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Resurrection and the History of Jewish Hope – Part 2

Last week we were introduced to the early Jewish view of the afterlife.

  • We learned about their 1-stage view of death, etc.
  • We saw they were concerned primarily with the land and the people.
  • Their hope was not in the afterlife, but in long life, children and the land.
  • And then during exile, the hope expanded to include return and restoration.
  • And it was within the expanding nature of their hope that their view of resurrection blossomed into a 2-stage view of death.

 

1) TWO-STAGE VIEW OF DEATH – THE HOPE BLOSSOMS

 

What is a two-stage view of death?

  • It is “a two-stage expectation (a period of waiting following the martyr’s death, and then bodily resurrection at some future date),” – N.T. Wright.
  • So it wasn’t an expansion or further development on their views of life after death – the afterlife.
    • We saw last week how unsophisticated these views were.
    • The “waiting” was simply being asleep in Sheol, the body having returned to the dust.
    • The pagans’ views, by comparison, were far more developed.
    • But it was the addition to the equation of “bodily life after ‘life after death’” – resurrection.

 

Quick Rabbit Trail:

I want to make a point before we begin.

  • Christians often speak of the Jews of the OT as if they spoke with one voice and were in complete agreement about theological matters.
  • In fact, they were no more homogenous than Protestants or Jews are today.
  • And OT Scripture captures many of these differences for us.

 

So, when we say of a text that “it wasn’t referring to this or that”, or “that the Jews took it to mean this or that”, we are saying two things:

  • (1) We are speaking about how various Jewish traditions interpreted or understood the text.
    • It is, after all, through these folks and their traditions that God choose to work and speak.
  • (2) We are not denying the objective or typological meaning of the text that God Himself intended.
    • God meant exactly what He wanted, even if some of that meaning was not visible until after the resurrection of Jesus.
    • “Typology can be defined as the study of analogical correspondences between persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature” – G.K. Beale (JETS).
    • We will see several examples of this as we move forward.

 

BTW – It is, in my mind, evidence of God working that on that third day in Jerusalem, all the differing threads of Jewish History pertaining to death, the afterlife and resurrection were gathered together into their final resolution and clarification in Jesus.

  • God knew what He was doing.

 

Let’s move on.

 

Exile – The Fertilizer of the Resurrection Hope:

All of the following passages will leap off the page and scream bodily resurrection to us.

  • However, each passage “is set in the context of the continuing affirmation of the Jewish hope for restoration, for liberation from exile, persecution and suffering – N.T. Wright.
  • So whatever else they meant or came to mean, the foundation of their meaning was the Return and Restoration we spoke of last week.
  • The Jews’ primary concern, as we learned last week, was the Land and its People.
  • It was through them that God’s covenant with Israel was being fulfilled.

 

(1) The most well-known text that seems to speak clearly about bodily resurrection but referred instead to Return and Restoration is Ezekiel’s dry bones text.

  • Ezekiel 37:1–14 (ESV) — 1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. 11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

 

Clearly this was originally an exilic text.

  • The concern was Return and Restoration of the people to their land.
  • “Ezekiel is no more envisaging actual bodily resurrection than he envisaged, when writing chapter 34, that Israel consisted of sheep rather than people” – N.T. Wright.
  • And one way we know this is by the disconnect in imagery between verses 1-10 and verses 11-14.
  • Verses 1-10 show the bones of Israel’s exiled people scattered, unburied (presumably unclean), and far from home.
  • But verses 11-14 speak of the people of Israel in a grave and being raised from the grave – back to Israel.
  • Plus, it “lacks the regular language of sleepers walking, of dwellers in the dust, or of the resurrected shining with a new glory” – N.T. Wright.

 

But here is the interesting thing about this passage.

  • It is difficult for us to not see some reference to a literal resurrection.
    • And this is for good reason.
    • And so it was eventually with the Jews.

“The undoubted allegorical character of this passage did not stop it being seen, from at least the early rabbinic period, as a prediction of literal resurrection” – N.T. Wright.

 

(2) Our second text comes from Isaiah’s Suffering Servant passage.

  • Isaiah 53:7–10 (ESV) — 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

 

Here is another Return and Restoration from exile text that appears to be flirting with resurrection.

  • We see that the servant, the nation of Israel (and later Jesus, of course), was dead.
  • The power of the LORD arrives in verse 10 with “Yet”.
  • And then the servant has prolonged days and is prospering in the will of the LORD.
  • The power of God has Restored and Returned the servant – the nation of Israel.
    • Note the reference to Israel’s ancient hope – “his offspring” and “prolong his days” (vs. 10).
    • And the power of God that Returned and Restored is represented by God’s power over death.

 

However, as with Ezekiel, this text also became to be read as a resurrection text among many Jews.

“Daniel [we will see shortly] provides evidence that some people were already reading Isaiah this way; and so…does the form of the Isaiah text as we have it in Qumran” – N.T. Wright.

  • In other words, when the Qumran community copied their version of Isaiah in Hebrew, they chose to emphasize the resurrection aspect of this text.

 

Important Reminder:

As the Jewish view of resurrection developed on top of its hope for Return and Restoration from exile, we can’t help but to rightly see Jesus come more clearly into view.

  • This is no accident.
  • On to our third text.

 

(3) Our third text also comes from Isaiah.

  • Isaiah 26:19 (ESV) — 19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
  • Wright says there can be no doubt, even in the original Hebrew, that this text is literally speaking of a bodily resurrection.
  • And as with our previous texts, we know that Qumran and the LXX took it as such.
  • The LXX, the Septuagint, was a Greek translation of the OT made in the 200’s B.C.
  • When they translated texts like this, they deliberately chose cognates of the Greek word for resurrection.

 

However, “It is still possible, of course, that here resurrection is, as we [saw] in Ezekiel, a metaphor for national restoration; but the wider passage, in which God’s renewal of the whole cosmos is in hand, opens the way for us to propose that the reference to resurrection is intended to denote actual concrete events” – N.T. Wright.

 

In other words, the idea of a bodily resurrection became a metaphor for Return and Restoration.

  • And it is likely that the idea of resurrection began to “arise” as this metaphor.
  • But, as we will see in Daniel, blossomed into much more.

 

(4) We will finish with the oldest, and for the Christian, the most tantalizing of the OT Return and Restoration texts.

  • Hosea 13:14 (ESV) — 14 Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.
  • And then there is this interesting gem.
  • Hosea 6:1–2 (ESV) — 1 “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.

 

“Hosea offers arguably the oldest passage in OT on resurrection” – Wright.

  • These passages are dated to the 8th Century B.C.
  • And interestingly, while our Ezekiel (and, as we will see, Daniel too) text is Southern Kingdom and younger.
  • These texts, like Isaiah, come from the Northern Kingdom just before it fell to Assyria.
  • So this development of Resurrection finding a home in Return and Restoration texts was happening in two places.
  • And all the threads of resurrection developing within the varied Jewish contexts of time and place were coming together just in time for Jesus.

 

These Hosea exilic texts were (like our other texts) taken in the Inter-Testamental period to have resurrection overtones.

  • The Christian, of course, comes to the first and recognizes Paul’s allusion to the text from 1 Corinthians.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:55 (ESV) — 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
  • Clearly Paul is teaching us that this is a resurrection text.
  • And we certainly can’t help but read the second and be struck by the phrase, “on the third day he will raise us up”.
  • At the time, Hosea was probably referring to a blessing for many that would come “in a little time, after a short delay” – AYBD.
  • But the DJG calls this a “Pre-Christian Antecendent”.
  • Some suggest that Paul alludes to it in 1 Corinthians 5:4 – AYBD.
  • Us normal folk can perhaps be a little more overt – “Jesus in the OT”.

 

Summary thus far:

Speaking of the texts we have looked at thus far, Wright says:

“What we have, in fact, in these passages can best be seen in these terms: hope for bodily resurrection is what sometimes happens when the hope of ancient Israel meets a new challenge, which might include the threat of judgment, as in Hosea and Isaiah 24—7 [by God via the Assyrians], and, more specifically, the fact of exile, as (in different ways) in Ezekiel 37 and Isaiah 53” – N.T. Wright.

  • In other words, God used the reality of exile and invasion to teach the Jew that their hope in just a Return and Restoration was short changing His power over creation.
  • He had, in fact, much bigger plans in store.

 

The Big Pivot:

Now let’s move on to the clearest, fullest and most obvious resurrection text in the OT – Daniel 12:2-3.

  • And Wright suggests, and cites others that argue likewise, that the two Hosea texts and the Isaiah texts we covered were of great influence to Daniel.
    • This, by the way, further reveals that these Return and Resurrection texts came to be seen as Resurrection texts as well.
    • Wright says Daniel 12 is so pivotal that to read it is “to stand on the bridge between the Bible [the OT] and the Judaism of Jesus’ day, looking both backwards and forwards, and watching the passage of ideas that went to and fro between them” – N.T. Wright.

 

The Hope Fully Blossoms – Daniel and Resurrection:

Daniel 12:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

“There is little doubt that this refers to concrete, bodily resurrection. The metaphor of ‘sleep’ for death was, as we have seen, already widespread; sleeping in the dust of the earth (literally, ‘the earth of dust’ or ‘the land of dust’) was a clear biblical way of referring to the dead. It was therefore natural to continue the metaphor by using ‘awake’ to denote bodily resurrection — not a different sort of sleep, but its abolition” – N.T. Wright.

 

But interestingly, however, this text speaks only of the resurrection of some.

  • “The passage is not attempting to offer a global theory of the ultimate destination of the whole human race…” – N.T. Wright.

 

Wright calls this passage the crown of all that had gone before.

  • “Any second-Temple Jew who pondered the book would find in 12.2—3 not a new and outlandish idea, unanticipated and unforeseen, but the crown of all that had gone before” – N.T. Wright.
  • In other words, as we have seen, resurrection “fit” the Jewish theology of Return and Restoration.
  • And no passage makes this clearer than Daniel 12:2-3.

 

So this text does not abandon the Return and Restoration ideas of the previous texts.

  • But it firmly places them upon a literal bodily resurrection.
  • And not only does this text clearly speak of a bodily resurrection.
  • But, importantly, it also begins to give it a specific shape.

 

Shape of Resurrection in Daniel 12:

  • (1) It speaks of a glorified risen body.
    • “…Resurrection is not simply a resuscitation in which the dead will return to life much as they knew it before. They will be raised to a state of glory in the world for which the best parallel or comparison is the status of stars, moon and sun within the created order” – N.T. Wright.
  • (2) It speaks of the judgment of pagans and the vindication of martyrs.
    • “Israel’s god will reverse the actions of the wicked pagans, and raise the martyrs, and the teachers who kept Israel on course, to a glorious life. Simultaneously, he will raise their persecutors to a new existence: instead of remaining in the decent obscurity of Sheol or ‘the dust’, they will face perpetual public obloquy [public disgrace]” – N.T. Wright.
  • (3) Resurrection happens to individuals, but it is the individuals of Israel who are raised and vindicated together.
    • In other words, it is corporate in shape.
    • “…this is not something other than God’s long-promised act of vindication for the exiled nation” – Wright.

 

Conclusion – Two-Stage View of Death and Resurrection:

Concerning all the texts we have just covered, N.T. Wright says,

  • They all point to “…the common hope of Israel:”
  • What was the common hope of Israel?

“…that YHWH would restore her fortunes at last, liberate her from pagan dominion, and resettle her in justice and peace, even if it took a great act of new creation to accomplish it. This is where the solid hope of the earlier period (hope for nation, family and land) joins up with the emerging belief in the creator’s faithfulness even beyond the grave” – N.T. Wright.

 

And whatever the Jew thought about resurrection’s relationship to its ancient hope of Return and Restoration,

  • (1) It was not a move away from it but an affirmation of it.
    • The development of resurrection “…is not a move away from the hope which characterized all of ancient Israel, but a reaffirmation of it” – N.T. Wright.
  • (2) Resurrection, in fact, could be seen as fitting metaphor for Return and Restoration.
    • Exile itself is “the strange half-life lived after that death, and return from exile to be seen as life beyond that again, newly embodied life, i.e. resurrection – N.T. Wright.
  • (3) Like Israel’s ancient hope (and unlike the pagans), resurrection was grounded in the goodness of creation, life and the body.
    • The development of resurrection in Israel “…grew directly from the emphasis on the goodness of creation, on YHWH as the god who both kills and makes alive, and on the future of nation and land” – N.T. Wright.

 

And because of the way in which Resurrection depends on Return and Restoration, Wright even suggests that ultimately,

“…the meanings of ‘bodily resurrection for dead humans’ and ‘national restoration for exiled/suffering Israel’ are so closely intertwined that it does not matter that we cannot always tell which is meant, or even if a distinction is possible, in relation to particular passages; that is part of the point” – N.T. Wright.

“The either/or that has tended to drive a wedge between different interpretations of key passages (either ‘individual resurrection’ or ‘national restoration’) must be exposed as fallacious. In Daniel 12, the resurrection of God’s people (at least in the persons of the martyrs, seen as representing the nation) is the form that national restoration takes. This is the real end of the deepest exile of all” – N.T. Wright.

 

Having traced the development of the 1-stage view of death into, through the idea of resurrection, a 2-stage view of death, we can now come to Jesus and Easter Sunday ready to fully fathom what happened.

  • And as we do so we will look at the options available to the Jew at Jesus’ time.
    • From the Sadducees’ denial of resurrection
    • To Martha’s resurrection on the last day.
    • We will deal with this next time.

 

 

 

Resurrection and the History of Jewish Hope – Part 1

This is the first lesson of an 8 week series on resurrection.

 

The first three lessons will contend with the Jewish view of resurrection before Jesus.

  • Did they have developed view of resurrection?
  • What was resurrection for them?
  • Did they have a developed view of life after death?
  • How would they have made sense of Jesus’ resurrection?

 

The answers to these questions describe for us the state of mind of Jesus’ followers.

  • Why did Mary think the body was taken? (John 20)
  • Why were they perplexed? (Luke 24)
  • Why was the possibility that Jesus resurrected not on their radar? (John 11)

 

The final five lessons will focus squarely on the NT view of resurrection.

  • What did resurrection mean after Jesus?
  • How was it different from resurrection before Jesus?
  • Why was it Paul’s greatest hope?
  • Why is resurrection both not the same as, and better than heaven?

 

Before we go any further, we need to define our terms.

  • What is resurrection?

“Resurrection means bodily life after ‘life after death’, or, if you prefer, bodily life after the state of ‘death’” – Wright.

  • Resurrection is what happens only to people who are “at present dead” – Wright.

 

Resurrection is the physical restoration or recreation of the body in the physical world.

  • It is not and never a metaphor for a spiritual “life after death” such as heaven.
  • As Wright says, it is “bodily life after ‘life after death’”.
  • Resurrection, “physical life after ‘life after death'” is what happens after heaven, “spiritual life after death”.

 

 

1) INTRODUCTION

 

To get us started, I want to get our feet wet with a quick contrast and comparison between pagan views and Jewish views of the afterlife.

  • This will give us something to hold on to when we start diving deeper.

 

Greek Paganism:

Judaism was surrounded by a myriad of pagan views of the afterlife.

  • And during the 400 years before Jesus, the pagan views that were competing with Judaism were predominately Greek.
    • These were also the views that Paul was contending with in his ministry.
    • Greek culture had given a lot of thought to the afterlife.
    • They had developed fairly detailed views about it.
    • The content of their views were informed by some of the most famous people in history – Homer, Socrates, Plato – and all the characters in Greek mythology.

 

Generally speaking the pagan view of the afterlife was:

  • Dead people existed in the afterlife as “souls, shades or eidola” – Wright.
  • They resided, “Most likely in Hades; possibly in the Isles of the Blessed, or Tartarus…” – Wright.
  • There were concepts of transmigration (reincarnation), appearing to the living, or hanging around their grave.
  • And remarkably, the soul welcomed death; “the soul was well rid of its body” – Wright.

 

Was resurrection an option?

  • “Resurrection in the flesh appeared a startling, distasteful idea, at odds with everything that passed for wisdom among the educated” – Wright.
  • In fact, the flesh and body were something to be shed.
  • Nowhere in paganism is “a sustained claim advanced that resurrection has actually happened to a particular individual” – Wright.
  •  And “Lots of things could happen to the dead in the beliefs of pagan antiquity, but resurrection was not among the available options “– Wright.

 

Judaism:

Curiously, unlike paganism, OT Judaism was less concerned with the afterlife – Wright.

  • “In fact…an interest in ‘life after death’ for its own sake was characteristic of various pagan worldviews (that of Egypt, for instance), not of ancient Israel” – Wright.
    • The Jew, we will see, was much more concerned with Israel, its land, and its people.
  • And, in contrast with the pagan, “death for the Jew was not an improvement or an escape ‘from the prison-house of the body’” – Wright.
    • Indeed, we will see that for the Jew, the longer the life the better.
    • Why the difference?

 

Was resurrection an option?

  • Interestingly, like the pagan, early Judaism had no overt belief in resurrection.
  • At best, it is something that is “deeply asleep, only to be woken by echoes from later times and texts” – Wright.
  • This is why it is said that the OT itself, “is not particularly concerned with life after death at all, still less with resurrection”  – Wright

 

So having seen, quite strangely I think, that Judaism’s view of the afterlife was not nearly as robust as its competitors, we need to see how we got from the OT’s “deeply asleep” to Martha’s “resurrection on the last day” (John 11).

 

Essentially, there were two positions on death in Jewish thought.

  • (1) One-stage view of death.
  • (2) Two-stage view of death.
  • These views did not develop linearly in succession.
    • Though I might give this impression.
  • They are intimately related and often existed in tension and relationship with each other.

 

The one-stage view consisted of the following:

  • Either it was as simple as the fact that “the dead are ‘asleep with the ancestors’” – Wright.
  • The “martyrs go, immediately upon death, into the blissful immortality already enjoyed by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” – Wright.
  • Or, “the dead may be ‘received’ by YHWH into some continuing life” – Wright.
  • As we just mentioned, this continuing life was not nearly as developed as the pagans.
  • On this one-stage view, “death is a one-way street, on which those behind can follow but those ahead cannot turn back” – Wright.

 

The two-stage view consisted of the following view:

  • Some at least of the dead can hope for resurrection after any such ‘life after death’” – Wright.
  • The “any such ‘life after death’” refers to the options under the one-stage view.

 

We will explore each view in more detail.

 

 

2) ONE-STAGE VIEW OF DEATH – WHERE IS THE HOPE?

 

This view is found in numerous texts of the Old Testament.

  • Psalm 6:5 (ESV) — 5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?
  • Genesis 3:19 (ESV) — 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
  • Psalm 88:3–7 (ESV) — 3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 5 like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
  • Isaiah 38:10 (ESV) — 10 I said, In the middle of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol for the rest of my years.
  • Ecclesiastes 9:5 (ESV) — 5 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.
  • Job 3:13 (ESV) — 13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,
  • Isaiah 14:9–11 (ESV) — 9 Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. 10 All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’ 11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers.
  • Job 7:7–10 (ESV) — 7 “Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. 8 The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more; while your eyes are on me, I shall be gone. 9 As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; 10 he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.

 

Wright says of these texts and of the views they express:

“Sheol, Abaddon, the Pit, the grave. The dark, deep regions, the land of forgetfulness. These almost interchangeable terms denote a place of gloom and despair, a place where one can no longer enjoy life, and where the presence of YHWH himself is withdrawn. It is a wilderness: a place of dust to which creatures made of dust have returned. Those who have gone there are ‘the dead’; they are ‘shades’, and they are ‘asleep’. As in Homer, there is no suggestion that they are enjoying themselves; it is a dark and gloomy world.”

 

But, lest we despair, within some of these texts there is a suggestion that some activity is going on.

  • “They might be momentarily aroused from their comatose state by an especially distinguished newcomer, as in Isaiah 14…” – Wright.
    • “All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’” – Isaiah 14:10.
  • So, the dead were “not completely non-existent…” – Wright.
  • “But their normal condition was to be asleep” – Wright.

 

BTW – At Jesus’ death, it is likely that Jesus’ disciples and loyal family thought that He was received as a “distinguished newcomer” in Sheol.

 

All of this seems a long way from what the Jews’ believed in the first century.

  • And indeed it is.
  • But, there was a latent hope present in this one-stage view of death.
  • It is very hard for us to see, but for the Jew it was there.
  • And this seed of hope grew and expanded as history drew closer to Jesus.

 

The Root of Israel’s Hope:

What was their hope?

  • If they did not find their hope in the afterlife, where did they find it?

 

Just because they had no great hope for afterlife did not mean that, “they were without a living and vibrant hope. At the heart of that hope was the knowledge that YHWH, the God of Israel, was the creator of the world; that he was faithful to the covenant with Israel, and beyond that with the whole world; and that, as such, he would be true to his word both to Israel and to the whole creation” – Wright.

 

Their hope was a national hope.

  • “The hope of the nation was thus first and foremost that the people, the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, would multiply and flourish.”
  • “Children, and then grand-children, are God’s great blessing, and to live long enough to see them is one of the finest things to hope for” – Wright.

 

Wright gets at it as follows:

“To the devout Israelite, the continuance of the family line was not simply a matter of keeping a name alive. It was part of the way in which God’s promises, for Israel and perhaps even for the whole world, would be fulfilled. Hence the importance, particularly in the post-exilic period when the nation was gathering itself together again, of those genealogies which seem so bafflingly unreligious to late modernity, and of the prophetic insistence on the ‘holy seed’” – Wright.

 

This hope is something we cannot begin to fully understand.

  • In some ways, it is just to “collective” and not “individual” enough for us.
  • For the Jew, “The nation and land of the present world were far more important than what happened to an individual beyond the grave” – Wright.
  • I can’t begin to grasp this.
  • But, joyfully, this gloomy hope began to give rise to something more optimistic.

 

Some OT examples of this:

  • 2 Samuel 14:14 (ESV) — 14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.
  • Psalm 49:14–15 (ESV) — 14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. 15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah
  • Psalm 73:23–26 (ESV) — 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

 

Importantly, “Where we find a glimmer of hope like this, it is based not on anything in the human make-up (e.g. an ‘immortal soul’), but on YHWH and him alone” – Wright.

  • The Jew saw all power over creation (the dust), and all prerogatives for action with YHWH.
  • He was the God of history and any hope that existed was to found in His actions.
  • The developing hope was to be found in the “But God” and not in creation itself.

 

And this “But God” hope is foundational to the view of resurrection – the two-stage view – that we will explore momentarily.

  • In fact, this hope (which has never left Judaism) began to grow and manifest itself in ways we might find more comfortable.
  • As we suggested at the beginning, this hope was making its way toward Christ.

 

The Root of Hope Began to Blossom:

So as this hope in the action of God on Israel’s behalf grew, the idea of resurrection began to blossom.

“This explicit link of life with the land and death with exile, coupled with the promise of restoration the other side of exile, is one of the forgotten roots of the fully developed hope of ancient Israel. The dead might be asleep; they might be almost nothing at all; but hope lived on within the covenant and promise of YHWH” –Wright.

  • And these “roots of the fully developed hope” easily accommodated a developing view of bodily resurrection.

 

In fact, allusions to a bodily resurrection found their home in the language of “return” and “restoration”.

  • Restoration – the restoration of Israel as a nation.
  • Return – the return of the people to their promised land.
  • Ezekiel 37:12 (ESV) — 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.
  • Texts like this, clearly exilic texts, “could well have been read within post-biblical Judaism” as having undertones of a bodily resurrection – Wright.
  • And, as we will see, they were begun to be read this way.
  • But never in place of their exilic content, but on top of it.

 

Wright puts it like this:

“The point of the resurrection, within the Jewish worldview, was (as we shall see) that it would be in line with, though going significantly beyond, the great liberating acts of God on behalf of Israel in the past.”

 

God brought them out of exile from Egypt and brought them into the promise land.

  • So God could also bring the Jew out of the exile of death and into a new life after “life after death”.
  • The connection is not a hard one to see.
  • And the Jewish two-stage view of death is where this connection begins to take off.