The Physical Resurrection Accepted Historically
Today some scholars say it is incorrect to speak of Jesus’ resurrection as “historical.” Marxsen believed this, and “a remarkable number of subsequent scholars have followed him in this assertion.”44 Ehrman, in a debate with William L. Craig, argued that one could believe “theologically” that God raised Jesus from the dead but not historically.
But this cannot be a historical claim, and not for the reason that he [Craig] imputed to me as being an old, warmed over 18th century view that has been refuted ever since. Historians can only establish what probably happened in the past. The problem with historians is they can’t repeat an experiment. Today, if we want proof for something, it’s very simple to get proof for many things in the natural sciences; in the experimental sciences we have proof. If I wanted to prove to you that bars of ivory soap float, but bars of iron sink, all I need to do is get 50 tubs of lukewarm water and start chucking in the bars. The Ivory soap will always float, the iron will always sink, and after a while we’ll have a level of what you might call predicted probability, that if I do it again, the iron is going to sink again, and the soap is going to float again. We can repeat the experiments doing experimental science. But we can’t repeat the experiments in history because once history happens, it’s over.45
Such a view not only denies the existence of miracles, but also misunderstands how one may refer to “history” in different ways. Noting this kind of error N. T. Wright says, “This proposal appears to be cautious and scientific. It is, however, neither of these things. It involves a rash dismissal of an important question, and a misunderstanding of how science, including scientific historiography, actually works…. This is a classic case of failing to distinguish between the different senses of ‘history.’”46
Not distinguishing how one may use the word “history” in five different ways has been part of the problem plaguing the “historical Jesus” and the “resurrection of Jesus” debate.47 Wright succinctly summarizes how the fives senses of the term “history” works, which helps clear the confusion that so often comes with the arguments of those wanting to refute Jesus physical resurrection.
• First, there is history as event. If we say something is “historical” in this sense, it happened, whether or not we can know or prove that it happened.
• Second, there is history as significant event. Not all events are significant; history, it is often assumed, consists of the ones that are. The adjective that tends to go with this is “historic”; “a historic event” is not simply an event that took place, but one whose occurrence carried momentous consequences.
• Third, there is history as provable event. To say that something is “historical” in this sense is to say not only that it happened but that we can demonstrate that it happened, on the analogy of mathematics or the so-called hard sciences.48
• Fourth, and quite different from the previous three, there is history as writing-about-events-in-the-past. To say that something is “historical” in this sense is to say that it was written about, or perhaps could in principle have been written about. (This might even include “historical” novels).
• Fifth and finally, a combination of (3) and (4) is often found precisely in discussions of Jesus: history as what modern historians can say about a topic. By “modern” I mean “post-Enlightenment,” the period in which people have imagined some kind of analogy, even correlation, between history and the hard sciences. In this sense, “historical” means not only that which can be demonstrated and written, but that which can be demonstrated and written within the post-Enlightenment worldview. This is what people have often had in mind when they have rejected “the historical Jesus” (which hereby, of course, comes to mean “the Jesus that fits the Procrustean bed of a reductionist world”) in favour of “the Christ of faith.”49
What then is the sense of the word “history” that we ought to understand when the early witnesses claimed to have seen Jesus or when Paul wrote, “He was buried, and … He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4)? Were they recording a historical event or writing metaphorically? All the early first-century witnesses spoke of Jesus’ resurrection as a historical event that actually occurred according to Wright’s first point: “history as event.” Because we speak of Jesus’ resurrection as a historical event, this does not mean it cannot be verified. Many things have happened that cannot be proven scientifically according to point number three but can be verified. For example, “The death of the last pterodactyl is in that sense a historical event, even though no human witnessed it or wrote about it at the time, and we are very unlikely ever to discover [scientifically] when it took place.” Do we then say this is not a true event when all of the circumstantial evidence points to this being the case? “Similarly, we use the word ‘historical’ of persons or things, to indicate simply and solely that they existed.”50
We are now left to answer in the rest of this chapter one question: Did the Hebrews and Christians following the apostles understand the Resurrection to be of a spiritual or physical nature?
Hebrew Scriptures’ general thought.
For ancient peoples (including those in the Middle East) the Iliad written by Homer, was to them what the Old Testament (OT) was for the Jews. Along with Homer much of the other Greek classical works (eight to fifth century B.C.) painted a gloomy picture for the dead who could not return.51 Even the concept of “resurrection” in the world of Egyptian mummification (or any Canaanite or fertility cults) does not have the same biblical sense.52 Clarifying this difference in Jon Davies’53 incorrect application of the term, Wright concludes. “The word denotes, as he sees, a further re-embodiment, a return to a this-worldly life, after a period in which the dead person is not alive in this way. Mummification and its other attendant practices, however, imply that the person still is ‘alive’ in some bodily sense, despite appearances.” This does not mean a person comes back to a new bodily form of existence (which appears to be the way the NT uses the word “resurrection”) but “‘continuing existence in a mummified and hence, in that sense, ‘bodily’ state after death.’”a mummified and hence, in that sense, ‘bodily’ state after death.’”54
Homer’s view of life after death took an evolutionary turn in Plato’s writings (fifth to fourth century B.C.), which the ancient world considered much like that of the NT.55 Homer viewed the “‘self’ being the physical body, lying dead on the ground, while the ‘soul’ flies away to what is at best a half-life, now the ‘self,’ the true person, is precisely the soul.” But “for Plato, the soul is the non-material aspect of a human being, and is the aspect that really matters. Bodily-life is full of delusion and danger; the soul is to be cultivated in the present both for its own sake and because its future happiness will depend upon such cultivation. The soul, being immortal existed before the body, and will continue to exist after the body is gone. Since for many Greeks ‘the immortals’ were the gods, there is always the suggestion, at least by implication, that human souls are in some way divine.”56 One can see where the Greco-Roman concept and emperors adopted the idea that they were in some form divine.
Contrary to ancient pagan literature, the general thought in the Hebrew Scriptures was based in attaining a bodily resurrection. Though the OT concept of resurrection is minor, however, later Jewish and Christian interpreters noticed “covert allusions” missed by earlier readers, an ability shared by many including Jesus. Although many scholars agree that for most of the OT the concept of a bodily resurrection meant being “deeply asleep,” they also believe later revelation brought this idea to the fore.57
The concept of resurrection appears to have developed in three common stages. “Many Christians have adopted some kind of theory of progressive revelation, according to which the earlier parts of the Old Testament held little or no belief in life after death, some of the more mature parts began to affirm a life beyond the grave, though without being very specific, and then, right at the end of the Old Testament period, some writers began to proclaim the quite different and radically new belief in bodily resurrection.” In other words, “This is routinely seen as a kind of crescendo, beginning with near-silence, as it were, of the grave itself, and moving towards the fully orchestrated statement of the theme which will dominate the New Testament.”58
Though this general understanding is correct, it needs to be modified. Beginning with the Genesis account of the Fall, God would not be triumphant unless the original physical creation was not in someway renewed. Acknowledging this important feature Bock wrote, “The bodily aspect of Jesus’ resurrection is key, because in Judaism the belief in resurrection was a belief in a bodily resurrection involving a redemption of the full scope of what God had created (Rom. 8:18–30).”59 Similarly Witherington states, “This resurrection is linked to actual environmental renewal of the earth itself (see Rom 8:18–25). The destiny of believers and the destiny of the earth are inexorably linked together.”60 Though not as clear as the third stage that explicitly advocates the concept of physical resurrection, the first stage shows at times the resurrection seed and early plant-life that would later blossom to a mature tree in the New Testament era.61 However, the Hebrew Scriptures do not concentrate on “life after death” or even “with resurrection.”62
For example, evidence from numerous passages seems to show, perhaps like that of Homer and other Greek classical writers, that the Hebrew Scriptures described death as the final analysis:
“For out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).
“For in death there is no remembrance of you; in the grave who will give you thanks” (Ps. 6:5).
“The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence” (Ps. 115:17).
“For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (2 Sam. 14:14).
“For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun. Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil.
Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Eccl. 9:5–10).
Many more passages exist that describe the temporal nature of human life without any preview of future hope.without any preview of future hope.63 Unlike Plato’s progressive view of death survived by a bodiless soul, “Death itself was sad, and tinged with evil. It was not seen, in the canonical Old Testament, as a happy release, an escape of the soul from the prison-house of the body.” Instead, life, the corollary to death, was to be enjoyed to the fullest.64
One should not take from these passages (as the predominant thrust of the OT) that Jews did not believe in a future hope of restoration or the continuation of life after death, since it appears in seed form. Even passages describing the temporal nature of life, the hopelessness, and the ineffective state of the dead were merely ways of depicting life as it is viewed from an earthly perspective, or as the writer of Ecclesiastes, would say: life as seen “under the sun.”65
However, ancient Israelites knew of other passages that gave them a living hope beyond the grave (e.g., 2 Sam. 7:12–21;66 Pss. 72:1–12; 89; Isa. 61:1–11).67 Too many other passages exist, though some are debatable, to simply dismiss the fact that OT Jews had no hope of the dead returning to life (e.g., Gen. 22:5 [cf. Heb. 11:17–19];68 Job 19:25–27; 33:15–30; Pss. 16:10–11 [cf. Acts 2:23–31]; 22; 49:1–19; 73; Isa. 26:19; 53:10–12; Ezek. 37:1–14).69 Yet of all OT passages almost all scholars today agree that Daniel 12:2–3 speaks of a concrete bodily resurrection from the dead.70 "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever."
Though bodily resurrection was not the predominant belief in the OT it does burst forth, as seen above, in various passages. Certainly this is the case in Daniel 12:2–3.
However, by the second-Temple period, the time of Jesus, and rabbinic writings this position changed (200 B.C. to A.D. 200). By this period almost all Jews believed in some form of bodily resurrection.71 Those believed in the resurrection meant life after death in the sense of a two-stage approach. That is when a person died he existed in a place prepared by God where he waited for a future bodily resurrection, not some ghostly or spiritual disembodiment of eternal existence.72 Sadducees, a Jewish aristocratic group arising in the second century B.C., however, denied any form of resurrection. Many such passages from the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (i.e., Ecclesiasticus) appears to support their view that nothing beyond this life awaited anyone.73 But similar to those passages of the OT, Wisdom (and a few intertestamental texts) emphasizes an earthly perspective of the frailty and fleetingness of life so as to encourage obedience while one lives.74
Another view—though a minority position—of a disembodied resurrection of the soul existed in this period, like that in Platonic Greek philosophy, which influenced Judaism of the second century B.C.75 While such passages (1 Macc. 2:49–70; 4 Macc. 3:18; 6:7; 7:19; 9:22; 10:19; 14:5; 16:25; 17:12; 18) appear to promote the disembodied view of the soul, this interpretation can be questioned. Nothing explicitly states in these texts that the soul will live disembodied. Even one of the most used passages, Jubilee 23:27–29, frequently cited to argue for the existence of the disembodied souls, says in the following two verses, “rise up,” “bones rest,” and “spirits increasing joy,” which may describe the two-stage expectation of time between a person’s death and resurrection (vv. 30–31). Wright believes this is “the probable interpretation.” However, this would then be “the only occurrence in the relevant literature of something that looks like the resurrection language being used to denote something other than new bodily existence.” And this would be odd.76
Another exception to the predominant teaching of this era appears in Philo’s writings. Philo, an Alexandrian Jew, was steeped in Hellenistic philosophy like that of Plato and Aristotle, which taught the immortality of the disembodied soul.77 But this and the previous positions were not majority views in second–Temple Judaism.
Since first-century Jewish Christians testified of Jesus’ resurrection, it is necessary to understand the context in which they made such allegations in order to know how to interpret it.
What became the predominant belief of second-Temple Judaism on the Resurrection comes to the fore unambiguously through the martyrs of the Maccabees. As the Syrian oppressor, Antiochus Epiphanes, wanted Jews to defy their laws, by eating pork and worshiping idols, through the story of a mother and her seven sons who are torture to death, they claim to return victoriously in a new body at the resurrection.
And when he was at his last breath, he said [the second brother], “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws” (2 Macc. 7:9).
After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, and said nobly, “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again” (2 Macc. 7:10–11).
And when he was near death, he [the fourth brother] said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!” (2 Macc. 7:14).
The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to them, “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws” (2 Macc. 7:20–23).
I [the mother spoke privately to her youngest son] beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers.” [This implies the physical reality of returning since God made the physical world from nothing] (2 Macc 7:28–29)78
A mere reading of the Jewish text of 2 Maccabees 7 makes it impossible to deny belief in a future bodily resurrection.79 Another political hero of this era, Judas Maccabeus, discovered that the men who died in battle wore under their robes idolatrous tokens of the idol of Jamnia. He urged those alive to pray that God would forgive them (12:40–42), when they rose again.
He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead (2 Macc. 12:43–44).80
Yet another incident occurred to a Jew called Razi, elder of Jerusalem (2 Macc. 14:37). Before being arrested by the enemy Nicanor and the soldiers, he fell on his own sword (v. 41) while hoping to rise one day by the Lord’s power.
But in the heat of the struggle he did not hit exactly, and the crowd was now rushing in through the doors. He bravely ran up on the wall, and manfully threw himself down into the crowd. But as they quickly drew back, a space opened and he fell in the middle of the empty space. Still alive and aflame with anger, he rose, and though his blood gushed forth and his wounds were severe he ran through the crowd; and standing upon a steep rock, with his blood now completely drained from him, he tore out his entrails, took them with both hands and hurled them at the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death (vv. 43–46).
Apocalyptic literature of this period, like that of 1 Enoch, though at times it is not explicitly clear,81 makes a bold claim for bodily resurrection.
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. And in those days shall the mountains leap like rams, and the hills also shall skip like lambs satisfied with milk, and the faces of [all] the angels in heaven shall be lighted up with joy. And the earth shall rejoice, and the righteous shall dwell upon it, and the elect shall walk thereon (1 Enoch 51:1–5).82
Similar to the “Elect One” above, the “Son of Man” together with a righteous remnant will receive a bodily resurrection, which depicts “a judgment scene reminiscent” of Daniel 7:13; 12:2; and Isaiah 52–53.83
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 (1 Enoch 62:13–15).
First Enoch 91:10 also says, “And the righteous shall arise from their sleep, and wisdom shall arise and be given unto them.” Other passages make the same point of the righteous attaining to a future bodily resurrection (1 Enoch 96:1–3; 102:4–11; 103:4; 104:1–4; 108:11–15; Pseudo–Phocylides 102–105; Testament of Moses 10:8–10; Life of Adam and Eve 13:3–6; 4; 41:2; 43:2–3; Sibylline Oracles 4:179–92; Testament of Levi 18:3; Testament of Judah 25:4; Testament of Zebulon 10:1–3; Testament of Benjamin 10:6–9; 4 Ezra 7:28–44 [Daniel 12:2]; 2 Baruch 30:1–5; 42:8; 51:5; Psalms of Solomon 3:11–16).84
Part three of this article will pick up with further discussion of Jewish thought concerning the physical resurrection of the body, as well as a discussion of quotes from the church fathers.
See Author Rene' Lopez discuss the Resurrection of Jesus based on the research in his book.
44. Wright, Resurrection of God, 15. See the discussions in Christopher F. Evans, Resurrection and the New Testament 2nd ed., Studies in Biblical Theology, no. 12. (London: SCM Press, 1970); Marxsen, Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; C. F. D. Moule and Willi Marxen, The Significance of the Message of the Resurrection for the Faith in Jesus Christ, trans. Dorothea M. Barton and R. A. Wilson, 2nd ed., Studies in Biblical theology, no. 8 (Naperville, IL: A. R. Allenson, 1968).
45. Craig and Ehrman, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus (accessed), 12.
46. As Wright correctly explains, this view says “both too little and too much.” “Too little: in standard positivism fashion it appears to suggest that we can only regard as ‘historical’ that to which we have direct access (in the sense of ‘first-hand witness accounts’ or near equivalent). But, as all real historians know, that is not in fact how history works. Positivism is, if anything, even less appropriate in historiography than in other areas. Again and again the historian has to conclude, even if only to avoid total silence, that certain events took place to which we have no direct access but which are the necessary postulates of that to which we do have access. Scientists, not least physicists, make this sort of move all the time; indeed, this is precisely how scientific advances happen. Ruling out as historical that to which we do not have direct access is actually a way of not doing history at all.
“As a result, this view also says too much. On its own epistemology, it ought not even to claim access to the disciples’ faith. Even the texts themselves do not give us direct access to this faith in the way that Marxsen and others seem to regard as necessary. All we have in this case are texts; and though Marxsen did not address this question, the same relentless suspicion, applied in regular postmodern fashion, might lead some to question whether we even have those. If, in other words, you want to be a no-hold-barred historical positivist, only accepting as historical that to which you have (in this sense) direct access, you have a long and stony road ahead of you. Few if any actual practicing historians travel by this route” (Resurrection of God, 15–16).
47. Ibid., 12–13.
48. To say that history must be a provable event “is somewhat more controversial.” For example, “To say ‘x may have happened, but we can’t prove it, so it isn’t really historical’ may not be self-contradictory, but is clearly operating with a more restricted sense of ‘history’ than some of the others” (ibid., 13).
49. Except for the arrowhead pointers everything else comes from Wright (ibid., 12–13 [italics his]). The historical Jesus argument attempted at locating the person of Jesus in light of first-century culture and strips away all supernatural attributes. Conversely, the Christ of faith does little to anything in locating the Jesus of history but only attributes the theological and supernatural elements attributed to Him. The correct view is to hold to both a historical first-century understanding of Jesus’ culture and an unbiased acceptance of supernatural elements attributed to Him that were recorded and witnessed by many of that day. Not keeping these distinct resulted in the confusion that appears in John D. Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 1991), xxvii.
50. Wright, Resurrection of God, 12. For further discussion how theologians have used these five views of history see pages 14–31.
51. Ibid., 32–47. For example, in Iliad 24.549–51, the last sentence literally translates this concept emphatically: “you will not resurrect him [oude min ansteseis] before you suffer as further evil.” See also Iliad 24.756; Aeschylus Eumenides 647ff.; Sophocles Electra 137–39; Aeschylus Agamemnon 565–69, 1019–24, 1360ff.; Euripides Helena 1285–87; Aristotle De Anima 1.406b.3–5; Aristophanes Ecclesiazusae 1073–74; Herodotus 3.62.3ff. (ibid., 32–33 n. 1– 4, see also n. 5–9).
52. Edwin M. Yamauchi’s research suggests that the Christian concept of resurrection is absent in the fertility cults of Tammuz, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, and Baal. “Furthermore, P. Lambrechts has shown recently that the belief in the resurrection of Adonis and in the resurrection of Attis was a late development. In the case of Adonis, the beautiful youth beloved of Aphrodite, who was slain by a boar, Lambrechts points out that there is no trace of a resurrection in the pictorial representations of Adonis or in the early texts — Sappho, Aristophanes, Plutarch, Pausanias, Theocritus” (“Tammuz and the Bible,” Journal of Biblical Literature 84 [September 1965]: 290). Therefore the typical accusation that Christians derive the resurrection concept from these cults is false.
53. For his view see Jon Davies, Death, Burial, and Rebirth in the Religions of Antiquity (New York: Routledge, 1999), 28–39.
54. Wright, Resurrection of God, 47 (italics his). He quotes this from Davies, Death, Burial, and Rebirth in the Religions of Antiquity, 34. For further discussion to understand what Egypt, Canaan, Mesopotamia, and Persia believed about the resurrection, Davies’s book is pivotal.
55. Wright, Resurrection of God, 47–48.
56. Ibid., 49.
57. Along with Wright, who documents this, numerous scholars note this, including these: James Barr, The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality (London: SCM Press, 1992); John J. Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Frank Moore Cross (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993); Christian Grappe, “Naissance de l'idée de résurrection dans le Judaïsme,” in Résurrection: L'aprè-mort dans le monde ancien at el Nouveau Testament, ed. Odette Mainville and Daniel Marguerat (Geneva and Montreal: Labor et Fides and Médiaspaul, 2001); Leonard Greenspoon, “The Origin of the Idea of Resurrection,” in Traditions in Transformation: Turning Points in Biblical Faith, ed. Baruch Halpern and Jon D. Levenson (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1981); Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002); Matthias Krieg, Todesbilder im Alten Testament, oder, "Wie die Alten den Tod gebildet," Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments, vol. 73 (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 1988); Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: "Dying and Rising Gods" in the Ancient Near East, Coniectanea biblica. Old Testament series vol. 50 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2001); Ben C. Ollenburger, “If Mortals Die, Will They Live Again? The Old Testament and Resurrection.,” Ex Auditu 9 (1993); Emile Puech, La croyance des Esséniens en la vie future: immortalité, résurrection, vie éternelle? Histoire d'une croyance dans le judaïsme ancien, 2 vols., Etudes bibliques, 21–22 (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1993); Alan F. Segal, “Life After Death: the Social Sources,” in The Resurrection: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Resurrection of Jesus, ed. Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall, and Gerald O'Collins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997); Klaas Spronk, Beatific Afterlife in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East, Alter Orient und Altes Testament 219. (Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1986; reprint, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukircherner Verlag); Nicholas J. Tromp, "Primitive Conceptions of Death and the Nether World in the Old Testament", Biblica et orientalia 21 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969); Wright, Resurrection of God, 85 n. 4.
58. Wright, Resurrection of God, 86.
59. Bock and Wallace, Dethroning Jesus, 209. For an interpretation of Romans 8:18–30 see René A. Lopez, Romans Unlocked: Power to Deliver (Springfield, MO: 21st Century Press, 2005), 175–82.
60. Ben Witherington III, Jesus, Paul and the End of the World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 185.
61. Wright says, “It is of course true that the third position, explicit belief in resurrection, is only one of several strands in the range of biblical belief about death and what happens afterwards, and that this belief developed markedly in the post-biblical period. In particular, the third, though clearly cutting across the first in certain ways, joins the first in affirming the goodness and vital importance of the present created order, which is to be renewed by YHWH, not abandoned. For both, the substance of hope lies within creation, not beyond it” (Resurrection of God, 86).
62. Ibid., 87.
63. See Psalms 30:9; 88:3–7, 10–12; Isaiah 38:10–18; Job 3:13–19; 7:7–10; 14:1–14; 16:22; Jeremiah 51:39, 57. Even using poetic license, like that of Isaiah 14:9–11, descriptive of a scene of a king arriving in the depths of sheol, the point made is that such a tyrant’s power is now ineffective. For further discussion on how most of the OT emphasizes the point that “to die is to be forgotten for good” see Wright, Resurrection of God, 92–99.
64. Ibid., 91. See Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:12–22; 5:18–20; 6:3–6; 8:15; 9:7–10; 11:9; 12:1–8.
65. See Ecclesiastes 1:3, 9, 14; 2:11, 17–20, 22; 3:16; 4:1, 3, 7, 15; 5:13, 18; 6:1, 12; 8:9; 9:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 10:5.
66. Once the LXX translations came to the fore many ambiguous passages were made clearer (Margaret Williams, “The Contribution of Jewish Inscriptions to the Study of Judaism,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, ed. William Horbury, W. D. Davies, and John Sturdy, vol. 3 [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999], 60). Wright suggest, “That possibility (of an early Christian reading in support of a christological belief) may cautiously be explored in a relation to a few prophecies of a coming king… any early Christian reading 2 Samuel 7.12, kai anasteso to sperma sou, would have had no difficulty identifying who the sperma was. So too the various messianic promises in Jeremiah and Ezekiel could easily have been taken, and were perhaps intended by their LXX translator(s) to be taken, as indicating the resurrection through which God’s leader(s) would ‘arise’ in the age to come. God will ‘raise up’ shepherds, and especially a righteous Branch, to rule over Israel and the world. ‘I will raise up one shepherd over them, my servant David,’ declares YHWH: kai anasteso ep’ autous pimena hena, ton doulon mou Dauid. We should be wary of reading too much into these verses like this; equally, we should be just as wary of reading too little” (Resurrection of God, 149).
67. These promise passages were well known to OT Jews. Hence Wright suggests “they must be recalled here in case any impression be given that the absence, for most ancient Israelites, of any statement of human life beyond the grave meant that they were without a living and vibrant hope” (Resurrection of God, 102).
68. Derek Kidner says, “The assurance that Isaac as well as Abraham would come again from the sacrifice was no empty phrase: it was Abraham’s full conviction, on the ground that ‘in Isaac shall thy seed be called’ (21:12). Hebrews 11:17–19 reveals that he was expecting Isaac to be resurrected; henceforth he would regard him as given back from the dead” (Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, ed. D. J. Wiseman, vol. 1 [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967], 143).
69. Numerous passages seem have a temporal earthly emphasis instead of eternal bodily resurrection in mind (Ps. 116; Prov. 12:28; 14:32; 15:24; 23:14).
70. Collins, Daniel, 391–92.
71. Wright, Resurrection of God, 129. That the Pharisees believed in the bodily resurrection and the Sadducees did not is well known (Matt. 22:23; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:7–9). But according to Wright because Sadducees followed such a strict interpretation of the OT they saw life simply existing no further than earth. Thus life and blessings for them were seen as enjoyed by their relationship to God here on earth. In fact, “the contemporary instinct to see the Sadducees as radicals, because they denied the resurrection, is 180 degrees wide of the mark. They denied it because they were conservatives” (ibid., 131).
72. Ibid., 130.
73. See Sirach 11:26–28; 14:16–19; 17:27–32; 38:21–23; 41:4.
74. Why would such a wealthy group not want to believe in any form of existence after death since many wealthy advocates of the past desired to take their present riches with them to the after life? It seems that this would benefit them in another way. For example, “Powerful groups have sometimes advocated a strong post-mortem hope as a way of stopping the poor and powerless grumbling about their lot in the present life. And, where ‘resurrection’ has become an official dogma within a powerful system, it has had the capacity to become simply another instrument to keep ordinary people in line. It goes against such sociological assumptions to see first-century Jewish aristocrats staunchly denying any future life.” The Sadducees denied this for several reasons. They did not find any such passages supporting resurrection in the Torah (Law), their primary source of interpretation, or the Former Prophets (the historical books from Joshua to Kings). Also an unduly interest in the dead, like pagan cults, came close to violating the Law (Lev. 11:31–32; 19:28; 21:1, 11; Num. 6:6; 19:11, 18; Deut. 18:11) (Wright, Resurrection of God, 137). Since the teaching of Daniel 12:2–3, Isaiah 26:19, and Ezekiel 37:1–14 were not part of the Pentateuch, they simple discounted it. Wright points out other passages that seem to argue for the absence of any future life (1 Macc. 2:49–70; Tob. 4:10; 12:9; 13:2, 5; 14:10 1 Baruch 2:27). However, the same can be said about the texts that were said of the OT perspective on life. That Sadducees and other groups may have misinterpreted and used them wrongly to defend their belief, and others used them to show how this belief arose, does not make this interpretation correct, since nothing in these texts argues definitively that resurrection was impossible. In fact other passages argue just the opposite in a clear and forceful way. Wright does not believe the silence of any direct resurrection statement “is not as weak as is sometimes supposed” (ibid., 139).
75. Ibid., 142-43.
76. Ibid., 144.
77. Wright notes a number of scholars who agree on this point (ibid., 144 n. 57). Two of these are Peder Borgen, “Philo of Alexandria,” in Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum as Novum Testamentum, Section Two: The Literature of Jewish People in the Period of the Second Temple and the Talmud, ed. Michael E. Stone, Jewish Writings of Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus. 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 233–82; John M. Dillon, The Middle Platonists, 80 B.C. to A.D. 220 rev. 2nd ed. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 139–83. For example Philo says in the following statements: “The death of the good is the beginning of another life; for life is a twofold thing, one life being in the body, corruptible; the other without the body, incorruptible” (Quaestiones Gen 1.16). “What does it mean of, ‘But thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace, being nourished in a fair old age?’” (Quaestiones Gen. 3.11). He here clearly indicates the incorruptibility of the soul. “Whatever else you may choose to call this concrete animal; but rather the purest and most unalloyed mind, which, while contained in the city of the body and of the mortal life is cramped and confined, and like a man who is bound in a prison confesses plainly that he is unable to relish the free air” (De Ebrietate 26, 101). “For it is not possible for one who dwells in the body and belongs to the race of mortals to be united with God, but he alone can be so whom God delivers from that prison house of the body” (Legum 3.14, 42). See also De Migratione 2 (9); Quod Deterius 22 (80). This, by no means is an exhaustive list.
78. All passages from the Apocrypha are from New Revised Standard Version (New York: American Bible Society, 1989).
79. Bock makes a similar observation in Dethroning Jesus, 209.
80. Whether we agree with Judas’s theological conclusion is not the point here but whether belief in a bodily resurrection was part of the culture. A reading of 2 Maccabees makes this clear. “Resurrection belief, throughout 2 Maccabees, means new bodily life, a life which comes after the ‘life after death’ that dead people currently experience. And the whole book is introduced with the reported prayer, from the time of Nehemiah, that God would gather the scattered people of Israel, punish the Gentiles for their arrogance and oppression, and plant his people in the holy place [2 Macc. 1:24–9]. Resurrection, in other words, is both the personal hope of the righteous individual and the national hope for faithful Israel” (Wright, Resurrection of God, 153). For a contrary view of 2 Maccabees see Stanley E. Porter, “Resurrection, the Greeks and the New Testament,” in Resurrection, ed. Stanley E. Porter, Michael A. Hayes, and David Tombs, Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Supplement series, vol. 186 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 59.81 1 Enoch 1:8; 25–27; 37–71 does not make it clear, although in various places it mentions a future world to come where the righteous will dwell. This would imply physical resurrection since the future world is analogous in form, without the sin element, with the present world.
82. The translation is accessed from OakTree Software: Accordance 7.4, electronic book R. H. Charles, “Old Testament Pseudepigrapha,” (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1913).
83. Wright points this out but did not include Dan. 7:13, Wright, Resurrection of God, 155.
84. For the highly debatable Wisdom of Solomon passages that may or may not refer to physical resurrection see Ibid., 162–74.