high mountain. There he saw four hollow places ‘created for this very purpose, that the spirits of the souls of the dead should assemble therein, yea that all the souls of the children of men should assemble here. And these places have been made to receive them till the day of judgment and till their appointed period.’11

When Enoch asked why the hollow places were separated from each other, he was told, ‘These three have been made that the spirits of the dead might be separated. And this division has been made for the spirits of the righteous, in which there is the bright spring of water. And this has been made for sinners when they die and are buried in the earth and judgment has not been executed upon them in their lifetime. Here their spirits shall be set apart in this great pain, till the great day of judgment, scourgings, and torments of the accursed for ever, so that there might be retribution for their spirits. There he shall bind them forever. And this division has been made for the spirits of those who make their suit, who make disclosures concerning their destruction, when they were slain in the days of the sinners. And this has been made for the spirits of men who shall not be righteous but sinners, who are godless, and of the lawless they shall be companions; but their spirits shall not be punished in the day of judgment nor shall they be raised from thence.’12

These four divisions show that some Jews wanted to be assured that the difference between the righteous faithful and the ungodly sinners would be given due recognition and would be of permanent significance; this desire was met by the first and last divisions. Then they sought assurance that those sinners who seem to go through life without ever suffering at all for their misdeeds would eventually receive their due punishment, and that those, on the other hand, who had been martyred unjustly, would be given the opportunity to present their case before a higher court; these interests led to the second and third divisions. There is a sense in which the divisions themselves already constitute some kind of judgment after death, but a final judgment was still awaited, presumably at the end of time when all the human race have been assigned to their places in one or other of the four hollow places. This picture of the final destiny of man did not resort to resurrection language, but attempted to meet the moral issues by transforming the ancient notion of Sheol.

When we turn to a later section of the book of Enoch, known as the Parables, we find quite a different point of view. There the theme of a final resurrection has become dominant and is described as follows:

And in those days shall the earth also give
back that which has been entrusted to it,
And Sheol also shall give back that which it has received,
And hell shall give back that which it owes.
For in those days the Elect One shall arise,
And he shall choose the righteous and holy from among them;
For the day has drawn nigh that they should be saved.
And the Elect One shall in those days sit on My throne,
And his mouth shall pour forth all the secrets of
wisdom and counsel:
For the Lord of Spirits hath given them to him and hath glorified him.13

Later we find the description of the state of the risen elect:

And the righteous and elect shall be saved on that day,
And they shall never thenceforward see the face of the sinners and unrighteous,
And the Lord of Spirits will abide over them,
And with that Son of Man shall they eat
And lie down and rise up for ever and ever.
And the righteous and elect shall have risen from the earth,
And ceased to be of downcast countenance.
And they shall have been clothed with garments of glory,
And they shall be the garments of life from the Lord of the Spirits:
And your garments shall not grow old,
Nor your glory pass away before the Lord of Spirits.14

Still a third point of view is expressed in Enoch 91-104, which deals with the persecuted and their oppressors. Here there is no mention of a resurrection or of a coming kingdom on the earth. There is a hereafter of a more spiritual kind, in which the spirits of the dead are conceived in a more living and personal way than had been traditional in Israelite thought. Instead of the four divisions of Shed that we met earlier in Enoch, Sheol is now regarded (though not always consistently) as the place of eternal torment, and the spirits of the righteous enter with joy into a spiritual heaven.

. . . all goodness and joy and glory are prepared for them,
And written down for the spirits of those who have died in righteousness,
And that manifold good shall be given to you in recompense for your labours,
And that your lot is abundantly beyond the lot of the living.
And the spirits of you who have died in righteousness shall live and rejoice,
And their spirits shall not perish, nor their memorial from before the face of the great One
Unto all the generations of the world: wherefore no longer fear their contumely.15

A similar point of view is found in the Psalms of Solomon, often dated between 70-40 BC. and believed by some to have been written by Pharisees. Here we learn that death brings final destruction for the wicked, but the righteous rise to eternal life in the glorious presence of God.

The destruction of the sinner is for ever,
And he shall not be remembered, when the righteous is visited.
This is the portion of sinners for ever.
But they that fear the Lord shall rise to life eternal,
And their life shall be in the light of the Lord,
and shall come to an end no more.16

R. H. Charles believed that the physical view of the resurrection belonged more to the Jewish thought of the second century BC., where the coming kingdom was expected to be established on the present earth. This, in a sense, was what the Maccabeans were striving for. ‘But in the next century’, he wrote, ‘where this specific doctrine of the kingdom is abandoned, and the righteous are regarded as rising either to heaven itself or to the eternal Messianic kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth, the nature of this resurrection is, of necessity, differently conceived. To such spiritual final abodes of the blessed there could not be a mere bodily resurrection. Hence two views arose as to the nature of the resurrection. Whilst some taught, as the writers of Enoch 91-104 and Psalms of Solomon, that there would be no resurrection of the body at all but only of the spirit, others, as the writer of the Parables, said there would be a resurrection of the body, but this body would consist of garments of glory and light and that the risen righteous would be of an angelic nature. Thus we find that the doctrine of the resurrection which was current amongst the cultured Pharisees in the century immediately preceding the Christian era was of a truly nature.’17

A doctrine of resurrection, involving a spiritual transformation, is found in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, a work coming largely from the second century BC., but now known to have some later Christian interpolations in it. The Testament of Benjamin reads,

Then shall ye see Enoch, Noah, and Shem, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, rising on the right hand in gladness. Then shall we also rise, each over our own tribe, and we shall worship the heavenly King. Then shall we all be changed, some into glory and some into shame; for the Lord judges Israel first for the unrighteousness which they have committed. And then so shall He judge all the Gentiles.18

Josephus, too, described the Pharisaic doctrine of resurrection as one which involved the abandonment of the earthly body. He claimed that the Pharisees held that ‘Every soul is incorruptible, but only the souls of good men pass into other bodies, the souls of bad men being subjected to eternal punishment.’19

These expressions of a spiritual resurrection, as held by the Pharisees, are all consistent with the view of general resurrection held by Paul, the first century AD. Pharisee, later turned Christian. Paul speaks of the general resurrection of the dead as one which involves both the dead and the living in a transformation into what he called ‘a spiritual body’. ‘Listen! I will unfold a mystery: we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet-call. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise immortal, and we shall be changed. This perishable being must be clothed with the imperishable, and what is mortal must be clothed with immortality.’20 ‘We, by contrast, are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Loan Jesus Christ. He will transfigure the body belonging to our humble state, and give it a form like that of his own resplendent body, by the very power which enables him to make all things subject to himselt.’21 It seems most Likely that Paul received his ideas of the general resurrection from his Pharisaic heritage, and that they were part of his convictions before he became a Christian.

R. H. Charles was right when he drew our attention to the great difference between the fleshly and the spiritual views of the resurrection, both of which were held by Jews of this period. It may also be true, as he claimed, that the cultured Pharisees of the first century BC. had abandoned the fleshly view in favor of a spiritual interpretation of resurrection. But this does not mean that a belief in physical resurrection ceased to be held after the second century BC. We have good evidence that it was still being taught in the first century AD.

The Apocalypse of Baruch is a completely Jewish work which was written probably between AD. 70-100, and this means that it was more or less contemporary with the Gospels. The author pictures the end-time as follows:

And it shall come to pass after these things, when the time of the advent of the Messiah is fulfilled, that he shall return in glory. Then all who have fallen asleep in hope of him shall rise again. And it shall come to pass at that time that the treasuries will be opened in which is preserved the number of the souls of the righteous, and they shall come forth, and a multitude of souls shall be seen together in one assemblage of one thought, and the first shall rejoice and the last shall not be grieved. For they know that the time has come of which it is said, that it is the consummation of the times. But the souls of the wicked, when they behold all these things, shall then waste away the more. For they shall know that their torment has come and their perdition has arrived.22

Later in the book, Baruch asked about the exact nature of the resurrection body at the consummation, and he was told by God that the dead would rise exactly as they were at the moment of death, and after they had been given an opportunity to recognize one another, they would then undergo a spiritual transformation.

In what shape will those live who live in thy day?
Or how will the splendor of those who are after that time continue? . . .
. . . And he answered and said unto me: ‘Hear, Baruch, this word,
And write in the remembrance of thy heart all that thou shalt learn.
For the earth shall then assuredly restore the dead,
Which it now receives, in order to preserve them.
It shall make no change in their form,
But as it has received, so shall it restore them,
And as I delivered them unto it, so also shall it raise them.

For then it will be necessary to show to the living that the dead have come to life again, and that those who had departed have returned again. And it shall come to pass, when they have severally recognized those whom they now know, then judgment shall grow strong, and those things which before were spoken of shall come. And it shall come to pass, when that appointed day has gone by, that then shall the aspect of those who are condemned be afterwards changed, and the glory of those who are justified. For the aspect of those who now act wickedly shall become worse than it is, as they shall suffer torment. Also as for the glory of those who have now been justified in my law, who have had understanding in their life, and who have planted in their heart the root of wisdom, then their splendour shall be glorified in changes, and the form of their face shall be turned into the light of their beauty, that they may be able to acquire and receive the world which does not die, which is then promised to them.23

A similar view of resurrection is reflected in the Apocalypse of Ezra. This is a composite work which now includes later Christian additions. it is worth noticing because it illustrates the kind of Jewish work which some Christians of the late first and second centuries AD. found attractive, and by which, presumably, they were also being influenced. Among the sections believed to have been written by a Pharisaic Jew before AD. 70, we read an account of a Messianic kingdom lasting for four hundred years prior to the general resurrection and final judgment.

For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. After these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath. And the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days as it was at the first beginnings; so that no-one shall be left. And after seven days, the world, which is not yet awake, shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. And the earth shall give up those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who dwell silently in it; and the chambers shall give up the souls which have been committed to them. And the Most High shall be revealed upon the seat of judgment, and compassion shall pass away, and patience shall be withdrawn; but only judgment shall remain … Then the pit of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of hell shall be disclosed, and opposite it the Paradise of delight. Then the Most High will say to the nations that have been raised from the dead, ‘Look, now, and understand whom you have denied, whom you have not served, whose commandments you have despised. Look on this side and on that; here are delight and rest, and there are fire and torments!’24

Now we must turn to another section of the pre-Christian Jewish literature. Here we find that all talk of resurrection, even in a spiritual form, has been abandoned, and we have a doctrine of hope much closer to the Greek concept of the immortality of the soul. Some of these books undoubtedly show the influence of Greek thought. The earliest instance is in the book of Jubilees; this purports to be a further revelation of God to Moses, and was probably written between 153-105 BC. A life of bliss in some undefined state is promised for the righteous ones, but this is independent of the former earthly body, and hence the resurrection idiom is irrelevant.

And the righteous shall see and be thankful,
And rejoice with joy for ever and ever,
And shall see all their judgments and all their curses on their enemies.
And their bones shall rest in the earth,
And their spirits shall have much joy,
And they shall know that it is the LORD who executes judgment,
And shows mercy to hundreds and thousands and to all that love him.25

The tenets of Greek thought are even more to be seen in the Wisdom of Solomon, which was probably composed in the middle of the first century BC. for the Greek-educated Jewish community of Alexandria. The author reflects the Platonic view of the human soul as that entity which pre-exists before coming to dwell for a time within an earthly body, as in a prison, and which later survives the death of the body, thus regaining its freedom. He said ‘a perishable body weighs down the soul, and its frame of clay burdens the mind so full of thoughts’.26 Since the soul was thus thought to be eternal, immortal and indestructible, there was no need to resort to a doctrine of resurrection; on the contrary, the latter was deliberately avoided because no earthly and material things could compare with spiritual realities.

The first five chapters of the Wisdom of Solomon deal with the promise of immortality for those who are just, and the author attacked the view of those who, seeing no permanent meaning in life, decided to enjoy the good things of life while they could, no matter what suffering their self-centered actions might bring to others. It is because he believed in immortality that he saw the other attitude to be both blind and wrong. For him there was an ultimate judgment beyond death and he spoke of ‘the great assize of souls’. In his view the only ones who really die are the wicked, but the good suffer no loss by the death of the earthly body, but continue to live in the presence of God.

But God created man for immortality, and made him the image of his own eternal self; it was the devil’s spite that brought death into the world, and the experience of it is reserved for those who take his side. But the souls of the just are in God’s hand, and torment shall not touch them. In the eyes of foolish men they seemed to be dead; their departure was reckoned as defeat, and their going from us as disaster. But they are at peace, for though in the sight of men they may be punished, they have a sure hope of immortality; and after a little chastisement they will receive great blessings, because God has tested them and found them worthy to be his. . . But the just live for ever; their reward is in the Lord’s keeping, and the Most High has them in his care. Therefore royal splendor shall be theirs, and a fair diadem from the LORD himself; he will protect them with his right hand and shield them with his arm.27

A similar view is found in 4 Maccabees, which was probably written by a Hellenistic Jew in Alexandria, in the first century, and some time before AD. 70. To illustrate his philosophical theme of the supremacy of Inspired Reason, the author used the story of the martyrdom of the seven sons and their mother found in 2 Maccabees. But he removed the resurrection hope which this story originally contained (as we have seen) and replaced it with a doctrine of immortal souls. He interpreted the martyrs as saying, ‘Let us not fear him who thinks he kills; . . . After this our passion, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob shall receive us, and all our forefathers shall praise us.’28 He concluded his book with the words, ‘But the sons of Abraham, with their victorious mother, are gathered together unto the place of their ancestors, having received pure and immortal souls from God, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’29

It is this same stream of thought which appears in the Gospel records of the teaching of Jesus where we read, ‘Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Fear him rather who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’.30 The parable of the rich man and the begging Lazarus reflects a similar view of immortality. ‘One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up; and there, far away, was Abraham with Lazarus close beside him.’31 In these examples there is no reference to a resurrection, for it has become irrelevant when the human soul or personality is thought in some way to survive the death of the body. Such a view of man is of course not inconsistent with the spiritual version of resurrection, even though it makes resurrection talk unnecessary. Consequently we find it being used to support the resurrection hope in the story of the encounter with the Sadducees. The reconciliation of the two views is most fully expressed in the Lucan version. ‘The men and women of this world marry; but those who have been judged worthy of a place in the other world and of the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, for they are not subject to death any longer. They are like angels; they are sons of God, because they share in the resurrection. That the dead are raised to life again is shown by Moses himself in the story of the burning bush, when he calls the Lord, "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob". God is not God of the dead but of the living; for him all are alive.’32 It was thus implied that all faithful Israelites of the past, though dead, were still living. And it was further implied that since their tombs still contained their mortal remains, it was their souls that were alive; it was their souls which had attained to the resurrection from the dead.

We have now demonstrated from the writings of 200 BC. -AD. 100 that Jewish thoughts about the resurrection hope ran through a wide range of meanings. Some rejected all forms of life after death, including the possibility of resurrection; some recognized man’s mortality but looked for a physical resurrection as man’s only hope, and then only for some; for some the resurrection hope was to be understood more universally and in varying spiritual forms; some thought in terms of the immortality of the soul and then could dispense with resurrection talk altogether. We have already begun to see how these parallel streams of thought continued to show up in the New Testament.

All this diversity formed the immediate background and the living context for the rise of Christianity. When the idiom of resurrection came to be used in an eschatological form to express man’s ultimate hope, there was no one clear and unmistakable interpretation of it. The various interpretations shaded into one another as in the colors of the spectrum. These variations are clearly to be recognized in the New Testament, though the spectrum represented there is perhaps not quite so broad. It must further be said that on the subject of the general resurrection to come there is no fundamental break between Jewish thought and Christian thought. The Christians simply inherited this form of their future hope from their Jewish heritage, and reflected some of its diversity. It could be said that on this subject Paul still had more in common with the Jewish Pharisees than he had with the Corinthian Christians who were saying ‘there is no resurrection of the dead’.33

The Jewish belief in an eschatological resurrection thus became part of the Christian expression of hope and we shall, in Chapter 13, trace its development. It was also the necessary background for a new and sudden turn in the long path being followed by the idiom of resurrection. This is the specifically Christian affirmation that Jesus is risen from the dead. To understand adequately all that originated that joyful proclamation, we must keep steadily in mind what this chapter has demonstrated about the fluid nature of resurrection language. But in the first century setting there were also other important factors which contributed to this new use of the idiom of resurrection and to these we must now turn.



1. History of New Testament Times, p. 59.

2. The quotations from the Apocrypha are taken from the New English Bible, and those from the Pseudepigrapha are taken from the translation supplied by R. H. Charles in The Apocrypha and Pseudspigrapha of the Old Testament in English, Vol. II.

3. Ecclesiasticus 4t:I-4, 10-13. See also Ecclesiastes 12:5, 7, and Tobit 3:6.

4. 2 Maccabees 7:9.

6. ibid., 7:22-3. See also 7:11, 29, 36.

7. ibid., 12:43-5.

8. Consider the implications of 2 Maccabees 7:11, 14:46.

9. For further discussion see R. H. Pfeiffer, Op. Cit., pp. 514-16.

10. Op. cit., p. 225.

31. Enoch 223-4.

12. ibid., 229-13.

14. Enoch 62:13-16.

15. ibid., 103:3-4.

IS. Psalms of Solomon 3:13-16. See also 13:9-li.

17. Eschatology, p. 295. R. H. Pfeiffer also says, ‘the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection is expounded in Vs. of Sol. 3:1 r-x6; 13:9-I 1.’ op. cit., p. 54.

18. Testament of Benjamin 10:6-8.

19. The Jewish War, trans. by G. A. Williamson, p. 375.

20. I Cor. 15:51-4.

21. Phil. 3:20-I.

22. 2 Baruch 30.

23. ibid., 49:2, 50:1-51:3.

24. 2 Esdras 7:28-37. (R.S.V.)

25. Jubilees 23:30-I.

26. Wisdom of Solomon, ~

27. ibid., 2:23-3:5, 5:15-16.

28. 4 Maccabees 13:15, 17.

29. ibid., 18:24.

30. Matt. 10:28. See also Luke 52:4-5.

31. Luke 16:22-3.

32. Luke 20:34-8.

33. I Car. 15:12.

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