First Published Article – Journal of Inductive Biblical Studies 3.1

You can find my first published article by clicking this title: A Questionable Inversion: Jesus’ Corrective Answer to the Disciples’ Questions in Matthew 24:3-25:46.

Here is my abstract from the article:

“This article explores the interrogatory relationship between the disciples’ two questions in Matt 24:3 and Jesus’ twofold answer in Matt 24:4–25:46 (divided 24:4-35 and 24:36–25:46). First, concerning how these questions and answers relate, Jesus answers inverted forms of their questions that imply the form, “what will be the signs of these things?” and “when will your coming and the consummation of the age happen?” Second, concerning why they relate in this way, Jesus does this to correct the disciples’ wrong views about the destruction of the temple and eschatology. Lastly, the article offers a corrective to the various eschatological positions which are often superimposed upon Matt 24–25” (Christian, “A Questionable Inversion,” 44).

Review of “Jesus and Judaism” by E. P. Sanders

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Timothy J. Christian. Review of E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (London: SCM Press, 1985).

 

In his other groundbreaking work following Paul and Palestinian Judaism, E. P. Sanders in his 1985 monograph Jesus and Judaism examines the historical Jesus within the framework of his first century Jewish context. In his introduction, Sanders lays out his methodology stressing that the most secure evidence in discovering the historical Jesus rests not on his sayings as a teacher as so many previous scholars had done (form criticism), but on Jewish eschatology (8). He also presents eight undisputed facts about the historical Jesus:

  1. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. 2. Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed. 3. Jesus called disciples and spoke of there being twelve. 4. Jesus confined his activity to Israel. 5. Jesus engaged in a controversy about the temple. 6. Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem by the Roman authorities. 7. After his death Jesus’ followers continued as an identifiable movement. 8. At least some Jews persecuted parts of the new movement…and it appears that this persecution endured at least to a time near the end of Paul’s career (11).

 

These facts, along with knowledge of Jesus’ life and teaching, and knowledge of first century Judaism will help best explain, he argues, the relationship between what Jesus did, said, the reason for his execution, and the later break that the Jesus movement made with Judaism. Sanders’ overall goal is to ascertain the best answer to these connections.

The book has three parts. In part one (The Restoration of Israel), Sanders first argues for a symbolic reading (following Meyer, Brandon, Roloff, and Gaston) of the so-called “cleansing of the temple” in chapter one (Jesus and the Temple). Contra the dominant view, he strongly asserts that it should not be considered a “cleansing” at all, and has nothing to do with “purifying the worship of God” (68). Rather, Jesus’ actions symbolize an attack on the temple, preparing for its destruction and the subsequent new, eschatological temple. In chapter two (New Temple and Restoration in Jewish Literature), he further substantiates his assertions from chapter one demonstrating from a plethora of primary Jewish sources (Second Temple literature) the expectation in Jesus’ time for a “new temple” assumed a prior destruction and subsequent rebuilding, not merely a “cleansing” (90). In chapter three (Other Indications of Restoration Eschatology), Sanders then situates the context of Jesus and later movement by his disciples into Jewish restoration eschatology, showing how Jesus and his movement both operate within and at some points diverge from them. The ministries of John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul all point to Jewish restoration eschatology, along with the “the Twelve” symbolizing a restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel. The point of divergence is repentance. In Second Temple literature, a call to national repentance was common to restoration eschatology. Sanders however does not think that the historical Jesus called Israel to repentance, because John the Baptist already fulfilled this. This point will resurface later when he discusses the meaning of “the sinners.”

In part two (The Kingdom), Sanders begins in chapter four (The Sayings) by critiquing the previous methods used by historical Jesus scholars that focus almost exclusively upon Jesus’ sayings; form criticism more or less. He shows the severe limitations of this method particularly in determining Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God (136). Sanders, therefore, doubts the authenticity of most sayings ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels unless there is an overabundant amount of evidence in favor of its historicity. In this way, then, he is a minimalist. Next, in chapter five (Miracles and Crowds), he surveys Jesus’ miracles and the major scholarly opinions about them. Since most depend upon sayings, he dismisses what most have said previously, but agrees with MacMullen who rejects Smith’s assertion that Jesus was a magician because magician’s used evil spirits (168). As such, the term “prophet” is more appropriate than “magician” (170). Regardless, he concludes that the miracles in and of themselves do not point to Jesus being an “eschatological prophet” (170), but to the fact that he performed them in his public ministry career. This, Sanders deems, is “unsatisfactory” and does not tell us as much as we would desire them to though many previous scholars have purported the opposite (169). In chapter six (The Sinners), Sanders critiques Jeremias’ conclusions that “the sinners” and amme ha-arets are the common people. Using Second Temple and Rabbinic literature, he argues that “the sinners” are actually the unrepentant wicked (177-9). This, he suggests, is what offends the Pharisees, because Jesus was offering the kingdom of God to the wicked, giving them grace, and not requiring them to repent (199-201). In chapter seven (The Gentiles), Sanders critiques Jeremias and Riches concerning Jesus’ view of the Gentile mission. His summary of the OT prophets and post-biblical literature on the Gentile predictions shows Jeremias and Riches to be uninformed about the variegated Jewish views. He does not think that Jesus shared his view about the Gentile mission with his disciples (221), but that they later saw it as a logical extension of his work and ministry (220). In chapter eight (The Kingdom: Conclusion), he summarizes his main points in part two and concludes that Jesus’ movement was not a political threat to Rome and that Jesus emphasized an “otherworldly-earthly kingdom” (237).

In part three (Conflict and Death), Sanders begins chapter nine (The Law) by arguing that Jesus did not possess a negative attitude toward the law. Many before him espoused the opposite and that his negative view of the law led to his crucifixion and death. He examines passages on the temple incident, the quote “Let the dead bury their own dead,” the sinners, the sayings about divorce, and a few others. He deems Matt 5:17, nearly the whole Sermon on the Mount, and the Sabbath passages to be unauthentic. His conclusion is that the prohibition of divorce is the most historically reliable and substantiates that Jesus was not against the law (267). In chapter ten (Opposition and Opponents), he argues that Jesus did not oppose Jewish externalism or legalism (275). Further, he asserts that Jesus’ main conflict in Jerusalem was not with the Pharisees, the Romans, or the crowds, but primarily with the chief priests who ultimately were responsible for his death (286). This opposition and offense stems from his act and sayings against the temple (287), and his sayings about “the sinners” (293). In chapter eleven (The Death of Jesus), Sanders provides two firm facts: (1) Jesus was executed as a would-be king by the Romans, and (2) his disciples formed an apolitical messianic movement (294). He examines the triumphal entry, the betrayal, and the role of the Jewish leaders in his death and concludes that the chief priests played “the primary role” in Jesus’ death (310). He confirms this by also examining places in Josephus where the chief priests played the major role in people’s executions (316). Chapter twelve (Conclusion), gives Sanders’ final analysis of the relationship between Jesus’ actions, sayings, cause for execution, and his movement’s later break with Judaism. His most certain conclusions are that Jesus (1) “shared the world-view that I have called ‘Jewish restoration eschatology’,” (2) “preached the kingdom of God,” (3) “promised the kingdom to the wicked,” (4) “did not explicitly oppose the law,” and (5) “Neither he nor his disciples thought that the kingdom would be established by force of arms. They looked for an eschatological miracle” (326). As such, then, Jesus was not a rare Jew who believed in love, grace, and repentance, the Jews did not normally kill people for believing such things, and hence Jesus did not shake Judaism “to pieces” and thus destroy it as so many scholars had previously purported (326-7).

The strongest critique that I have for Sanders has to do with historical method. Overall, Sanders tends to be a minimalist, especially regarding the sayings of Jesus. This manifests itself throughout the whole work when he quickly and flippantly (seemingly) dismisses passages in the Gospels as being unauthentic, or not really from the historical Jesus. More often than not, he gives little to no reasoning for this (even in his end notes) which comes off as more of an opinion than actual facts based upon evidence. Of course, he could not fight every battle and doing so might detract from his main argument, but it should be unacceptable for scholars simply to say that a certain passage is not authentic just because they say so without due explanation, especially when the evidence would point not in favor to their proposed hypothesis which is often the case with Sanders. The most perplexing example of this is where he claims that “There is no explicit evidence that Jesus was a preacher of national repentance” (115). The most obvious places where Jesus preaches repentance is at the beginning of his ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15) and “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt 4:17). But Sanders quickly dismisses these as unauthentic without much explanation. His denial of this is absolutely vital to his whole argument, because if Jesus did preach repentance, then his theory about “the sinners” being the unrepentant wicked is incorrect, which would then result in the Jewish leaders not being offended at him (though the other main offense was the temple incident), which might result in them not trying to execute him thus disassembling Sanders’ major premises. The other main place where he does this is in chapter nine concerning the law when he dismisses the Sermon on the Mount being authentic (262-4). If authentic, it might give more fuel to the fire that Jesus did oppose the law in some respects or at least challenge the current Jewish interpretation of it. He also dismisses Matt 23 as being authentic when trying to demonstrate that Jesus did not actually oppose the Pharisees (but the chief priests) but purports that Christian redactors put these words on the mouth of Jesus. All in all, Sanders’ biggest weakness is his minimalist historiographical approach, which often times comes across as Sanders changing (or dismissing) the evidence to fit his own proposal.

All of this should not deter the fact that Sanders’ work has many lasting and valuable contributions, not the least of which being that he was one of the first to establish the historical Jesus in his first century Jewish context. The only reason he was able to do this was because of his own expertise in Second Temple and Rabbinic literature, another strong feature of this work. Another strength of the work is his refusal simply to accept the work of other scholars whose views were driven from theological motives rather than historical ones. As such, he spends a great deal of time “slaying old dragons,” and pointing out the errors of previous scholarship uninformed by Jewish restoration eschatology. If one can overlook his dismissal of many sayings and passages in the Gospels, Sanders presents a very strong and novel case for the historical Jesus, providing a new understanding of the cause and effect relationship between Jesus’ actions, words, execution, and subsequent movement. Jesus and Judaism cannot be ignored in NT studies as it has spurned the renewed quest for the historical Jesus in his Jewish first century context.

4 Reasons Jesus’ Sacrifice Is Not the Same as Soldiers’

Cross and Soldier

Today I have seen numerous posts on social media sites about Memorial Day and rightly so. However, many of these posts have left me unsettled, unnerved, and frankly dumbfounded. This is mainly due to the apparent lack of critical thinking on the part of many Christians who equate or compare the sacrifice of (particularly U.S.) soldiers and the sacrifice of Jesus. It is in fact not a new thing that should shock me, since many American Christians today already tend to equate the U.S.A. with the kingdom of God or at least view America as God’s gift to the world. While this is no surprise, these notions still irk me because equating the sacrifice of Jesus Christ with anything or anyone, especially with armies and militaries, is frankly sacrilegious. So here are 4 reasons why Christians should refrain from equating and comparing the sacrifice of soldiers with the sacrifice of Jesus.

1. The Word “Sacrifice” Meant Something Different for Jesus.

On the one hand, the word “sacrifice” in Jesus’ time was a worship term, carrying a cultic sense and involving the worship of the one God, Yahweh. These sacrifices were carried out by the slaughtering of animals for the forgiveness of and atonement for sins. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is in fact portrayed in this cultic sense in the Gospel accounts. All four gospels frame his crucifixion during the Passover (Exod 12-13), and in this way Jesus is our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7) and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

A soldier’s sacrifice, on the other hand, means something different entirely. For them, it means the sacrifice of being with family and loved ones, the sacrifice of comforts and pleasures, the sacrifice of time, energy, and strength, and ultimately, the sacrifice of their own lives if lost in battle. Now of course, the sacrifice of soldiers is not bad. In fact, it is quite noble to sacrifice so much for the sake of others.

But the point is that these two sacrifices are not the same: one is about the worship of God and forgiveness of sins, and the other is about giving up their lives for their country and loved ones.

2. Jesus Didn’t Die for His Country, But the Whole World.

The New Testament writers describe Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as something that was not simply for his own people – the Jews – but for all nations – the whole world (2 Cor 5:14-15). His cross and blood atones for the sins of all peoples, nations, languages, cultures, and ethnicities (1 Tim 2:6; 1 John 2:2). In contrast, the sacrifice of a soldier is primarily for their own country, only for their own “team” if you will.

3. Jesus’ Sacrifice Did Not Involve Killing Others.

The Gospel of John says that Jesus laid down his own life – “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18) – and this did not involve taking the lives of others in the process.

On the contrary, war inevitably means killing and being killed. Soldiers do not lay down their lives for their countries without taking the lives of others. This is something that was entirely foreign to Jesus and his sacrifice. In fact, the night when Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter tried to fight back by force and cut off someone’s ear, to which Jesus responded, “Put the sword into the sheath!” (John 18:10-11). Even on his way to the cross, Jesus did not want the lives of others to be taken. This is quite different from a soldier’s perspective and duty.

4. Jesus’ Sacrifice Displayed Love for Enemies.

The apostle Paul described Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as the love of God for sinners: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Elsewhere he says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Col 1:21-22). It is clear that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross showed God’s love for his enemies.

However, soldiers’ sacrifices display only love for their own countries, and demonstrate hate for their enemies. Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:43-48).

            It seems to me that military sacrifice is much more like loving your neighbor and hating your enemies, loving only those who love you, thus doing what the tax collectors and Gentiles do. Jesus however requires his followers to go beyond this, to be perfect as their heavenly Father is, meaning loving those who hate you which includes even those on opposite sides of a war.

So What?

So, it is not bad to love those who love you, or to serve in the military, or to make the sacrifices that so many soldiers and their families make for American freedom – some of our beloved friends are doing this. But it is, however, a mistake to equate this with Jesus’ sacrifice and Christianity.

That means, contra so many FaceBook posts I’ve seen today, that John 15:13 – “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” – is not about military service! Let alone U.S. military service! (Reminder: America is not in the Bible). Rather it is about the sacrifice that Jesus would make on behalf of the entire world: “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

While I am thankful this Memorial Day for the freedom to even write such a blog with religious freedom and the freedom of speech because of those soldiers who lost their lives for this country, I do so recognizing that this is not the same as the sacrifice of the One who truly made the ultimate sacrifice,

“who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

Hell in the New Testament

On April 15, I had the opportunity to present my paper entitled “Hell No? The Void of New Testament Theology” at the Doctoral Biblical Studies Seminar at Asbury Theological Seminary. This is a work of New Testament theology on the negative afterlife. My fellow Ph.D. student Donald Murray Vasser responded with a scholarly review.

Here is the paper abstract:

“It is no small quest to understand and plunge the depths of such a heated matter as Hell. Many throughout church history have perennially ventured on such an endeavor, some understandably with hesitancy and reluctance. At best, their efforts have demonstrated that this doctrine is vitally important for understanding the Christian take on the afterlife. At worst, they have left us today gazing into an abyss of immortal uncertainty about the final destination of the wicked. While some still hold to a traditional interpretation of Hell, many today have meandered off the trail pushing the theological boundaries with universalism, annihilationism, and purgatory. Furthermore, these differing perspectives and the unending debates concerning them seem to lead to more frustration and confusion, putting everyone into a state of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Not only so, but these further leave people asking the question, “What exegetical support is there for such proposed claims anyways?” The task set before us then in answering these questions is to delve into the recesses of Hell as presented in the NT and mine the quarry therein in order to provide a thoroughly exegetical NT theology of Hell. As such, we will do this by describing and summarizing each explicit mention of Hell in the NT throughout its major sections: (1) in Jesus and the Gospels, (2) in the book of Acts, (3) in the Pauline Epistles, (4) in the Catholic Epistles, and (5) in Revelation. After the survey of each major section, I will discuss the theological implications of that section for contemporary theology and the church. To finish, I will synthesize the various perspectives on Hell in the NT, thus setting forth a NT theology of Hell. Overall, I am arguing that only the traditional interpretation of Hell holds true when compared with the theology of Hell found in the NT. Put another way, neither universalism, annihilationism, nor purgatory have any exegetical grounding in the NT, but only the traditional take on the fate of the nefarious.”IMG_2534

Easter Expectations (Part 4)

Fresco depicting the Resurrection in Notre Dame de Bayeux cathedral, Bayeux, Normandy, France, Europe

This is a 4 Part series exploring the question of resurrection expectations held by ancient Jews and the historical Jesus. The primary question of this study is, “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” In other words, did the historical Jesus expect his resurrection to be a unique event in history detached from the future general resurrection or did he expect it to be at the general resurrection? Before we can answer this question, we must first answer another: “What did ancient Jews expect of the resurrection of the dead and was there any connection with it to the Messiah?”


Previously in Part 1, we explored the ancient Jewish expectations of the resurrection before the time of Jesus and Paul within Intertestamental Judaism, also known as Second Temple Judaism – the time period between the Old and New Testaments.

Last time in Part 2, we continued exploring the ancient Jewish expectations of resurrection, only this time we looked at expectations during and after the time of Jesus and Paul. Here, I provided a summary and conclusions about resurrection expectations in ancient Jewish thought before, during, and after the time of Jesus and Paul.

All of this was laying the groundwork for our main question at hand – “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?”

In Part 3, we looked at Jesus’ view of his own resurrection.

Here in Part 4, we will look at Jesus’ view of the general resurrection, and then make our final judgment as to what the historical Jesus expected of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection.

Overall, I will argue that the historical Jesus expected his resurrection to be a unique and individual resurrection with no relationship to the general resurrection.


THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS

Here in Part 4, we now turn to explore what the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) claim that Jesus said about the general resurrection prior to his death.

Jesus on the General Resurrection

When examining what Jesus said about the general resurrection, there are only two passages in the Synoptics: the question about the resurrection and the last judgment. However, given the lack of the historicity of the last judgment in Matt 25:31-46, we will only examine the former.[1] In doing so, we will survey it and observe Jesus’ view regarding the nature, scope, number, agent, and time of the general resurrection. We will also report whether allusions to Messiah appear.

The Question about Resurrection

Matt 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40

In this passage, the Sadducees come to Jesus and ask him a question concerning the resurrection, particularly with regard to marriage in the resurrection. In doing so, they are trying to stump Jesus in his beliefs in the resurrection since the Sadducees do not. Jesus’ response to them is two-fold. First, he addresses the issue of marriage in the resurrection and then he addresses their unbelief in resurrection.

In analyzing his view of the general resurrection from his response, we can first decipher that the nature of it is bodily and is “like angels” in that the resurrected do not engage in marriage. Furthermore, he does not explicitly state what the scope of resurrection is, though the mention of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may indicate that Jesus is thinking of a resurrection of the righteous alone. In addition, the number seems to be both corporate and individual. The corporate dimensions are found in that Jesus frequently uses the plural, while the individual aspects come again from his mention of the three patriarchs. Also, Jesus asserts that God, being “not of the dead, but of the living,” is the agent of resurrection, that is, resurrection life comes from the living God. Concerning time, Jesus gives no reference as to when this general resurrection will occur. Lastly, there is no trace in the triple tradition here of Jesus making a connection between his resurrection and the general resurrection. Moreover, he makes no connection between resurrection and Messiah.

Below is a chart summarizing our study concerning the question about resurrection:

Nature Scope Number Agent Time Messiah
Bodily Righteous? Corporate & Individual God NOS No

Conclusions from the Question about Resurrection and the General Resurrection

Overall, the question about the resurrection only fulfills one criteria of authenticity, that is, it is multiply attested in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, it fails to fulfill the criterion of dissimilarity because here Jesus adopts a view of the general resurrection that is more or less consistent with ancient Jewish views, namely, that the general resurrection will be corporate and that no connection exists between resurrection and Messiah. Moreover, it seems to have some elements of theologizing upon the resurrection here, brief though it may be. Unlike the predictions above, the passages here give details about there being no marriage in the resurrection, describe the nature of resurrected persons being like angels, and expound upon what it means for God to be the God of the patriarchs.

For these reasons, then, we can only tentatively conclude that this Jesus saying on the question about the resurrection was from the historical Jesus, although with below moderate certainty. However, if we could conclude with stronger certainty that this came from the historical Jesus, then we would deduce that the historical Jesus here expected his resurrection to have no connection with the general resurrection.

CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion, we have thus far explored the question of resurrection expectations held by the ancient Jews and the historical Jesus. The first question we explored was, “What did the ancient Jews near the time of Jesus and Paul expect about the resurrection of the dead and was there a connection between the Messiah and resurrection?” We concluded that there was not a monolithic view on resurrection in this intertestamental period, though the majority of Jews believed in a bodily and corporate resurrection of the righteous with God as the agent and with no connection to the Messiah. The second and primary question that we asked was, “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” In exploring the three passion/resurrection prediction and the question about resurrection in the Synoptic Gospels, we have established the historicity and authenticity of these texts. In addition, we have discovered that what has made our task in this present study difficult is that we have relatively little extant information about what Jesus taught and said concerning his resurrection and the general resurrection. While Jesus probably taught more on resurrection than what we have in the Gospels, we unfortunately do not have any more extant evidence today.[2] Nevertheless, with the information that we do have, we have argued above that the historical Jesus expected his resurrection to be bodily in nature, unique and individual in number, shortly after his death, and a totally separate event from the general resurrection. Furthermore, this hypothesis fulfills the criteria of embarrassment, dissimilarity, multiple attestation, and the lack of theologizing in many places, and thus bolters our thesis concerning the historical Jesus’ resurrection expectations.[3]

 

POSTSCRIPT: FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION

What about the Parousia?

Those who may not be convinced of the resurrection of Jesus and do not see this as historical will have many more issues to deal with and difficult questions to answer. The question of Jesus’ parousia predictions will need to be taken into account here then; such questions as: Did Jesus really predict his parousia? If so, did he mean that his parousia was in fact his resurrection, his coming? For he was gone, and then came back to the realm of the living. Perhaps his resurrection is his parousia? Given his teaching about his parousia, I do not think this is the case. However, more research needs to be done searching out such questions.

What about the Disciples’ Expectations?

Another area for further study should be done on the disciples’ expectations concerning Jesus’ resurrection and it in relation to the general resurrection. It is clear from the Gospel texts that Jesus’ own disciples do not expect Jesus to be resurrected after his death, at least not immediately as he predicted. This has cast doubts in the minds of some historical Jesus scholars particularly with regard to the historicity of Jesus’ passion and resurrection predictions due to the disciples’ eccentric response to Jesus’ death had he indeed foretold the events.

How does one account for their response? One possibility perhaps is that the disciples did not think that Jesus would be raised at all. This seems improbable given their Jewish heritage and given that their teacher holds to a more Pharisaic view, namely, that there will be a resurrection. Another possibility is that the disciples thought that Jesus would rise, but at the end in the general resurrection with them. This seems to best account for how they respond. They are grieved and have lost hope. Moreover, their response certainly demonstrates that they did not expect Jesus’s resurrection to be imminent, whether it would be unique or general. If they thought that Jesus’ resurrection would be unique and immediately after the third day, then they would not have been mourning in such despair. Also, if they thought his resurrection would be at the general resurrection and that this was imminent on the third day, then we would expect them to have excitement because the end would be near with their own resurrection on the way. However, what is recorded in the Gospels is the exact opposite. There is not the slightest hint that the disciples are expecting Jesus to rise immediately. Due to the fact that the Gospels also record Jesus predicting his resurrection (whether they were historical or not), this gives a somewhat embarrassing tone in depicting the disciples as not anticipating Jesus’ resurrection. Overall, more work needs to be done in this area.


[1] The historicity of this saying is doubted (1) because it is not multiply attested, (2) it is more concurrent with Jewish views on resurrection than dissimilar, and (3) it is highly theological in nature.

[2] In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus speaks more of the resurrection, though we do not consult these occurrences here.

 

Easter Expectations (Part 3)

Fresco depicting the Resurrection in Notre Dame de Bayeux cathedral, Bayeux, Normandy, France, Europe

           This is a 4 Part series exploring the question of resurrection expectations held by ancient Jews and the historical Jesus. The primary question of this study is, “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” In other words, did the historical Jesus expect his resurrection to be a unique event in history detached from the future general resurrection or did he expect it to be at the general resurrection? Before we can answer this question, we must first answer another: “What did ancient Jews expect of the resurrection of the dead and was there any connection with it to the Messiah?”

_________________________________________________________________

Previously in Part 1, we explored the ancient Jewish expectations of the resurrection before the time of Jesus and Paul within Intertestamental Judaism, also known as Second Temple Judaism – the time period between the Old and New Testaments.

Last time in Part 2, we continued exploring the ancient Jewish expectations of resurrection, only this time we looked at expectations during and after the time of Jesus and Paul. Here, I provided a summary and conclusions about resurrection expectations in ancient Jewish thought before, during, and after the time of Jesus and Paul.

All of this is laying the groundwork for our main question at hand – “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” – which I will take up in Part 3 and Part 4.

Overall, I will argue that the historical Jesus expected his resurrection to be a unique and individual resurrection with no relationship to the general resurrection.

___________________________________________________________________

THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS

Here in Part 3, we now turn to explore what the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) claim that Jesus said about his own resurrection prior to his death.[1] In working through the pertinent texts, we will evaluate Jesus’ view of the resurrection, the historicity of each passage, and draw conclusions therefrom.

Jesus on His Resurrection

When examining what Jesus said about his own resurrection, there are only three clear passages in the Synoptics: the three passion and subsequent resurrection predictions. Thus, we will survey all three in sequential order and observe Jesus’ view regarding the nature, number, agent, and time of his resurrection. We will also account whether the thought of Messiah is within purview.

1. The First Prediction

Matt 16:13-23; Mark 8:27-33; Luke 9:18-22

To begin, in Matt 16:20-23 and Luke 9:21-22, Jesus seems to understand the nature of his resurrection to be physical and bodily. Coming from Q, they both read τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι.[2] Also, since the main verb ἐγερθῆναι is third person singular, this would infer that Jesus is speaking of an individual resurrection. In addition, since this verb is passive, and probably a divine passive,[3] the implied agent of resurrection is God. However, this differs somewhat slightly from Mark. In Mark 8:30-33, he words it as such: μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστῆναι. The main verb here, while still third person, is active. This means then that the agent is unidentified, though the number is individual. Despite this minor difference, Jesus still understands resurrection to be bodily in Mark as in Matt and Luke. Another minor difference is how Mark words the three day motif. Instead of Q’s τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ “on the third day,” Mark has μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας “after three days.” Although their idioms are somewhat nuanced, all three agree that the time of this resurrection is three days post death for Jesus.

But was Jesus referring to himself here? The answer is “Yes.” In Mark 8:31 and Luke 9:22, the subject of the third person verb “to rise” or “to rise up” is τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, “the Son of Man.” Many scholars suggest that “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite “self-designation.”[4] In Matthew, however, Jesus does not use this self-designation, rather Matthew uses indirect discourse that describe this saying. As such, he uses ὁ Ἰησοῦς “Jesus” to specify who was speaking these words. Thus, Jesus certainly refers to his own death and subsequent resurrection here.

But is Jesus’ resurrection related to his messiahship here? Again, the answer is a definitive yes. If the “Son of Man” language does not hint at it enough, the triple tradition immediately before this pericope is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah. In Matt 16:16, Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In Mark 8:29, he says, “You are the Messiah.” Finally, in Luke 9:20, Peter exclaims, “The Messiah of God.” This therefore seals the deal that Jesus’ resurrection is being intricately linked to his resurrection.

Below is a chart summarizing our study concerning the first prediction:

Text

Nature

Number

Agent

Messiah

Time

Matt 16:20-23

Bodily

Individual

God Implied

Passive Verb

ἐγερθῆναι

From Q

Yes

 

on the third day

τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ

From Q

Mark 8:30-33

Bodily

Individual

Unidentified

Active Verb

ἀναστῆναι

From Mark

Yes

Son of Man

 

after three days

μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας

From Mark

Luke 9:21-22

Bodily

Individual

God Implied

Passive Verb

ἐγερθῆναι

From Q

Yes

Son of Man

 

on the third day

τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ

From Q

 Conclusions from the First Prediction

Overall, this first passion/resurrection prediction fulfills several criteria of authenticity. First, it is multiply attested in the triple tradition, having a heavy reliance upon Mark and Q. Second, it fulfills the criterion of dissimilarity in two ways: (1) in that Jesus is presented as expecting to have a unique and individual resurrection without any mention of it being corporate, or related to the general resurrection which as we have seen from our above study is the norm in ancient Jewish thought; and (2) in that Jesus’ resurrection is connected to his messiahship which is something that ancient Judaism does not do. Thirdly, the surrounding context in Matthew and Mark has embarrassing elements such as Peter’s rebuke of Jesus and thus fulfills the criterion of embarrassment.[5] Lastly, there is a total lack of theologizing upon Jesus’ resurrection here. The triple tradition does not hint at what his resurrection means theologically. They simply report a brief saying from Jesus.

For these reasons,[6] we can conclude that this first resurrection prediction was historical, at least to some degree.[7] Furthermore, we can conclude that the historical Jesus here expected to be raised without any reference to or connection with the general resurrection. Thus, he expects his resurrection to be unique and individual, not anticipating his resurrection to usher in the eschatological general resurrection.

2. The Second Prediction

Matt 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:43b-45

In the second resurrection prediction, Matthew and Mark are the only viable sources since Luke omits the statement about resurrection. In both Matt 17:22-23 and Mark 9:30-32, then, the nature of resurrection is physical and bodily. Furthermore, the number is individual because they both have third singular verbs. However, the verb ἐγερθήσεται in Matt is a divine passive and thus indicates God as the agent of resurrection, whereas the verb ἀναστήσεται in Mark is active and thus has an unidentified agent. Also, the subject of these verbs in the triple tradition is ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου “the Son of Man.”[8] This perhaps indicates messianic language although contra the first prediction, this second one does not have the same previous context which strongly asserts that Jesus is the Messiah. Nevertheless, the overall book context of the Gospels still asserts that Jesus is the Messiah. Thus, this second prediction has a connection between Jesus’ resurrection and his messiahship, though somewhat less direct than the first. Lastly, the time of the resurrection is the exact same as the previous prediction: Matthew (M or possibly Q) has “on the third day” and Mark has “after three days.” Overall, the time is three days post Jesus’ death.

Below is a chart summarizing our study concerning the second prediction:

Text

Nature

Number

Agent

Messiah

Time

Matt 17:22-23 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἐγερθήσεται

From M (Q?)

God Implied

Passive Verb

ἐγερθήσεται

From M (Q?)

Yes

Son of Man

 

on the third day

τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ

From M (Q?)

Mark 9:30-32 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Unidentified

Active Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Yes

Son of Man

 

after three days

μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας

From Mark

Luke 9:43b-45

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

Son of Man

N/A

Conclusions from the Second Prediction

Overall, this second passion/resurrection prediction fulfills three criteria of authenticity. First, it is multiply attested in Matthew (M) and Mark, while Luke attests to the passion prediction but not the resurrection prediction. Second, it fulfills the criterion of dissimilarity in the same two ways as the first prediction: (1) in that Jesus is presented as expecting to have a unique and individual resurrection without any mention of it being corporate, or related to the general resurrection which is the norm in ancient Jewish thought; and (2) in that Jesus’ resurrection is connected to his messiahship – though to a lesser degree than the first prediction – which is something that ancient Judaism does not do. Thirdly, there is a complete lack of theologizing upon the resurrection here as in the first. Matthew and Mark leave no trace of what the implications of Jesus’ resurrection means theologically. Like the first prediction, they simply report a brief saying from Jesus.

For these reasons, we can conclude that this second resurrection prediction was from the historical Jesus, though its historicity pines behind the first in authenticity. Furthermore, we can conclude that the historical Jesus here expected his resurrection to have no connection with the general resurrection. Again, he expects his resurrection to be unique and individual.

3. The Third Prediction

Matt 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34

In the third prediction, we have all three Gospels reporting. Like the previous predictions, the nature of resurrection is physical and bodily in the triple tradition. Furthermore, all three report Jesus speaking of an individual resurrection using third singular verbs. However, Matthew is the only one that uses a divine passive ἐγερθήσεται to imply God as the agent. Mark and Luke both have active verbs ἀναστήσεται which leaves the agent unidentified. Furthermore, all three reference “the Son of Man” as the subject of these verbs and this may indicate a messianic claim as described previously. Lastly, all three Gospels agree on the three day motif, though again use different syntax. Mark uses his usual μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας and Matthew his τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. However, Luke does something different. He takes Matthew’s attributive construction and alters it to a different form of the attributive position: τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ. This however still seems to indicate that Matthew and Luke were using Q with this saying of Jesus.

Below is a chart summarizing our study regarding the third prediction:

Text

Nature

Number

Agent

Messiah

Time

Matt 20:17-19 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἐγερθήσεται

From M

God Implied

Passive Verb

ἐγερθήσεται

From M

Yes

Son of Man

 

on the third day

τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ

From Q

Mark 10:32-34 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Unidentified

Active Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Yes

Son of Man

 

after three days

μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας

From Mark

Luke 18:31-34 Bodily Individual

3rd Singular Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Unidentified

Active Verb

ἀναστήσεται

From Mark

Yes

Son of Man

 

on the third day

τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ

From Q

 Conclusions from the Third Prediction

Overall, this third passion/resurrection prediction fulfills three criteria of authenticity. First, it is multiply attested in Mark, Q, and M. Second, like the previous two predication, it fulfills the criterion of dissimilarity in the same way: (1) in that Jesus expects to have a unique and individual resurrection without any mention of it being corporate, or related to the general resurrection which is the norm in ancient Jewish thought; and (2) in that Jesus’ resurrection is connected to his messiahship – though to a lesser degree than the first prediction – which ancient Jews do not do. Thirdly, there is again a complete lack of theologizing upon the resurrection here as in the first two. None of them leave a trace of what Jesus’ resurrection means theologically. Again, they simply report a brief saying from Jesus on his resurrection.

For these reasons, then, we conclude that this third resurrection prediction was from the historical Jesus, though its historicity certainty is not as strong as the first. Furthermore, we can conclude that the historical Jesus here expected his resurrection to have no connection with the general resurrection and again he expects his resurrection to be unique and individual.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, it is clear from these three passion and resurrection predictions that Jesus expects his resurrection to be bodily, individual, shortly after his death, and not connected to the general resurrection. Furthermore, the predictions demonstrate a strong amount of historical certainty given their fulfillment of multiple criteria of authenticity. Given our above study of resurrection in Intertestamental Judaism from Parts 1 and 2, the most notable fulfillment of criteria is how dissimilar Jesus’ view of resurrection, particularly with regard how he connects it with messiahship, is from the dominant Jewish expectations prior to, during, and after his time. Furthermore, there is really quite little information to go off of here. The Synoptic authors really do not present much on Jesus’ view of his resurrection. Nevertheless, from this little amount of data, we can yet conclude that the historical Jesus did not expected his resurrection to usher in the general resurrection, but rather to be a unique event shortly after his death.



                [1] Note that I am limiting my study to the Synoptic Gospels (1) because this is what most historical Jesus scholars practice today, and (2) because of time and space restraints.

                [2] It is interesting demonstrates that Q has some minute presence here concerning resurrection which is not normally. Q is notoriously known for not mentioning resurrection. One possible explanation for this may be that this is a saying of Jesus. This therefore indicates an early source accounting for Jesus’ resurrection prediction.

                [3] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (NICNT, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 371.

                [4] Michael Licona, “Did Jesus Predict his Death and Vindication/Resurrection?” JSHJ 8 (2010) 48.

                [5] See Keener, IVP, 91. Keener notes that one of the most basic rules of ancient discipleship is “Never criticize the teacher, especially publicly.” He continues, “Here Peter breaks that rule, even on standard cultural grounds.” This constitutes embarrassment.

                [6] Licona gives more reasons, one being that Semitic elements are present in this material. Licona, “Did Jesus Predict,” 48.

                [7] I think that there is more or less a strong amount of historical certainty for this first prediction.

                [8] See Matt 17:22; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:44. We have added Luke in this investigation because the surrounding context of Luke is parallel in Matthew and Luke, minus the resurrection saying. Luke had access to this second resurrection prediction in Mark but chose not to use it. Also, he could have had access to it from Q, but left it out. If he had Q, then what we have deemed M in the chart below is really Q. Hence, I have put (Q?) in parentheses due to the tentative nature of the issue.

How do we account for this then? Perhaps Luke thought it was superfluous. He adds to Mark and further expounds things that Mark does not here. It is possible then that Luke chose to omit the resurrection saying for the sake of space. See Appendix I for details on source criticism.

Easter Expectations (Part 2)

Fresco depicting the Resurrection in Notre Dame de Bayeux cathedral, Bayeux, Normandy, France, Europe

           This is a 4 Part series exploring the question of resurrection expectations held by ancient Jews and the historical Jesus. The primary question of this study is, “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” In other words, did the historical Jesus expect his resurrection to be a unique event in history detached from the future general resurrection or did he expect it to be at the general resurrection? Before we can answer this question, we must first answer another: “What did ancient Jews expect of the resurrection of the dead and was there any connection with it to the Messiah?”

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Last time in Part 1, we explored the ancient Jewish expectations of the resurrection before the time of Jesus and Paul within Intertestamental Judaism, also known as Second Temple Judaism – the time period between the Old and New Testaments.

Here in Part 2, we will continue exploring the ancient Jewish expectations of resurrection, only this time we will look at expectations during and after the time of Jesus and Paul. At the end of Part 2, I will provide a summary and conclusions about resurrection expectations in ancient Jewish thought before, during, and after the time of Jesus and Paul.

All of this is laying the groundwork for our main question at hand – “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” – which I will take up in Part 3 and Part 4.

Overall, I will argue that the historical Jesus expected his resurrection to be a unique and individual resurrection with no relationship to the general resurrection.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

ANCIENT JEWISH EXPECTATIONS

The question that we will seek to answer here in Part 2 is “What did the ancient Jews during and after the time of Jesus and Paul expect about the resurrection of the dead and was there a connection between the Messiah and resurrection?”

Resurrection in Intertestamental Judaism

2. Contemporary with Jesus and Paul

To reiterate from Part 1, we will proceed by examining a number of texts from Intertestamental Judaism on resurrection in chronological order. Furthermore, we will address how each text understands the nature (bodily, spiritually, immortality), scope (the righteous and the wicked, only the righteous), number (corporate or individual), and agent (God, wisdom, or unidentified) of resurrection. In addition, we will note whether there is a connection with the Messiah.

            Fourth Maccabees is dated around A.D. 20-54 and thus is the only text we will assess that is contemporaneous with Jesus and Paul.[1] In 4 Macc 10:15, the nature of resurrection is described as “everlasting life.” This is in contrast to “everlasting destruction.” This “life” however is somewhat vague and may not be referring to resurrection, rather to a competing view of afterlife. Nevertheless, everlasting life is for the pious and everlasting destruction for “the tyrant,” namely, Antiochus Epiphanes.[2] Thus, this displays corporate – the pious – and individual – the tyrant – aspects to this view of the afterlife. Lastly, no agent is specified and no Messiah is mentioned.

In 4 Macc 9:22, 16:13, and 18:23, the idea of afterlife is that of immortality.[3] Also, in all three texts, there are no messianic allusions. In addition, all three emphasize the exclusive scope of the righteous for immortality.[4] However, in 9:22, immortality is individual, whereas the other two texts have corporate and individual elements. What is more, the author does not specify an agent of immortality in 9:22 and 16:13, but in 18:23 he says that “the sons of Abraham…have received pure and immortal souls from God.” Thus, God is the agent in 18:23.

3. After Jesus and Paul

            Next, 4 Ezra was composed around A.D. 100 and is the first text we have assessed which postdates Jesus and Paul.[5] In 4 Ezra 4:41-43, the nature of resurrection is difficult to decipher. It mentions the hastening and longing of Hades to “give back those things that were committed to them from the beginning.”[6] Since there are no traces of immortality language nearby and given the context – 4 Ezra 7 – perhaps this is implicitly describing bodily resurrection. Furthermore, the scope and agent is not otherwise specified. However, given the use of plurals here, one can conclude that the number of resurrection is corporate. Lastly, there is no hint of messianic reference here.

In 4 Ezra 7:26-44, the nature of the resurrection is bodily.[7] Also, the scope includes both the righteous and sinners: “righteous deeds shall awake, and unrighteous deeds shall not sleep. 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.”[8] Furthermore, there is no allusion to individual resurrection, only corporate, and there is no agent identified. Last but not least, 4 Ezra 7:28-29 mentions the Messiah and draws a connection between him and resurrection. It says, “For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath.”[9] Then it talks about how seven days after the Messiah’s and humanity’s death, “the world…shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. And the earth shall give up those who are asleep in it; and the chambers shall give up the souls which have been committed to them.”[10] This then is the first text thus far that has drawn a link between the Messiah and resurrection. However, even though this connection exists, the connection is between the death of the Messiah and the resurrection of the world. While the Messiah may be encompassed within “the world” and its resurrection, there is nevertheless no explicit statement regarding the Messiah’s resurrection, only death. What is more, since 4 Ezra postdates Jesus and Paul, it is possible that there is some Christian influence on or tampering with this text. Thus, although a connection is made, this text is not early enough to ensure pre-Christian, solely Jewish anticipations of the resurrection.

Finally, 2 Baruch is dated to the early second century A.D.[11] In 2 Bar. 49:1-52:12, the author clearly has bodily resurrection in mind which is both for the righteous and the wicked. The author says that “both…will be changed,” the righteous “into the splendor of angels” and the wicked “into startling visions and horrible shapes; and they will waste away even more.”[12] Furthermore, this is corporate and no agent is specified. Lastly, there is no mention of Messiah.

In 2 Bar. 85:15, the nature of resurrection is somewhat diluted; all it says is “then he will make alive those whom he has found.” This is rather vague, although given what 2 Bar. 49:1-51:12 says about resurrection, we may tentatively conclude that bodily resurrection is intended here. Additionally, this is corporate for the righteous only, for the author goes on to describe the fate of the wicked as such: “at the same time he will destroy those who are polluted with sins.”[13] The third singular verbs here also indicate that the agent of resurrection is God. Finally, there is no mention of the Messiah in 2 Bar. 85:15.

Conclusions from Intertestamental Judaism

            In summary, it is clear that the ancient Jewish view of resurrection in intertestamental Judaism was not monolithic.[14] With regard to the nature of resurrection, few believed in no resurrection; some embraced the immortality of the soul; others held to spiritual resurrection; still others believed in everlasting life; but most believed in bodily resurrection. Furthermore, concerning the scope of resurrection, most hold to a restrictivist view that only the righteous will be raised, and some believe that both the righteous and wicked experience resurrection. It is important to note that there is no exclusive reference to only the wicked being raised; they are either excluded or added with the righteous, but never mentioned on their own. Moreover, in regard to number, most believed in a corporate resurrection, though others emphasized both individuals and groups, and only in 1 En. 92:-35 do we find a resurrection reference that is strictly individual. As regards the agent of resurrection, more often than not, an agent is unidentified. However, God is still identified quite often as the one who raises the dead. Lastly, with reference to the Messiah, there is almost no connection between resurrection in intertestamental Judaism and the Messiah. Possible exceptions may be found in 1 En. where the author mentions “the Son of Man” in 46:4, “the Elect One” in 51:1-5, and “the Righteous One” in 92:3-5. However, it is difficult to interpret these titles and texts and decipher whether they are references to a messianic figure. If they do in fact refer to Messiah, then they are the only early texts in Judaism that link resurrection to Messiah. What is more, 4 Ezra 7:26-44 is the most explicit text linking Christ and resurrection. However, as already discussed above, this text postdates Jesus and Paul and thus could possibly have been influenced by Christian teaching on resurrection which clearly connects the Messiah and resurrection.[15] Thus, it cannot be considered a pertinent or authentic text for this study. The vast majority of intertestamental Judaism prior to Jesus and Paul, therefore, do not connect the Messiah with resurrection. Perhaps the best explanation for this is that ancient Judaism did not expect the Messiah to die, rather expected a conquering, victorious, and kingly Messiah.

Below is a chart summarizing our study in chronological order with three divisions: (1) pre Jesus and Paul; (2) contemporary with Jesus and Paul; and (3) post Jesus and Paul.

Text

Nature

Scope

Number

Agent

Messiah

Before Jesus and Paul

Sib. Or. 4:179-192 Bodily Righteous & Wicked Corporate & Individual God No
T. Benj. 10:6-11 Bodily Righteous & Wicked Corporate & Individual God No
Sir 37:26; 39:9; 44:8-15; 46:19 None Righteous & Wicked Corporate & Individual N/A No
1 En. 22:13 Bodily Righteous Corporate Unidentified No
1 En. 46:6 Bodily Righteous Corporate Unidentified Son of Man?
1 En. 51:1-5 Bodily Righteous Corporate God The Elect One?
1 En. 92:3-5 Bodily Righteous Individual God The Righteous One?
1 En. 103:4 Spiritual Righteous Corporate Unidentified No
Pss. Sol. 3:11-12 Bodily Righteous Corporate & Individual Unidentified No
Pss. Sol. 13:11 Everlasting Life Righteous Corporate Unidentified No
Pss. Sol. 14:6-10 Everlasting Life Righteous Corporate Unidentified No
Pss. Sol. 15:10-13 Everlasting Life Righteous Corporate God No
Wis 2:23-3:4 Immortality Righteous Corporate God No
Wis 5:15-16 Undefined Righteous Corporate God No
Wis 6:17-20 Immortality Wise Individual Wisdom No
2 Macc 7:9, 14, 23, 29 Bodily Righteous & ?????? Corporate & Individual God No
2 Macc 14:37-46 Bodily Righteous Individual God No

Contemporary with Jesus and Paul

4 Macc 10:15 Everlasting Life Righteous & Wicked Corporate & Individual Unidentified No
4 Macc 9:22 Immortality Righteous Individual Unidentified No
4 Macc 16:13 Immortality Righteous Corporate & Individual Unidentified No
4 Macc 18:23 Immortality Righteous Corporate & Individual God No

Post Jesus and Paul

4 Ezra 4:41-43 Bodily NOS Corporate Unidentified No
4 Ezra 7:26-44 Bodily Righteous & Wicked Corporate Unidentified Yes
2 Bar. 49:1-52:12 Bodily Righteous & Wicked Corporate Unidentified No
2 Bar. 85:15 Bodily? Righteous Corporate God No

We can therefore conclude that the ancient Jews in the time immediately prior to, during, and after the time of Jesus and Paul had a variety of expectations concerning the resurrection of the dead and that they made almost no connection whatsoever between the Messiah and resurrection.

Next time in Part 3 and Part 4, we will explore what the historical Jesus expected of his resurrection and the general resurrection.



                [1] Oxford Apocrypha, 309.

                [2] 4 Macc 10:15.

                [3] Fourth Maccabees 9:22 says, “Although the ligaments joining his bones were already severed, the courageous youth, worthy of Abraham, did not groan, but as though transformed by fire into immortality he nobly endured the rackings.” Also, 4 Macc 16:13 states, “but, as though having a mind like adamant and giving rebirth for immortality to the whole number of her sons, she implored them and urged them on to death for the sake of religion.” Lastly, 4 Macc 18:23 says, “the sons of Abraham with their victorious mother are gathered together into the chorus of the fathers, and have received pure and immortal souls from God.” This clearly has Hellenistic flavors of the immortality of the soul.

                [4] This is made clear in all three sayings by the fact that those being tormented and put to death by Antiochus are said to be noble for obeying God’s law rather than the tyrant’s.

                [5] Charlesworth, 520.

                [6] 4 Ezra 4:42.

                [7] 4 Ezra 7:31-32, 37.

                [8] 4 Ezra 7:35-36.

                [9] 4 Ezra 7:28-29.

                [10] 4 Ezra 7:31-32.

                [11] Charlesworth, 615. Vol 1.

                [12] 2 Bar. 51:5.

                [13] 2 Bar. 85:15.

                [14] Elledge further notes that, “Our earliest evidence for the resurrection hope is often fragmentary, incomplete, and occasionally inconsistent.” Elledge, “Resurrection of the Dead: Exploring Our Earliest Evidence Today,” 24.

                [15] E.g. see 1 Cor 15.

Easter Expectations (Part 1)

Fresco depicting the Resurrection in Notre Dame de Bayeux cathedral, Bayeux, Normandy, France, Europe

           In this 4 Part series, we will explore the question of resurrection expectations held by ancient Jews and the historical Jesus. The primary question of this study is, “What did the historical Jesus expect of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection?” In other words, did the historical Jesus expect his resurrection to be a unique event in history detached from the future general resurrection or did he expect it to be at the general resurrection? Before we can answer this question, we must first answer another: “What did ancient Jews expect of the resurrection of the dead and was there any connection with it to the Messiah?”

So, here in Part 1, I will begin by exploring ancient Jewish expectations of the resurrection before the time of Jesus and Paul within Intertestamental Judaism, also known as Second Temple Judaism – the time period between the Old and New Testaments.

In Part 2, I will continue exploring the ancient Jewish expectations of resurrection, but during and after the time of Jesus and Paul. This part will also provide a summary and conclusions about resurrection expectations in ancient Jewish thought.

In Part 3, I will move to an exploration of the historical Jesus’ expectations of his own resurrection by looking primarily at the three passion “predictions” in the Synoptic Gospels.

In Part 4, I will move to an exploration of the historical Jesus’ expectations of the general resurrection by looking at his teaching on the resurrection prior to his death in the Synoptic Gospels.

Overall, I will argue that the historical Jesus expected his resurrection to be a unique and individual resurrection with no relationship to the general resurrection.

METHODOLOGY

            With regard to method, I will use only the Synoptic Gospels and refrain from using John, which is quite common in historical Jesus studies. Next, I will not consider the Greco-Roman literature on the afterlife, resurrection, or the dying-rising deities. Furthermore, since there is very little secondary literature exploring this topic, I will interact mainly with the primary sources.[1] In addition, I will approach this study with methodical neutrality, that is, with hypotheses needing to bear the burden of proof. Also, since this is a study on the expectations of the historical Jesus, I will examine neither the empty tomb narratives and beyond nor Matthew’s interesting statement in Matt 27:52-53 concerning the resurrection of some saints after Jesus’ death, primarily because the focus of this study is on the teachings and sayings of Jesus prior to his death regarding his expectations of resurrection.

ANCIENT JEWISH EXPECTATIONS

            So to begin, the question that we will seek to answer here in Part 1 is “What did the ancient Jews before the time of Jesus and Paul expect about the resurrection of the dead and was there a connection between the Messiah and resurrection?”

Resurrection in Intertestamental Judaism

1. Before Jesus and Paul

As we proceed, we will examine a number of texts from Intertestamental Judaism on resurrection in chronological order. Furthermore, we will address how each text understands the nature (bodily, spiritually, immortality), scope (the righteous and the wicked, only the righteous), number (corporate or individual), and agent (God, wisdom, or unidentified) of resurrection. In addition, we will note whether there is a connection with the Messiah.

First, the Sibylline Oracles are dated around the third or fourth centuries B.C.[3] In Sib. Or. 4:179-192, the nature of resurrection seems to be bodily. It says, “God himself will again fashion the bones and ashes of men and he will raise up mortals again as they were before.”[4] Furthermore, its scope is that of all people with the impious sinners contrasted to the pious and gehenna to life on earth.[5] Thus, it is a corporate resurrection though it has individual elements as well.[6] With regard to the agent of resurrection it is most certainly God. Sibylline Oracles 4:181 asserts strongly that “God himself” will do this. Lastly, there is no reference to the Messiah or any messianic figure here.

Secondly, the Testament of Benjamin is dated around the second century B.C.[7] In T. Benj. 10:6-11, the nature of resurrection is bodily and refers to restoration of the nation Israel. The scope similar to Sib. Or. is a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, “some destined for glory, others for dishonor.”[8] What is more, it makes explicit that Jews and Gentiles alike will be raised, the Jews first and then the Gentiles.[9] Furthermore, it is depicted as both corporate and individual. Concerning the individual aspect, it says “you will see Enoch and Seth and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob being raised up at the right hand in great joy.”[10] Regarding the corporate part, it says “Then shall we also be raised…then all shall be changed…and then he shall do the same for all the nations.”[11] Also, the Lord is explicitly stated to be the agent of resurrection in v. 8. Lastly, there is no reference to the Messiah with regard to the resurrection.

Third, Sirach is dated to about 180 B.C. Here there seems to be no understanding of afterlife or resurrection, but only death or the grave. In Sir 46:19, it speaks of “eternal sleep.” Also, it speaks of the memory of people lasting forever while theirs bodies being “buried in peace.”[12] Thus, the scope refers to all – both the righteous and the wicked – as does the number – both corporate and individual. Further, there is no agent and no mention of the Messiah.

Fourthly, 1 Enoch is dated somewhere between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D.[13] In 1 En. 22:13, the author emphasizes that the wicked will not share in the resurrection. Assumedly speaking of bodily resurrection, this means that only the righteous will be raised. This then means that the event will be corporate and does not make mention of an individual element. Moreover, no agent is specified and there is no trace of messianic language.

In 1 En. 46:6, the writer again focuses upon how there will be no resurrection for the wicked, only punishment and judgment. Thus, again the nature is bodily, the scope is limited to the righteous, the number is corporate, and no agent is identified. Also, while there is no mention of the Messiah, “the Son of Man” comes up twice in 46:3-4. Here he is depicted as a righteous judge and king who removes and deposes “the kings from their thrones and kingdoms.”[14] This may perhaps be a messianic figure, though this is not certain. Nevertheless, this “Son of Man” is neither connected with nor the agent of resurrection, simply spoken of prior to the mention of no resurrection for the wicked.

In 1 En. 51:1-5, the focus is on the resurrection of “the righteous and the holy ones,” excluding the wicked.[15] Also, v. 5 specifies the corporeal nature of this resurrection by speaking of the righteous dwelling and walking upon the earth. What is more, it mentions both corporate and individual aspects. With regard to the individual, it remarks in v. 5 that “on that day the Elect One has arisen.” This could possibly be a messianic reference since v. 3 says he “shall sit on my throne, and from the conscience of his mouth shall come out all the secrets of wisdom, for the Lord of the Spirits has given them to him and glorified him.” However, it remains tentative whether or not this is the Messiah. Lastly, God is identified as the agent of resurrection in v. 2.

In 1 En. 92:3-5, the author tells of an individual resurrection of “the Righteous One.” This righteous one may be a reference to the Messiah, though this is again not clear. The nature of his resurrection seems to be bodily and the scope is limited to only one righteous person. Lastly, God – “the Holy and Great One” – is the one who raises this “Righteous One” from death.[16]

In 1 En. 103:4, there is a shift in the nature of resurrection; here the writer indicates that resurrection is spiritual: “The spirits of those who died in righteousness shall live and rejoice; their spirits shall not perish.” Nonetheless, the scope and number stay persistent, that is, it is only a righteous and corporate resurrection. The agent is unspecified, though God “the Great One” may possibly be an implied agent. Finally, there is no mention of Christ here.

Fifth, the Psalms of Solomon are dated anywhere from about 125 B.C. to the first century A.D.[17] In Pss. Sol. 3:11-12, the psalmist depicts a bodily resurrection to “eternal life” for the righteous and destruction for the sinner.[18] So, resurrection is limited to the righteous and this is corporate. However, v. 11 speaks of the sinner in the singular – “the sinner” – and this constitutes for an individual component. Thus, it is corporate and individual. Also, he identifies no agent and mentions no Messiah here.

In Pss. Sol. 13:11, there is actually no mention of resurrection here, just the strong emphasis on eternal life for the righteous. This is in contrast to sinners who will be eternally destroyed. Thus, we will categorized the nature of resurrection here as “everlasting life” and this is only corporately for the righteous. Moreover, there is neither an identified agent nor Messiah.

In Pss. Sol. 14:6-10, the language is that of inheritance. “The devout” are said to “inherit life in happiness,”[19] while “sinners and criminals” inherit “Hades, and darkness and destruction.”[20] This seems to indicate the nature as “everlasting life” which is limited corporately to the righteous. Also, an agent is unidentified without messianic claims.

In Pss. Sol. 15:10-13, the view of resurrection is similar to the previous psalms. On the one hand, the righteous “who fear the Lord” will “live” by God’s mercy.[21] On the other hand, the sinners “shall perish forever” and “for all time.”[22] Thus, this life is corporate and exclusively for the righteous. However, God and his mercy are identified as the agent of life for the righteous. Nevertheless, there is no messianic language here.

Sixth, the Wisdom of Solomon is dated around the late first century B.C.[23] In Wis 2:23-3:4, the nature of resurrection is the Hellenistic idea of the immortality of the soul.[24] Thus, it is not truly an anastasiological view, rather a competing idea on the afterlife. Furthermore, this immortality is corporate with no individual elements mentioned and restricted to the righteous, while the wicked experience only death.[25] Also, God is clearly the agent of determining who will receive immortal souls.[26] Lastly, there is no mention of the Messiah here.

In Wis 5:15-16, it says, “the righteous will live forever and their reward is with the Lord.” Concerning the nature of resurrection, this seems indeterminate. To “live forever” could mean resurrection but could also mean immortality or even something else. Though given the broader context of the book, immortality is probably the intended meaning. In addition, the scope is limited to the righteous and it is corporate with no hint of individuality. God – “the Lord…the most High” – is the agent of this everlasting life and once again there is no mention of the Christ.

Similar to Wis 2:23-3:4, Wis 6:17-20 portrays the idea of the immortality of the soul rather than resurrection.[27] Also, this immortality is exclusively available to the wise and is explicitly individual in its statement that “immortality brings one near to God” in v. 19. In light of this, wisdom is therefore the agent of this immortal bliss and there is again no reference to the Christ.

Seventh, the book of 2 Maccabees is dated somewhere around the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. In 2 Macc 7, it interprets resurrection to be bodily.[28] Also, this chapter speaks of resurrection in corporate and individual terms.[29] However, it is somewhat unclear as to whether being raised is only for the righteous or for the wicked as well. In responding to King Antiochus who is killing these Jewish brothers, one brother says to him in 7:14, “But for you there will be no resurrection to life!” At first glance, this may seem to mean that this wicked king will not share in resurrection. However, he says there will be no resurrection “to life.” Perhaps, then he means that the king will be raised to eternal death or judgment as we have already encountered in Sib. Or. and T. Benj . This difficulty in interpretation leads me to leave the fate of the wicked indeterminate, though I think the former choice may be the better one. Furthermore, God is the agent of resurrection and the author describes him as “the King of the universe” and “the Creator of the world.”[30] Yet, there is again no statement concerning the Messiah here.

In 2 Macc 14:37-46, the authors tells the story of a Jewish elder named Razis who denounced Nicanor and committed suicide due to impending persecution from him. At the end of his fiery and bloody suicide, he throws his entrails at the on-looking crowd and prays for “the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again.”[31] Such an entreaty displays his belief in bodily and individual resurrection. It further indicates a conviction that he will be raised based upon his righteousness.[32] Also, God, “the Lord of life and spirit,” Razis trusts is the agent of resurrection. Nevertheless, no allusion to the Messiah is made here.



                [1] Part of the reasoning behind this is that not much has been done on this specific topic asking these specific questions. While much has been written on resurrection and the historical reliability of the Synoptic texts, I have not found any historical Jesus scholar who has asked what the historical Jesus expected of his resurrection in relation to the general resurrection.

                [2] While I do not agree with Elledge’s method in limiting our purview of OT texts on resurrection to Daniel 12, and while I think that a better investigation of early resurrection theology in Judaism should examine all OT texts, I have nonetheless limited my scope to intertestamental Judaism for two reasons. First and foremost, I have time and space restraints on this study. Second, the purpose of this study is to determine what the historical Jesus believed about resurrection in relation to the general resurrection. Thus, we want to examine the ancient beliefs about resurrection that are immediately prior to the time of Jesus (and Paul), contemporary with Jesus (and Paul), and immediately after Jesus (and Paul). This will set the historical context and help us determine whether Jesus held similar or not so similar beliefs regarding resurrection.

Furthermore, I concur with Elledge, Wright, and Keener that there is no warrant for concerning ourselves with the dying and rising deities in ancient Greco-Roman literature.

Also, pertinent OT texts include Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6-8; Job 14:14; 19:25-27; Ps 16:10; 49:15; Hos 6:2; 13:14; Ezek 37:1-14; and Dan 12:1-3, 13.

See C. D. Elledge, “Resurrection of the Dead: Exploring Our Earliest Evidence Today,” 23-26 on his reasoning for restraints; and N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 81-84 for his reasons for restraining the scope of study.

                [3] Charlesworth, 381.

                [4] Sib. Or. 4:181-182.

                [5] Sib. Or. 4:184-189.

                [6] Regarding the corporate, it uses the plural often. For example, see “bones,” “ashes of men,” “mortals,” “they will live,” and “these pious ones,” in vv. 181-190. Regarding the individual, in v. 192 it says, “Oh most blessed, whatever man will live to that time.” Thus, it speaks of the resurrection as both corporate and individual.

                [7] Charlesworth, 775, 777-778.

                [8] T. Benj. 10:8.

                [9] T. Benj. 10:6-9. Compare this with Paul’s emphasis in Rom 1:16 where he says that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Also, in Rom 2:9-10 judgment and/or glory is first for the Jew and then for the Greek.

                [10] T. Benj. 10:6. The author names five individuals from the OT. These ones he seems to think will be raised first. Compare this with 1 Thess 4:16 where Paul says that “the dead in Christ will rise first.”

                [11] T. Benj. 10:7-9. Also, Paul seems to play off of this “all shall be changed” language in 1 Cor 15:51-52.

                [12] Sir 44:14. In Sir 37:26, it says, “and his name will live forever.” Also, Sir 39:9 says, “his memory will not disappear, and his name will live through all generations.” Similarly Sir 44:14 says, “and their names live to all generations.”

                [13] Charlseworth, 5.

                [14] 1 En. 46:5.

                [15] 1 En. 51:2.

                [16] 1 En. 92:2-3.

                [17] Charlesworth, 641. Vol 2.

                [18] This is the only passage in Pss. Sol. that uses the verb “to rise up.” Verse 12 says, “those who fear the Lord shall rise up to eternal life.” In addition, the destruction of the sinner here seems somewhat annihilistic. Verse 11 says, “The destruction of the sinner is forever, and he will not be remembered when (God) looks after the righteous.” The other three passages from Pss. Sol. all seem to share this same view.

                [19] Pss. Sol. 14:10.

                [20] Pss. Sol. 14:6, 9.

                [21] Pss. Sol. 15:13.

                [22] Pss. Sol. 15:12, 13.

                [23] Oxford Apocrypha, 102.

                [24] It says, “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” and, “their hope is full of immortality,” in 3:1 and 3:4.

                [25] See Wis 2:24-3:1 which says, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it. But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.”

                [26] Wis 3:1.

                [27] See Wis 6:18b-19 which says, “Giving heed to [wisdom’s] laws is assurance of immortality and immortality brings one near to God.”

                [28] Second Maccabees 7:9 says, “the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life.” Furthermore, 2 Macc 7:14 states that one must “cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.” Also, 2 Macc 7:23 says, “the Creator of the world…will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again.” Lastly, “Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers” is in 7:29. Thus far, 2 Macc 7 has been the most explicit in describing the details of bodily resurrection.

                [29] With regard to the corporate aspect, v. 9 uses the plural pronouns saying “God will raise us up…because we have died for his laws.” Also, v. 23 uses a second person plural reflexive pronoun “yourselves” referring to resurrection. With regard to the individual aspect, v. 29 says, “so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers.” This verse expresses both individual (you – singular) and corporate (your brothers – plural) resurrection.

                [30] 2 Macc 7:9, 23.

                [31] 2 Macc 14:46.

                [32] Second Maccabees 14:37-38 describe Razis as an exceptional Jew “who loved his fellow citizens and was very well thought of and for his good will was called father of the Jews.” This seems to be enough evidence to consider him “righteous.”