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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spirituality: Christian view of the Resurrection

Christian Views on the Resurrection

The New Testament follows the Septuagint in translating sheol as hades (compare Acts 2:27, 31 and Psalm 16:10). The New Testament thus seems to draw a distinction between Sheol and "Gehinnom" or Gehenna. The former is regarded as a place where the dead go temporarily to await resurrection (according to some traditions, including Jesus himself), while the latter is the place of eternal punishment for the damned (i.e. perdition). Accordingly, in the book of Saint John's Revelation, hades is associated with death (Revelation 1:18, 6:8), and in the final judgment the wicked dead are brought out of hades and cast into the lake of fire, which represents the fire of Gehenna; hades itself is also finally thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)

The Greek anastasisand occurs first in Matthew 22:23 for a total of 40 times in the Christian Bible. The first occurrence of the word in the Jewish Greek Bible (LXX) is in the negative at Job 14:12, "and man that has lain down (in death) shall certainly not rise again." Or, "will not be resurrected." That a resurrection is possible is inferred in verse 13, 14.

Peter cites Psalm 16:8: ‘Therefore, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath that he would seat one from the fruitage of his loins upon his throne, he saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Ha'des nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.’ (Acts 2:30-32 NWT)

In Luke 16:19-31 (the story of Lazarus and Dives), Jesus portrays hades as a place of torment, at least for the wicked. Jesus also announces to Peter that "the gates of hades" will not overpower the church (Matthew 16:18), and uses hades to pronounce judgment upon the city of Capernaum (Matthew 11:23).

Second Temple Judaism (516 BC - 70AD) What was the hope during Jesusʼ time for the afterlife and resurrection? There are various levels of belief. For example, the Sadducees did not believe in any kind of resurrection or afterlife whereas the Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection. The Sadducees originated from the Maccabean revolt of 167 BC and were the high priests and leaders after the were free of Greek rule. The Hasmoneans ruled as “priest-kings”, claiming both titles high priest and king simultaneously, and like other aristocracies across the Hellenistic world became increasingly influenced by Hellenistic syncretism and Greek philosophies: presumably Stoicism, and apparently Epicureanism in the Talmudic tradition criticizing the anti-Torah philosophy of the “Apikorsus” (i.e. Epicurus) refers to the Hasmonean clan qua Sadducees. Like Epicureans, Sadducees rejected the existence of an afterlife, thus denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.

Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees also believed in the resurrection of the dead in a future, messianic age. The Pharisees believed in a literal resurrection of the body. Since the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC, prophets like Ezekiel and Daniel wrote about the themes of exile and restoration, part of an over-arching story during the times of Jesus. Yahweh had not returned to Zion, and his presence was certainly not in the Temple. The Jewish people were expecting Yahweh to be faithful to his covenant promises, to restore Israel, to return to Zion and to defeat their oppressors, namely Rome. Passages such as Psalm 19 and Psalm 74 speak of creation and covenant together. Many Jews believed that when God finally acted to restore his people, he would restore not only their land, but all of creation.

Paul (a former Pharisee) begins to go in passages such as Romans 8. Ezekiel 37, with its passage about the valley of the dry bones which acquire, sinews, flesh and ultimately breath begins to speak of a bodily resurrection. Post-biblical Judaism offers a range of beliefs about life after death. Resurrection is by no means the only option; and, when it is specified, it is not a general word for life after death, but a term for one particular belief. Resurrection is not simply a form of ‘life after death’; resurrection hasn’t happened yet. People do not pass directly from death to resurrection, but go through an interim period, after which the death of the body will be reversed in resurrection. Resurrection does not mean ‘survival’; it is not a way of describing the kind of life one might have immediately following physical death. It is not a redescription of death and/or the state which results from death. In both paganism and Judaism it refers to the reversal, the undoing, the conquest of death and its effects. That is its whole point. That is what Homer, Plato, Aeschylus and the others denied; and it is what some Jews, and all early Christians, affirmed. Resurrection refers to a life after life -a life after-death, a re-embodiment, a defiance of death in a new body.

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