Immortality of the Soul in the Bible?


(Colin Cooper) #1

Hello @Jonathan_Burke,

You have probably forgotten our earlier conversation but if it suits you, I’d like to revive it! I had to sit law exams over the past two months, so had no time to write replies to your points. Fortunately, I do now.

Firstly, if I can get the issue of the Septuagint out of the way:

There was no Septuagint as we know it in the first century. That’s why the scholarly nomenclature for this period is “the old Greek”. And where are the unique beliefs of the deuterocanon found in the New Testament? Where are the books even cited? You’ve referred to one citation of part of the books of Enoch (nothing to do with the soul), and that’s it.

I agree with you inasmuch as there are no two Septuagint codicils I could point to which have the exact same deuterocanon, as evidenced by the three earliest manuscripts of the LXX (with the earliest Greek versions of OT books other than the Pentateuch (3rd-1st century BC) being called “Old Greek”, as you note). The ‘Septuagint’ were not translated as a set, their corporate and codified nature is largely a later construct of canonization. I’m not trying to dispute this historical fact.

But the Hebrew Canon itself appears not to have been decisively set either: the Dead Sea Scrolls , for instance, lack any manuscripts for the Book of Esther from the Ketuvim while four of the deuterocanonical books included in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles were found: that is Tobit, Sirach, Baruch 6 (also known as the Letter or Epistle of Jeremiah), and Psalm 151. Likewise in the much earlier canonical-type listing provided in the aforementioned Ben Sira (200 - 175 BCE), we find that this most primitive of witnesses to a “canon” identifies, whether directly or indirectly, each of the books of the Tanakh that would eventually become scriptural, with the notable exception of Ezra, Daniel, Ruth, Esther, and Chronicles.

Simply put, for Jews there was no universally agreed upon canon to include or exclude the “deuterocanonical” books in the first century CE.

I’m not interested per se in what ancient Jewish texts were regarded, or ultimately became regarded, as “canon”. No, what I’m concerned with is which books exerted a profound and discernible influence upon the first century CE equivalent of “popular culture” - which is why I’ve been referring to texts like 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra/2 Esdras that no major Christian denomination (other than the Ethiopian Orthodox and as a non-scriptural appendage to the Latin Vulgate for Catholics) regards as being sacred writ. Again this is not a discussion about the canon, and nor did I intend it to be such.

What do we know about the reception of these deuterocanonical and apocryphal texts? (I get the impression that you think these texts weren’t well-read among first century Jews).

Well, we know that Josephus clearly relied upon 1 Maccabees and freely used the deuterocanonical portions of Esther. The Talmudic writers, likewise, reference Baruch; the Book of Wisdom and quote repeatedly from Sirach. Philo of Alexandria had a particular reliance on Wisdom according to the prolific scholar of ancient religious studies Peter Schafer. Most importantly for our discussion, both Philo and Wisdom teach practically identical doctrines concerning the immortality of the soul, and in over two pages of cross-references David Winston has helpfully elucidated the very apparent affinity between the two authors in regard to “divine wisdom, creation, immortality and ethics, not to mention linguistic parallels”. Consider how Philo notes that “incorruption is akin to eternality” (De Arb. 55) and compare it with “God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity” (Wisdom 2:23).

The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament, which shares elements of Middle Platonist influence with Philo among other things, makes more than 30 allusions to the Book of Wisdom, Ben Sira and 2 Maccabees according to Craig A. Evans; such that one other scholar has concluded that the prologue to Hebrews (1:1-4) betrays “conscious dependence upon Wisdom while sketching the Son’s portrait, on its lexical elements and ideas”. There is also the “extensive verbal overlap between the author of Hebrews and 2 Maccabees, the latter of which records the story of the Maccabean martyrs, and the three details in Hebrews 11:35b about the specific form of torture, the martyrs’ resolve to refuse any compromises that could have spared their lives and the belief in the resurrection as a reward for martyrdom” which are recorded in 2 Maccabees and moreover “as the description continues in Heb. 11:36, there are further echoes of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother in 2 Maccabees”.

This is just a brief overview: I could cite many, many other instances specifying the influential and widespread appeal of these texts to first century authors - texts which, in terms of the Wisdom of Solomon, 2 Maccabees, Enoch and 4 Ezra, advocate belief in post-mortem but pre-judgement existence outside the body in some manner of intermediate state. The Enochic literature was very popular too, as Peter H. Davids pointed out: “What we do know is, first, that other Jewish groups, most notably those living in Qumran near the Dead Sea, also used and valued 1 Enoch .” (This is in addition to its usage by New Testament authors).

It is not surprising, therefore, to find Josephus describing how both the Pharisees and Essenes held beliefs which assumed the immortality of the soul, while the Sadducees rejected such views in Antiquities XVIII, 11-17:

> The Jews had for a great while three schools of philosophy peculiar to themselves- the Essenes, the Sadducees, and the third was that of those called Pharisees. . . .

> (12) Now, for the Pharisees…They also believe that souls have an immortal power in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, depending on whether they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life. The latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but the former shall have power to revive and live again. (15) On account of these doctrines, they are very influential among the body of the people, and whatever they do about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction. In this way, the inhabitants of the cities gave great tribute to the Pharisees by conducting themselves virtuously, both in their way of life and their discourses as well.

> (16) But the doctrine of the Sadducees is that souls die with the bodies. Nor do they regard as obligatory the observance of anything besides what the law enjoins them. For they think it an instance of virtue to dispute with those teachers of philosophy whom they frequent. (17) This doctrine is accepted only by a few…

His statements here are corroborated by the New Testament, namely the Book of Acts:

Acts 23: 6-9: “…_****6Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee"When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?_**…”

Like Josephus in his Antiquities, Acts refers to the Pharisees’ belief in disembodied spirits and angels, pared with the Sadducees rejection of these concepts. From Josephus, we learn that the Pharisees and their doctrines were “very influential among the body of the people”, something that the New Testament and the later Talmudic authors both attest to as well.

The prevalence of this theological presumption regarding the existence of disembodied human souls after death was such that the American scholar and Emeritus Professor of the Hebrew Bible, Lester L. Grabbe, could write: “It was a view of the soul similar to that in Platonism which became widespread in Judaism in the last century or so BCE” (Wisdom of Solomon p.54).

Basically, populist first century Judaism had inherited notions of an intermediate disembodied state in Hades (“Abraham’s Bosom” for the righteous and punishment for the wicked), immortality of the soul, disembodied spirits and the resurrection of the dead from influential earlier texts (i.e. the Book of Daniel, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra etc.) that had become very widespread among the Pharisees, Essenes and others such as Philo. This forms an important backdrop to the popular culture of the New Testament authors, with St. Paul having actually been a Pharisee and Jesus himself having had much in common with this school (certainly over against the Sadducees).

After all, Paul was educated as a Pharisee and still claimed to be a Pharisee in Acts, so it is not surprising to find him admitting belief in the possibility of out-of-body revelatory experiences in 2 Corinthians 12:2:

“I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows”

Pharisees believed in disembodied spirits, as evidenced by Josephus and Acts. Paul did too. An advocate of soul sleep or Sadducee-like mortalism could not have admitted this as being even a theoretical possibility, let alone a plausible one.

Luke, who also authored Acts, assumes this pre-existent framework for his Parable of Dives and Lazarus. Consider for a moment the standard definition of parabolic literature. Dr. Kenneth Boa states that:

Parables are extended figures of comparison that often use short stories to teach a truth or answer a question. While the story in a parable is not historical, it is true to life, not a fairy tale. As a form of oral literature, the parable exploits realistic situations but makes effective use of the imagination

We have no other examples of a parable being attributed to Jesus that employs anything beyond “normal”, universally accepted “everyday” things. This is precisely why Jesus’s parables involve situations like a woman baking bread (parable of the Leaven), a man knocking on his neighbor’s door at night (parable of the Friend at Night), or the aftermath of a roadside mugging (parable of the Good Samaritan).

They are meant to be stories with realistic, true to life situations. In that vein, we should interpret the assumed background of an afterlife intermediate existence in Hades prior to the Last Judgement, as an instance of Jesus taking and presupposing a situation that seemed perfectly normal, realistic and expected to the Jews of his day.

As much as the idea of a man dying and his spirit being carried away by angels to the abode of the dead to enjoy happiness with the Patriarch Abraham might seem otherworldly and unrealistic to our modern sensibilities, it wouldn’t have seemed so to Jesus’s original audience.

Parables are not fairy tales set in magical situations. Jesus did not tell fairy tales involving wholly fictional and purely abstract metaphysical doctrines that bear no relation to the reality already assumed by both he and his listeners.

So, as I said earlier on in my last post, Jesus’ audience in the Lukan parable of Lazarus already assumed the actual existence of this intermediate, disembodied state in Hades (described in the Book of Enoch and in 4 Ezra), where the souls of the righteous are with Abraham in a “blessed” quarter and the ungodly dwell in suffering in another quarter.

Luke does not question this belief but assumes it as part of the background for Jesus’ parable about the wealthy neglecting the poor, just like he assumes a background of highway robbers and Samaritans familiar to his audience in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The intertestamental texts were popular during the lifetime of Jesus and formed part of the intellectual currents.


Is There a Better Way to Persuade EC Skeptics?
(Jon) #2

No I haven’t forgotten. In particular I haven’t forgotten that you didn’t respond to the link I gave you previously which took you to a summary of the scholarly consensus on the topic with regard to both the Old and New Testaments.

This isn’t in dispute, so we’ll skip this.

You get the wrong impression. If you have read any of my work touching on the influence of Second Temple Period Judaism on first century Judaism and early Christianity, you will see me take the completely opposite position. In my examination of the satan in the synoptic wilderness temptation pericope, for example, I cite Apocalypse of Sedrach, 1 Maccabees, Story of Ahikar, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, 1 Enoch, Slavonic Enoch, Jubilees, History of the Rechabites, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Testament of Job, Pseudo-Ezekiel, Ascension of Moses, Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, Life of Adam and Eve, Philo, and the Qumran literature.

This isn’t in dispute either. But it is not enough to say “We find X in Second Temple Period Judaism of the first century, therefore Jesus and the apostles believed X”. The wide gulf between the views of the Pharisees and the Sadducees reminds us that first century Judaism was highly variegated, and far from uniform. So if you want to argue that Paul believed in an immortal soul which went to heaven or hell at death, then you need to actually do the exegeetical work to demonstrate this. As I said previously, “Where’s this stuff when Paul is teaching about sin, death, judgement and resurrection?”.

“There is no concept of an immortal soul in the Old Testament, nor does the New Testament ever call the human soul immortal.”, Alister E McGrath, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1995), 101.


“Indeed, the salvation of the “immortal soul” has sometimes been a commonplace in preaching, but it is fundamentally unbiblical. Biblical anthropology is not dualistic but monistic: human being consists in the integrated wholeness of body and soul, and the Bible never contemplates the disembodied existence of the soul in bliss.”, Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 518.


(Colin Cooper) #3

Hello again Jonathan,

Thank you for replying.

I read the link to the Wikipedia article when you first gave me it but I don’t agree that it attests to any present and incontrovertible “scholarly consensus”. In fact it relies on an increasingly old-fashioned paradigm that many biblical experts are now beginning to move away from in favour of a much more nuanced picture i.e.

http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195393361/obo-9780195393361-0003.xml

_Scholars also now hotly debate the older, commonplace position that the idea of a soul, separable from the body, played little or no role in preexilic Israel. Is it really true that the Israelites believed in little more than the perpetuation of the name and memory of the family dead? Recent approaches to Israelite religion that are increasingly informed by archaeological artifacts are defending the view that Israel’s beliefs in an afterlife were much more vibrant than many scholars have been willing to admit. Certainly, a variety of Ugaritic and Aramaic texts reveal a lively fascination with disembodied shades and the practice of cults of the dead. This milieu must have affected Israelites and their experience of death in substantial ways. What is more, newer studies drawing on cross-cultural parallels are emphasizing the crucial role that deceased (“living-dead”) ancestors generally play in traditional societies such as old Israel, where ties of lineage, tenure on ancestral land, and burial at the homestead form core building blocks of societal organization. Scholarship is raising different sets of questions about views of afterlife and resurrection in early Judaism and early Christianity, but the research here has been no less energized in recent years. The approaches to death and afterlife of early Judaism(s) are looking increasingly rich and varied. Scholars are mining new insights about the variety of perspectives at issue from sources such as Josephus, the Qumran texts, the apocalypses, and Jewish epitaph inscriptions. At the same time, scholars recognize how, from the Second Temple era on, an interaction with the cultures of Greece and Rome is discernible in the late biblical writers. A number of significant up-to-date studies are now available illuminating Greek and Roman eschatology and burial practice. Students of the New Testament will be interested in these studies as well as in recent work outlining the multiple perspectives on afterlife within differing New Testament texts. They will also be drawn to focused exegetical studies of such fascinating texts on afterlife and resurrection as Luke’s story of the Rich Man and Lazarus and Paul’s reference to “baptism on account of the dead.”_

It’s not as clear-cut as you are making out, not anymore. Later on in this Oxford bibliography of some of the relevant literature, you will find the author referring plainly to: “the now-contested view that the Hebrew Bible lacks a vision of an afterlife and understands death as the natural cessation of life.”

Personally, I wouldn’t rely for my argument on an article in Wikipedia either. Even though it is referenced, that does not mean it is presenting a full and unbiased picture of the state of scholarship.

Moreover, the article conflates various ideas including that of mortalism (“the soul dies with the body”) and that of soul sleep where we remain asleep until the resurrection. It also cites N. T. Wright but Wright holds neither position, of course.

Wright believes, rightly I think, that a disembodied existence outside the body was not the final end of Christians in the NT texts but a resurrection in a glorified physical body. He did not deny that the NT betrays belief in an intermediate state, in fact he argues in support of the intermediate state.

You get the wrong impression. If you have read any of my work touching on the influence of Second Temple Period Judaism on first century Judaism and early Christianity, you will see me take the completely opposite position

Then please accept my apology for unintentionally misrepresenting your position. What I don’t understand, however, is why you are being selective with the influence exerted by these texts and think that their view of Satan had wide-ranging currency in the wider cultural milieu, while their understanding of death and the afterlife state (which are central facets of some of these writings, particularly the visionary-apocalyptic accounts), did not - when we have abundant evidence to the contrary with respect to the popular reception of the intermediate state prior to the resurrection among first century Jews, first delineated or alluded to in a number of these writings.

On this intermediate state, David Rankin has noted:

For many scholars, including NT Wright it is their general reading of the New Testament as supporting the notion of an intermediate state between death and the final resurrection

Yes, “many scholars” and for good reason too given the textual evidence testifying to the popularity of this particular afterlife schema at the time when the NT books were written.

This isn’t in dispute either. But it is not enough to say “We find X in Second Temple Period Judaism of the first century, therefore Jesus and the apostles believed X”. The wide gulf between the views of the Pharisees and the Sadducees reminds us that first century Judaism was highly variegated, and far from uniform. So if you want to argue that Paul believed in an immortal soul which went to heaven or hell at death, then you need to actually do the exegeetical work to demonstrate this. As I said previously, “Where’s this stuff when Paul is teaching about sin, death, judgement and resurrection?”.

I am engaging in exegetical analysis of the relevant verses but I’m also contextualizing them within their wider cultural milieu and backdrop. The NT books were not written in a vacuum.

Two things here: I didn’t say Paul, indeed I’ve never claimed that he, believed in a naturally immortal soul which goes to “heaven or hell” as contemporary churches understand it. Rather, I claimed there is evidence to believe he, along with the author of Luke-Acts, presupposes the reality of an intermediate state between our mortal, embodied life and the resurrection of the dead, characterised by a disembodied conscious existence.

I then demonstrated to you that belief in this had become widespread in both the intertestamental literature (which had broad readership in the first century and influenced the NT authors, who either directly quoted or indirectly alluded to these texts on numerous occasions, sometimes even using them to form the theoretical underpinning of their arguments) and had become the standard position held by Pharisees in Palestine, Hellenistic Jews in the diaspora etc. Moreover, on the basis of Josephus’ testimony and Acts, we know both that the Pharisees did indeed take such a position on the soul and that their position on the soul had become the most popular opinion of the Jews of Jesus’ era.

Josephus tells us that the Pharisees earned the backing and goodwill of the common Jewish people in the first century, explicitly using as the paradigmatic example their belief in an afterlife in contrast to the more elitist and mortalist Sadducees associated with the ruling classes.

There were really two major/general views of the afterlife among Jews in the first century (outside the Essene position and some Hellenistic Jewish minority reports emphasising soul immortality alone, derived directly from Platonism).

One view—which was the clear minority position held by the Sadducees—claimed that there was no afterlife at all, neither resurrection of the body nor disembodied existence. Jesus and the Apostles rejected the Sadducee position, as is evidenced by the NT.

The other view—which was the majority position held by the Pharisees and the common people —claimed that the dead would be resurrected on the last day following an intermediate, disembodied state in Sheol/Hades or with the angels in paradise, heavily influenced by earlier intertestamental literature.

Because the Pharisees were the only Jewish sect to survive the collapse of the Temple in AD 70, evolving into Rabbincal Judaism as codified in the Talmud/Mishnah, their view of the afterlife became the Orthodox Jewish doctrine. It also became the primary doctrine on the afterlife presumed by the Early Church, which made use of a similar two-stage schema.

The belief in this intermediate state does not conflict in anyway with Paul’s “teaching about sin, death, judgement and resurrection”, indeed the intermediate soul idea caught on as a seemingly necessary element of the already well-established understanding of the resurrection of the dead, particularly among the Pharisees, which Paul shared.

See also:

https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9781315613673.ch2

Scripture and Philosophy on the Unity of Body and Soul

An Integrative Method for Theological Anthropology_

Authored by: John W. Cooper_
Research Companion to Theological Anthropology_

Print publication date: February 2015

It is important to consider Second Temple Judaism because it bridges the Old and New Testaments. The eschatological writings of the period are varied and diverse, but three important positions are relevant. The Sadducees held that Sheol symbolizes annihilation, appreciated Greek materialism, and did not believe in an afterlife. Philo of Alexandria used Plato to articulate the immortality of the soul and spiritual resurrection. The Pharisees and rabbis developed the Old Testament teachings about Sheol and future resurrection into a two-stage view—a conscious intermediate state until the resurrection and final judgment at the coming of the Messiah. A number of texts from this period refer to the dead awaiting resurrection as souls or spirits, an elaboration of their Old Testament meanings. Like the Old Testament, the anthropology of the Pharisees valued the body and emphasized resurrection. Its dualistic holism is a third option between Platonism and materialism. 11 There is no precedent for immediate bodily resurrection or non-existence until future resurrection, the two monist eschatologies.
The New Testament adapts the view of the Pharisees and rabbis. 12 In Acts 23:6–8, Paul identifies with the Pharisees against the Sadducees regarding the existence of angels, the spirits of the dead, and the resurrection. This is a key to understanding Paul’s letters. When all his assertions are combined into a coherent whole, they present a two-stage eschatology of fellowship with Christ until future resurrection. In 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 (Philippians 1:20–22 is parallel), remaining alive is “at home in the body and away from the Lord,” whereas death is “to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:52, he dates the resurrection at the future return of Christ. Together these texts envision continuing fellowship with Christ between bodily death and future bodily resurrection. There is no gap in fellowship with Christ and no immediate resurrection. With respect to anthropological terminology, Paul does not write that his soul or spirit will be with Christ but I—the first person pronoun—“I … in the body or apart from the body,” a meaning which soul and spirit sometimes share. He also uses the first person in 2 Corinthians 12:2–4, where he wonders whether he left his body to visit Paradise in the Third Heaven while still alive. Surely Paul believed that persons can exist without their bodies. 13
More fundamental than Paul is Jesus. Luke 23:43 makes clear that Jesus was with the thief in Paradise between his death and resurrection. Jesus is truly human as well as true God. He enacted a two-stage eschatology in which there is neither an existential gap nor an immediate resurrection. His disembodied human spirit existed between his death and resurrection, not just his divinity. His journey through death to resurrection blazes the trail for all who find salvation in him to follow (1 Cor. 15:20). Meanwhile, the gift of eternal life in him means that, although we die physically, we never die spiritually [cease to exist] as we await final resurrection (Jn. 11:25–6). Not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:38–9). All these texts promise continuous existence in God’s plan of salvation.
With respect to terminology, the spirits of the existent dead are mentioned in Acts 23:8, Hebrews 12:22-24 and 1 Peter 3:19. The disciples thought that Jesus was a spirit—a ghost, a dead human—when they saw him walking on water (Matt. 14:26, Mk. 6:49). He assured them he was not a ghost when he appeared on Easter evening (Luke 24:37–9). Jesus warns his hearers to fear God, who can destroy body and soul (psyche) in hell, and not humans, who can kill the body but not the soul (Matt. 10:28). 14 The souls of the martyrs in Revelation 6:9–11 await resurrection and final justice at the end of history, as well as the 144,000 saints of the church triumphant who surround God’s throne in Revelation 7. Soul and spirit do sometimes refer realistically to the not yet resurrected dead.
Given the texts and context, the most natural and reasonable conclusion is that the New Testament, like prominent strands of Second Temple Judaism, speaks of body, soul, and spirit dualistically in connection with death and the afterlife.


(George Brooks) #4

@Vouthon

So where do you suppose the Hebrew Bible hides its vision of an afterlife?

We have Samuel’s spirit being called up by a witch from his very “Greek-like context” of an afterlife.
And we have a 2 or 3 texts that can be arguably presented as a notion of an afterlife.

Why isn’t the Jewish bible loaded with references to an afterlife, equivalent to the robust treatment we get from Egyptian religious documents, and even Syrian documents and inscriptions prior to the Persian Empire’s arrival?

My personal view is that the Jewish Priests (the Sadducee faction) believed an afterlife was the special privilege of a handful of righteous men (mostly encountered and recorded in Biblical history already) and to the Priests with the exclusive merit and knowledge to allow it. If everyone else were included, and especially if it were a General Resurrection, the Afterlife would be very crowded and not very special!

If we are to take the New Testament period witnesses seriously, there is really no other explanation for why the High Priestly families would “say they dont believe in resurrection”. It would not be in their interests to admit it!

But archaeologically, we see that the Hebrew kingdoms were quite familiar with scarab symbols and others (influenced by lengthy exposure to Egyptian hegemony) which literally symbolized human survival after death. The Sadducees, no doubt, were not archaeologists… nor perhaps fans of Egyptian culture.

But the Jewish Bible has clearly been scoured of casual and/or explicit references to any afterlife like the one that the Pharisees, Essenes, Persians or Egptians notoriously took for granted!


(Jon) #5

May I suggest you re-read it? Especially quotations such as these.

  • Twentieth century biblical scholarship largely agrees that the ancient Jews had little explicit notion of a personal afterlife until very late in the Old Testament period. Immortality of the soul was a typically Greek philosophical notion quite foreign to the thought of ancient Semitic peoples.”

  • A broad consensus emerged among biblical and theological scholars that soul-body dualism is a Platonic, Hellenistic idea that is not found anywhere in the Bible

  • “The general consensus is that the Old Testament rejected any natural or innate immortality.”

No it doesn’t. I don’t think you are reading your source correctly. I’ll explain this in stages. First let’s look at the article you quoted. Let’s start with the earlier part you missed out.

Few modern biblical scholars continue to associate the Hebrew Bible with an otherworldly heaven, an immaterial soul ensnared in a physical prison, or death as an experience of liberation. The biblical world simply did not oppose spirit and matter, mind and body, in these sorts of ways.

Straight away it says what the quotations in the Wikipedia article says. That’s right at the start of the article. These are the second and third sentences. That is not out of date, it is not “increasingly old-fashioned”, it’s still the current consensus. So what are scholars actually debating? Well let’s find out from the article.

What scholars are currently debating is whether belief in a soul and belief in corporeal resurrection are incompatible and whether the idea of resurrection was a very late (Maccabean?) and possibly foreign (Zoroastrian?) phenomenon in Israel, or whether it had much deeper, indigenous roots.

This doesn’t contradict the quotations in the Wkipedia article either. And personally I am delighted that scholars are starting to think that resurrection might appear earlier in the Hebrew Bible than has commonly been thought. I agree with that. But this still isn’t saying that the Hebrew Bible (or New Testament), taught a body/soul dualism, or an immortal soul or intermediate state of any kind, and it’s not saying that scholars are now saying that it did. That is not what the current debate is about.

Now let’s move on to the point at which you actually started quoting from the article.

Scholars also now hotly debate the older, commonplace position that the idea of a soul, separable from the body, played little or no role in preexilic Israel.

I have highlighted the important words. Again this is not actually new to anyone who has been following this subject. This is talking about the relatively recent investigation into the distinction between folk and elite religion in pre-exilic Israel. And note the context of this sentence; it is talking about “preexilic Israel”, the society, not the biblical text (we already saw the very forthright description of what the biblical text says).

Let’s move on.

Recent approaches to Israelite religion that are increasingly informed by archaeological artifacts are defending the view that Israel’s beliefs in an afterlife were much more vibrant than many scholars have been willing to admit. Certainly, a variety of Ugaritic and Aramaic texts reveal a lively fascination with disembodied shades and the practice of cults of the dead. This milieu must have affected Israelites and their experience of death in substantial ways.

Again, this is just the same stuff you find in the discussion of folk religion in books and articles by writers such as Israel Finkelstein and William Dever. Writers such as Dever in particular (all the way back in 2001), make the point that these views, while diffused through Hebrew society as low level folk religion, are not found in the elite religion of the biblical texts.

Early Judaism is post-exilic.

Again, post-exilic, and examining Second Temple Period non-biblical texts. Emphasis on non-biblical.

This isn’t new either. You can find this in standard Bible encyclopedias and commentaries, including those quoted in the Wikipedia article. In fact a couple of the quotations in the article actually say this and give examples. But again, there’s nothing here which contradicts the consensus I cited previously.

So now let’s get back to your comments.

Sure it is. The consensus I cited isn’t described as contested in the article. Not even in the next part you quote. Let’s look at that.

This is fine, it doesn’t contradict the consensus I cited previously, which was about theological anthropology and the immortal soul in the Old and New Testaments. I’m delighted with the idea of scholars contesting the view “that the Hebrew Bible lacks a vision of an afterlife and understands death as the natural cessation of life”, because what they’re talking about there is pushing the concept of resurrection back into the pre-exilic era (instead of the post-exilic era). They’re not talking about an immortal soul, because they already told us the Bible doesn’t teach that. Remember this, from the start of the article.

Few modern biblical scholars continue to associate the Hebrew Bible with an otherworldly heaven, an immaterial soul ensnared in a physical prison, or death as an experience of liberation. The biblical world simply did not oppose spirit and matter, mind and body, in these sorts of ways.

So let’s move on.

Personally, I wouldn’t rely for my argument on an article in Wikipedia either.

Nor would I. So I didn’t. I directed you to the scholarly sources cited in the article, because a number of them are very recent, and a number of them make an explicit reference to the current consensus. Yes, current; most of them are later than most of the sources cited by the article you posted. The article to which you linked was written back in 2009, and most of the works it cites are earlier than that. This is important because it cites as “recent” and “up to date”, articles which were written earlier than some of the works I cited. In addition to the article, I also gave you a couple of sources myself.

Oh now I know you’ve skimmed the article. The article differentiates between soul sleep (psychopannychism), and soul death (thnetopsychism), and notes that they have historically both been characterized as forms of mortalism. Additionally, the article states explicitly that NT Wright says “the Bible offers a spectrum of belief about life after death”, and does not attribute mortalism or any kind of soul sleep to NT Wright at all.

This isn’t what I am doing. If you had read my work you would know this. When I cited all those words in my article on satan in the wilderness temptation, I did not say that their view of satan “had wide-ranging currency in the wider cultural milieu”. On the contrary, I pointed out that they had a range of different concepts of “satan”, and some of them had no concept of satan at all.

This was my conclusion after reviewing the Second Temple Period literature (this is quoted directly from my paper.

  1. The term ‘satan’ is used in Sirach 21:27 of the evil inclination. It is also used in 1 Enoch (41:9; 53:3; 54:6), Jubilees (23:29; 40:9; 46:2; 50:5), Qumran texts 1QH 4:6; 45:3; 1QSb 1:8, 4Q504 1–2 iv 12, and Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (TDan 3:6; 5:6; 6:1, TGad 4:7, TAsh 6:4), as a common noun, not used of a unique referent as a proper noun or name. In 1 Enoch it is used of an obedient angelic servant of God, and in 11Q5 xix 13-16 (the ‘Prayer for Deliverance’), it refers to the evil inclination.

  2. The term ‘the devil’ is used in the Old Greek in 1 Chronicles 21:1 (of the adversary which attacks Israel, prompting David’s census), Esther 7:4; 8:1 (of Haman), Psalm 108:6 (of a human slanderer), Job 1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7 (of Job’s adversary), and Zechariah 3:1-2 (of the accuser of Joshua). It is found in Wisdom of Solomon (2:24), where it most likely refers to Cain, and 1 Maccabees (1:36), used of human adversaries. Significantly, in all these texts it is always found in the form of ‘the devil’, even though the term clearly does not have the same referent in each passage. This is evidence that the term was not understood at this time of a unique referent, certainly not an established term for a specific supernatural being, evil or otherwise. It is found in Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (TNaph 3:1; 8:4, 6, TAsh 1:9; 3:2), and possibly Ascension of Moses, but there is no evidence these texts predate the Synoptics.

  3. The term ‘the evil one’ has no Second Temple pre-Christian witness, prompting many scholars to argue that ton ponērou should not even be read as ‘the evil one’ in Matthew; several times in the Talmudic literature ‘evil one’ is used in the vocative of the evil inclination.

  4. The term ‘the tempter’ has no Second Temple pre-Christian witness; it is also absent from the Apostolic Fathers.

This substantiates the observation that “we lack an established tradition whereby the name of the personal Evil or the leader of demons is Satan” by Antti Laato, “The Devil In The Old Testament,” in Evil and the Devil (ed. Erkki Koskenniemi and Ida Fröhlich; Library of New Testament Studies; A&C Black, 2013), 4. This is a result which many people would find surprising, because they simply assume the opposite; they simply assume that since there was a widespread belief in supernatural evil in Second Temple Period Judaism, then first century Jews in Palestine believed in a supernatural fallen angel called “Satan” who had an army of fallen angels called “demons”. The facts are otherwise, and there is clear evidence in Second Temple Period Judaism right through to the first century, that a number of Jews rejected supernatural evil, even while believing in God and angels. There is also evidence that this view was preserved in early Christianity, and that it became a minority view in the second century.

I am not claiming that their views on death and the afterlife did not have wide ranging currency.

Of course they weren’t written in a vacuum. That’s why we need to look at the entire socio-historical context, not just part of it. So far you’ve presented some of the context, and then made an argument which basically says “Given this [partial representation of the] context, we can conclude a priori that the New Testament writers held the Pharisees’ position on the immortal soul and intermediate state”. Where is your examination of the rest of the context? Where is your description of Second Temple Period mortalism? As I’ve said more than once, it’s not enough to wave a hand at the context (especially only some of it), and then make conclusions. You need to do the hard work to demonstrate which part of the overall context is actually found in the biblical texts.

That wasn’t my question. Please look back at my post and see what I actually asked.

I didn’t say anything about how “contemporary churches understand it”. But the Pharisees believed in a naturally immortal soul which went to heaven or hell at death. Do you believe Paul believed that?

And I pointed out that references to such texts are not found when the New Testament writers are actually talking about sin, death, and post-death judgment, Where are all the intertestamental passages about the immortal soul and going to paradise or hell at death, quoted in the New Testament? How many of them are there? How often do the New Testament writers cite the intertestamental texts when explicating or discussing these specific topics? For example, how many of the New Testament writers cite Maccabees as evidence that praying for the dead will help ensure a better outcome at eschatological judgment?

But where are your references to Second Temple Period mortalism, and second to eighth century Christian mortalism?


(George Brooks) #6

@Vouthon

One thing that will help in your discussion with Jonathan is that, as I recall from my prior discussions with him, ultimately he is not challenging the idea that faithful Christians are awarded with immortality.

He is challenging the idea that God created souls with immortality. Depending on how you paraphrase him, @Jonathan_Burke might agree that God created human souls with the intention of being awarded immortality … but it is not the natural state of the human soul.

Something to keep in mind , but which I don’t believe Jonathan has much interest in, is that the Essenes seem to parallel Zoroastrian metaphysics more closely than anyone else in the New Testament.

In a book usually associated with the Essenes (The History of the Rechabites), souls depart their deceased body and travel to a paradise island, permanently separated from all mortals by a river (or ocean channel?).

There, the souls reside in blessed contentedness until either the End of Days, or until such time that the Lord sends angels to fetch a person he requires to be in his presence.

What would be interesting to map is how the “dominant view” in the New Testament, of “sleeping until the resurrection”, was eventually displaced by the rival view that souls depart their bodies and exist elsewhere - - vividly displayed in such sentiments as people dying and becoming guardian angels to their loved ones!

The common Western view runs much more closely to the Essene view of “relatively immediate separation of soul from the body” than to anything the Pharisees taught… or even anything the New Testament teaches - - but with a couple of exceptions:

The parable of the Rich Man in Hell (speaking to Abraham in Heaven) appears to be more Essene than Pharisaic.
And the parable of the woman who marries 7 brothers may also be more Essene than Pharisaic.
The most notorious presentation of a view of afterlife that differs from the Pharisees or the Sadducees comes from Josephus’ discussion of the Eleazar ben Ya’ir’s inspirational speech in favor of martyrdom (the night before the final Roman breakthrough at Masada).

Whether this speech was actually made or not, Josephus is clearly telling his audience about a view of the afterlife that differs from the Pharisees and from the Sadducees.


(Colin Cooper) #7

Jonathan,

Thanks for the lengthy reply!

I’ll deal with the OT dimension primarily, in this post, if that’s OK, with just a few points regarding the intermediate state in the NT. But I will address the other points you’ve raised (for instance about St. Paul) in a subsequent response. Our discussion is getting too wide in scope for me to keep track otherwise and the Pauline aspect of this demands thorough attention in its own right.

First things first, when I wrote: “I don’t agree that it attests to any present and incontrovertible scholarly consensus”, I wasn’t denying the article pitches for this but rather arguing that it doesn’t accurately do so, on the basis that it contends in favour of a consensus which is already in the process of being displaced by a newer, more complicated (and indeed nuanced) paradigm, in my opinion.

Quite simply: until the early 20th century a pre-modern, classical interpretation of the Bible held sway over much of the relevant scholarship. It erred in applying alien notions of afterlife with a basis in Greek dualism to its exegesis of the scriptures. This was supplanted in the 20th century by a fresh paradigm guided essentially by mortalism (or, in its softer articulation, lack of interest by the ancient Hebrews) as concerned the survival of the soul in the Tanakh and an emphasis (in the latter case rightly) upon bodily resurrection post-exile/Maccabean period and in the New Testament, allegedly derived from Persian or other influence. This “consensus” has in turn been widely critiqued by recent scholarship on ‘Israelite religion’, “which has sought to interpret Israelite understandings of death in terms of the religious patterns of neighboring cultures” while emphasizing the intermediate state for understanding elements of the afterlife alluded to in the New Testament corpus. This recent trend perhaps over-exaggerates the predominance of soul-related beliefs in the Hebrew Bible, just as the preceding ‘consensus’ strived too hard to avoid and/or outright dismiss them.

A number of the most up-to-date - and in my opinion intellectually robust scholarship - retrieves much that was true in the earlier accounts but also attempts to correct the errors, by locating both the belief in post-mortem soul survival and the resurrection of the dead far deeper and earlier in the Jewish tradition (prior to any alien influences from Greece, Persia and Babylon), to such an extent that “in the Second Temple period these ideas and ideals joined up and surfaced in Israel’s conscious faith” in the schema adhered to in the intertestamental literature, with influence at this latter stage from other cultures merely restoring and refining intuitions already known primordially to the Hebrews. For the resurrection side of this argument, see Jon Levenson’s Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (2006).

I believe you have misunderstood the import of my source (ironically in the very process of attempting to clarify my own apparent misconceptions regarding it). Allow me to explain the reasons why.

Firstly, the introductory article to the Oxford bibliography was written by Stephen L. Cook. This is important.

You asked:

So what are scholars actually debating? Well let’s find out from the article.

What scholars are currently debating is whether belief in a soul and belief in corporeal resurrection are incompatible and whether the idea of resurrection was a very late (Maccabean?) and possibly foreign (Zoroastrian?) phenomenon in Israel, or whether it had much deeper, indigenous roots.

Note the statement in bold, referring to the soul (that is, as a separable entity surviving independently from the body in the literature underneath) and the corporeal resurrection. An argument outlined in a number of the articles/books from that Oxford bibliography, for instance Clark-Soles, Jaime. Death and the Afterlife in the New Testament. (2006) for the New Testament in tandem with Cook, Stephen L. “Funerary Practices and Afterlife Expectations in Ancient Israel.” (2007) and Cook, Stephen L. “Death, Kinship, and Community: Afterlife and the חסד Ideal in Israel.” (2009) for the Old Testament rests precisely, in part, upon the contention that these concepts are (1) not incompatible but rather mutually presupposed within a broader schema and (2) already present in the respective texts under examination, at least in a primitive form.

These arguments, which concern the survival of the “soul” post-mortem but prior to any projected general corporeal resurrection, are not in conflict with the introductory paragraph that you quoted:

Few modern biblical scholars continue to associate the Hebrew Bible with an otherworldly heaven, an immaterial soul ensnared in a physical prison, or death as an experience of liberation. The biblical world simply did not oppose spirit and matter, mind and body, in these sorts of ways.

This quote in the introduction to the bibliography is lifted directly from one of the three articles I’ve just mentioned, namely Stephen Cook (2007) see here on his blog:

http://biblische.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/once-again-afterlife-expectations-in.html

“Funerary Practices and Afterlife Expectations in Ancient Israel,” Religion Compass 1/6 (November 2007)

It is generally agreed that pre-modern, classical interpretation of the Bible erred grievously in applying alien notions of afterlife based in Greek dualism to its readings of the Hebrew Scriptures. Few modern biblical scholars continue to associate the Hebrew Bible with an otherworldly heaven, an immaterial soul ensnared in a physical prison, or death as an experience of liberation

It is copied-and-pasted verbatim, and yet Cook argues at the very beginning of this peer-reviewed article and indeed throughout it as follows:

Abstract

Ancient Israel was thoroughly familiar with existence beyond death. Individual personalities survived the death of the body, most Israelites believed, albeit in a considerably weakened and vulnerable state. The ensnaring tentacles of Sheol constantly threatened the living-dead, but the fortunate among them were able to use the power of kinship bonds to keep Sheol’s threats at bay…

Despite some clear insights, major cracks have developed in the post-World War II consensus on Israelite thanatology and researchers have blazed ahead in new directions. Let me mention three key problems

Despite claims to the contrary, specific biblical texts (to be reviewed below) unambiguously attest that Israelites had an idea of an underworld and a concrete belief in the continuation of the human personality after death.

Third, recent scholarship on Ugaritic and Aramaic texts and on cults of the dead in the ancient Semitic world has revealed a lively belief in shades of the dead in Israel’s milieu, which must have impacted Israelites and their experience of death in substantial ways. In light of this evidence, the idea of Krister Stendahl (1984, p. 196) that the world coming to us through the Bible ‘is not interested’ in the soul appears patently erroneous

A position diametrically opposite to Stendahl’s confronts us from the side of recent scholarship on ‘Israelite religion’, which has sought to interpret Israelite understandings of death in terms of the religious patterns of neighboring cultures. Whereas many mainline biblical scholars of the twentieth-century tended to see living souls of the dead nowhere in the Hebrew Bible, this new camp tends to see them hidden throughout, often in unexpected places such as behind the fifth commandment (Exod 20:12) or in the rite of piercing a slave’s ear (Exod 21:6). It is fair to say that biblical scholars are currently divided between the position that ancient Israelites had no belief in spirits and the position that they had rather pronounced dealings with them

The soul’s continuation despite death was assumed in Israelite culture, as it was in Israel’s ancient Near Eastern milieu. Among the ample textual evidence for post-mortem survival in the Hebrew Scriptures are the following passages, which are particularly clear about the matter: 1 Sam 28; Isa 8:19; 10:18; 14:9–10; Ezek 32:21; and Gen 35:18.

The Hebrew belief in a ‘soul’ (נפשׁ) separable from the body would be undeniable even if our only evidence was 1 Kgs 17:17–24, the account of Elijah’s raising of the widow’s son. The wording of Elijah’s prayer to God assures us the boy is indeed dead (v. 20). He does not stay dead for long. Thanks to Elijah’s wonder-working efforts, ‘the child’s soul [נפשׁ] came back into his body and he revived’ (v. 22 NJB). (Prophetic legends about Elijah, such as this one, stem from an indeterminate number of decades after the ninth-century B.C.E. events that they depict. They were eventually incorporated into their present literary context in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E.)

Death does not terminate the soul (נפשׁ) in Israelite thinking, but it certainly enfeebles and threatens it

The thought of Ps 22:29 is captured well by the NAB version: ‘All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage’. In like manner, Isa 26:19 (another postexilic text) speaks specifically of the rising of the corpses of dead Israelites, namely, ‘your dead ones’. Far from mere metaphor, Isa 26 anticipates a vision of actual resurrection that forms a basis for the well-know resurrection faith of Dan 12:1–3.

Israel was long familiar with the idea that the dead could be awakened (cf. 1 Kgs 17:17–24; 2 Kgs 4:8–37; 13:21; Hos 6:2; Ezek 37; Isa 53:9–10). So too, from early on, a core biblical ideal entailed the joy and fulfillment of embodied human community. In the Second Temple period, in texts such as Dan 12:1–3, these ideas and ideals joined up and surfaced in Israel’s conscious faith.

As such, the alternative approaches based upon Greek dualistic foundations that Cook outlined in his 2007 article, and which were reiterated in that 2010 bibliography, are quite obviously erroneous premises that neither I, nor anyone else explaining or expressing belief in an interim, post-mortem but disembodied state prior to bodily resurrection, would ever countenance let alone defend.

If you are of the mind that these views are what was intended by my references to the interim state in “Hades” (which presupposes a completely different theological anthropology and appraisal of the flesh) or earlier Hebraic beliefs about the soul, then I must have been extremely poor in outlining my position on the ‘intermediate state’ in particular, because it has absolutely nothing at all in common with an “otherwordly heaven, immaterial soul ensnared in a physical prison” or indeed Valentinian Gnostic style “liberation”.

Let me demonstrate, with reference to some helpful distinctions provided by the early church father St. Justin Martyr, the gulf in meaning between the intertestamental/Pharisaic intermediate state from other theories in antiquity and later exegesis postulating a pre-modern, classical basis for the immortal soul that “in interpreting the Bible grievously erred in applying alien notions of afterlife based based in Greek dualism to its readings of the Hebrew scriptures” (Cook, Stephen; Funerary Practices. (2007)).

Consider Dialogue with Trypho 80.4:

If you have ever encountered any nominal Christians who do not admit this doctrine [i.e. the doctrine of God], but dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob by asserting that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that their souls are taken up to heaven at the very moment of their death, do not consider them to be real Christians, just as one, after careful examination, would not acknowledge as Jews the Sadducees or similar sects” (Dialogue with Trypho 80.4)

St. Justin gives the reader here, in this section of his broader argument, a very blunt and uncompromising refutation of the kind of appeals to a doctrine of soul immortality on the basis of immediate, post-mortem assumption into “an otherworldly heaven” which leaves no room for the resurrection of the dead but rather views the soul as being “ensnared in a physical prison” and in need of “liberation” from it. That’s precisely the viewpoint that the bibliographical source we are discussing, correctly, claims few biblical scholars now associate with the Hebrew Bible.

If a person incorrectly conflates the opinion that “souls are taken up to heaven at the very moment of their death”, without any orientation towards eventual bodily resurrection, with the “conscious existence of the soul in the interim state” in wait for the bodily resurrection, then it might surprise them to find that St. Justin was a firm believer in the idea of post-death but pre-bodily resurrection consciousness in a “better or worse place”. The following quotations from his First Apology make his position clear:

"1 Consider what happened to each of the kings that have been. They died just like everybody else. Which, if death led to unconsciousness, would have been a godsend to all the unjust. 2 But, since consciousness endures for all those who have existed, and eternal punishment lies in store take care to be persuaded and to believe that these things are true. 3 For conjurings of the dead – both visions obtained through uncorrupted children, and the summoning of human souls – and those whom magicians call “dream-senders” or “attendants” – and the things done by those who know these things – let these persuade you that even after death souls remain in consciousness. " (1 Apology 18.1-3)

And in our saying that the souls of the wicked are punished after death, remaining in consciousness, and that the souls of the virtuous remain free from punishment and live happily, we will seem to say the same things as the poets and philosophers.” (1 Apology 20.4)

“Therefore,” he concluded, “souls do not see God, nor do they transmigrate into other bodies”… 5.1. “Nor should we call the soul immortal, for, if it were, we would certainly have to call it unbegotten.”… 5.2. “Souls, then, are not immortal.” “No,” I said, “since it appears that the world itself was generated.” “3. On the other hand,” he continued, “I do not claim that any soul ever perishes, for this would certainly be a benefit to sinners. What happens to them? The souls of the devout dwell in a better place, whereas the souls of the unjust and the evil abide in a worse place, and there they await the judgment day. Those, therefore, who are deemed worthy to see God will never perish, but the others will be subjected to punishment as long as God allows them to exist and as long as he wants them to be punished.” (Dialogue with Trypho 4.7-5.3)

The latter quotation is expressly concerned with persuading one of the truth of Christianity by attacking the tenets of Platonism, which regarded souls as unbegotten and inherently immortal. St. Justin was not a mortalist but rather he believed souls to be neither predisposed to mortality nor inherently immortal (on account of pre-existence) but as existing consciously post-mortem by the grace and will of God. Thus it was solely the denial of resurrection that Justin considered heretical, not the idea of souls retaining conscious awareness somewhere after death until the resurrection when all people will be judged, which he actually adhered to himself. And yet a cursory, uncontextualized skim of his writings could lead one to the wrong conclusion.

In summation: please don’t conflate the intertestamental “disembodied state” with the metaphysical premises underlying Platonic dualism (it did exert great influence in the intertestamental period but in a heavily Judaized form). It is similar only in the sense of positing the survival of a conscious soul post-mortem but otherwise very different, especially in their approaches to the body. The intro to that article is referring to Platonic dualist interpretations which were popular in the pre-modern era but were decisively undermined in the 20th century.

To return briefly again to my earlier point, before I finish up, the basic argument outlined by Cook in 2007 was reinforced and further evidenced by the detailed research of Richard Steiner, a Bible and Semitics scholar from Yeshiva University, who made an extremely well-documented case in 2015 that the idea of soul being separable from the body in death was already present in the Hebrew Bible long before any alien influence from Greek philosophy, concluding:

Richard Steiner, Disembodied Souls: The Nefesh in Israel and Kindred Spirits in the Ancient Near East, with an Appendix on the Katemuwa Inscription (Ancient Near East Monographs 11; Atlanta: SBL, 2015)

Before dealing with the passage from Ezekiel, I shall discuss
the ancient Near Eastern context of our problem.29 I shall attempt
to show that, if “the Hebrew could not conceive of a disembodied
נפש “,he must have been a rather sheltered soul, oblivious to beliefs
and practices found all over the ancient Near East. I shall begin
with the new evidence bearing on our question that was discovered
only six years ago in excavations at Zincirli, ancient Samal, in
southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border. This discovery alone
is reason enough to reopen the question, for it, too, is potentially a
“smoking gun.”…

The Katumuwa inscription, on a stele recently
excavated at Zincirli (ancient Samal), points up the need for a reassessment.
In it, Katumuwa exhibits a belief in the existence of disembodied
souls by mentioning the presence of his נבש = נפש in the
stele. This belief does not reflect Anatolian influence; it is closely
tied to beliefs about the soul/spirit (etemmu \ ) in Mesopotamia, and
it is the basis of the secondary meaning “funerary monument”
attested for נפש in a number of Aramaic dialects (including those
spoken by Jews and the ancient Arabs of Taima), not to mention
Mishnaic Hebrew and Epigraphic South Arabian.

A belief in the existence of disembodied נפשות is reflected in
many biblical passages as well. The most important of these is Ezek
13:17–21, a prophecy addressed to women posing as prophetesses.
When properly understood, this passage provides compelling evidence…

According to the latter, any hint of sou-lbody
dualism found in the Hebrew Bible must be either reinterpreted
or attributed to Greek or Iranian influence. Careful analysis
of the evidence has shown that this theory can no longer be maintained.
One piece of evidence is worth singling out: the expression
_ latter The ויאסף אל עמיו antonym its and ונכרתה הנפש ההוא מעמיה_
expression speaks of a spirit/soul joining its kinsmen in heaven
(not in Sheol), while the former expression speaks of a spirit/soul
being prevented from doing so. These two expressions account for
the bulk of the biblical occurrences of עמים used in the sense of
“kinsmen” (rather than “peoples”). This is a very archaic usage—a
fossil preserved only in a few fixed expressions in the Pentateuch.
These expressions—and the ideas that they reflect—must therefore
be extremely old. In short, this evidence suggests that ideas about
disembodied souls and their punishment in the afterlife were current
among the Israelites far earlier than generally assumed

In the light of all this evidence, it is no longer possible to insist
that the Hebrew was unable to conceive of a disembodied נפש .If
anything, the opposite now appears to be true. The evidence suggests
that a belief in the existence of disembodied souls was part of
the common religious heritage of the peoples of the ancient Near
East

See also this book on the Hebraic conception of afterlife, L’homme face à la mort au royaume de Juda: Rites, pratiques et représentations by _Hélene Nutkowicz._ Cook comments:

Nutkowicz suggests that the Hebrew people believed in amortality. At first glance, it seems to me that this might be a helpful term, since it stresses that the soul does survive death, but it does not view death as positive or beatific as might be implied by the term immortality. N. also discusses the relationships between the living and the dead, the repa’im [also spelled, Rephaim], the ’elohim, the practice of necromancy, the duties toward the dead and toward the living, inscriptions, and the cult of the dead and of the ancestors.”


(Colin Cooper) #8

Nor would I. So I didn’t. I directed you to the scholarly sources cited in the article, because a number of them are very recent, and a number of them make an explicit reference to the current consensus. Yes, current; most of them are later than most of the sources cited by the article you posted. The article to which you linked was written back in 2009, and most of the works it cites are earlier than that. This is important because it cites as “recent” and “up to date”, articles which were written earlier than some of the works I cited. In addition to the article, I also gave you a couple of sources myself.

Most of the sources referenced in your Wikipedia article are from the 1960s - 1980s (or prior). Some, although clearly in the minority, are from the 2000s. A few of these speak in the past tense. None that I can discern are from the 2010s (correct me if wrong).

The Oxford bibliography is equally varied but with a clear partiality towards the most recent literature from the 2000s in particular.

My main point, however, was that I trust the bibliographical sources and interpretation of them, from the Oxford University Press, developed cooperatively with scholars and librarians worldwide, far more than anything referenced on Wikipedia because:

Oxford Bibliographies provides faculty and students alike with a seamless pathway to the most accurate and reliable resources for a variety of academic topics. Every article in our database is an authoritative guide to the current scholarship, written and reviewed by academic experts, with original commentary and annotations.

The Oxford article that is in question was last reviewed by the relevant academic experts in 2016. It states so at the very top.

In my opinion, the Wikipedia “mortalism” article does not present the full picture but a limited one that predominantly focuses upon only one side of the debate, on the erroneous foundation that the 20th century consensus still holds. We don’t know who wrote and referenced it, whether they had any particular bias in their selection of sources from a vast literature etc. which is a normative problem for an open-access website like Wikipedia. Oxford Bibliographies naturally doesn’t suffer from the same problems.

And moreover I’ve directed you to recent sources that dispute that there is any consensus as you claim, in the 21st century.

The 2007 article by Stephen L. Cook (which the Oxford University press bibliography quotes from verbatim in its intro and you yourself quoted from, albeit inadvertently) for instance states:

It is fair to say that biblical scholars are currently divided between the position that ancient Israelites had no belief in spirits and the position that they had rather pronounced dealings with them…

A cursory overview of modern interpretation of biblical thanatology quickly reveals the lack of current consensus among scholars. There is pressing need for further study and clarification.

Was Sheol real or not for ancient Israelites? If it was real, were all souls expected to end up imprisoned there? How did Israelites interact (or refrain from interacting) with the shades of the dead? By summarizing the latest findings, including those of the archaeology of death, and by introducing a new cross-cultural model for use in interpretation, I hope that the present essay makes a solid contribution toward a new shared interpretation.

And that’s strictly in relation to the Hebrew Bible, not even touching upon the NT where the scene is even more contested. I know of none of your article’s scholarly sources (as opposed to the one or two that aren’t scholarly) that date from after 2009 when Stephen L. Cook reiterated his above point about the lack of scholarly consensus in terms of biblical thanatology (study of death and afterlife).

Finally my last source, which has a similar argument to Stephen L. Cook’s, was published in 2015, post-dating any other source yet mentioned by either of us. I will be relying on others in my next post on the NT, including from 2017 - this year


(George Brooks) #9

Ugh…

@Vouthon

When you write a post as massive as this one is …

I’m not sure it’s going to sort out the issues. I find it is frequently better to focus on one key idea, fundamental to the rest of the course of the discussion, and see where you vs another stand on the “key idea”.

I wasn’t able to keep up with your massive aggregation. It needs more neurological RAM than I have available at the moment…


(Colin Cooper) #10

I understand what you mean George, its just difficult to condense issues that are this multifaceted into brief posts. I guess its an art I need to hone!

There’s a lot of material to sift through on this topic (unfortunately). If I could cover all the bases with consummate brevity I would.

Perhaps, I’ll condense it later on into short(ish) points that are more easily digestible.


(Colin Cooper) #11

@Jonathan_Burke Because I don’t want to overload @gbrooks9 and make his RAM malfunction, I’m trying to keep this post on St. Paul, the intertestamental literature the intermediate state relatively brief (or at least, I aspired to do so!)…but it didn’t really work out, sorry in advance!

So I’m halving it in two: post (1) presents a general overview of St. Paul’s extensive usage of Wisdom of Solomon, whilst post (2) while consist of a targeted textual analysis of a particularly important set of verses in 2 Corinthians in relation to the intermediate state/post-mortem disembodied existence.

Post (1).

To refer back to your initial question:

And I pointed out that references to such texts are not found when the New Testament writers are actually talking about sin, death, and post-death judgment, Where are all the intertestamental passages about the immortal soul and going to paradise or hell at death, quoted in the New Testament?

See:

Stephen Barton., Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? Wisdom in the Bible (2005) p. 112:

Wisdom of Solomon is an important background source for Paul’s thought in Romans, especially in his condemnation of human sin and idolatry in Rom 1.18-32. Likewise, his account of the ruler’s authority as God-given in Romans 13 owes much to Wisdom 6.1-11”

How many of them are there? How often do the New Testament writers cite the intertestamental texts when explicating or discussing these specific topics?

A text need not have been directly “quoted” for exegetes to recognize an author as having been deeply influenced by it on the basis of considerable affinities (sometimes verbatim) in syntax, thematic connections, linguistic parallels and overall thought. Methinks you are setting an unnecessarily high and restrictive bar here.

There are many studies by biblical scholars - of all theological persuasions, or lack thereof - which have argued for a close relationship (literary dependence, or at the very least significant allusion and familiarity), between Pauline epistles like Romans, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians on one hand and the Wisdom of Solomon on the other.

Indeed, Paul appears to make allusions to this intertestamental text throughout his letters - even to the extent of basing his introductory argument in Romans upon it. Both texts progress by means of the exact same movement of thought: i.e. the Gentiles should have been capable of perceiving God through knowledge from created things and so are “without excuse” (Wisdom 13.1-9; Romans 1.19-20); the Gentiles rather turned to the idolatrous worship of created things (Wisdom 13.2,7; Rom. 1.22-23, 25). Their ignorance of God (Wisdom 14.22; Rom. 1.21) in turn resulted in all manner of sinfulness, including murder, theft, deceit and sexual promiscuity (Wisdom 14.22-27; Rom. 1.24, 26-31). God’s righteous judgement therefore remains on those who practice such abominable deeds (Wisdom 14.30-31; Romans 1.32).

To cite only a few authorities from a large literature:

The lexical and thematic parallels between Wisdom 13-15 and Romans 1.18-2.5, and to a lesser extent Wisdom 10-12 (or 10-19) and Romans 9-11, have often been noted

  • Linebaugh, A.J. God,. Grace, and Righteousness: Wisdom of Solomon and Paul’s Letter to the Romans in Conversation (2011)

.

Kilner, J.F., Dignity and Destiny: Humanity in the Image of God:

As noted above, terminology that is uniquely shared by 2 Corinthians 4 and the Wisdom of Solomon 7 in the Greek Bible, the Septuagint, suggests to many (some would say most) scholars a likely connection between the two passages…Chapter 7 of the Wisdom of Solomon may have suggested to Paul a way to connect wisdom and image with the person of Christ”

Watson, F., Paul and the Hermeneutics Of Faith (2004):

Romans 1:18-32 follows Wisdom 13-14 not just at individual points but in the whole construction of the argument. Both writers argue that the true God might have been known by way of the created order, but that the opportunity has been wasted; that the most fundamental error is the manufacture and worship of idols; that idolatry is the root of all other evils; and that those who commit such sins are subject to divine punishment. While the differences are real and important, there appears to be little or nothing in either text with which the other of the other would have disagreed.” (408)

.

Henry A. Kelly., Satan: A Biography p. 76 (2006):

“…Many scholars think it is likely that Paul was familiar with the Book of Wisdom and was influenced by its literary style. Wisdom talks about the same kind of false worship that Paul denounced in Galatians…The author also speaks of the Israelites in the desert being afflicted by serpents (Wis. 16.5-12) and put to death by the Destroyer (18.20). In the latter passage (Wis. 18-20), Wisdom uses the same rare word for Destroyer as Paul does in 1 Corinthians…”

Campbell, D., The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (2009)

"In view of all the thematic parallels, similar argumentative sequences, textual echoes, and common motifs apparent in these brief summaries, it is difficult to deny the existence of a fairly extensive relationship between the text of Romans — especially its opening arguments — and the Wisdom of Solomon…This extensive, and at times rather subtle, engagement with the Wisdom of Solomon therefore remains opaque… Paul is engaging with the Wisdom of Solomon at every turn in Romans 1-3, and periodically through the rest of the letter, after an especially intense engagement in 1:18-32 " (362)

The New European New Testament Christadelphian Commentary by Duncan Heaster notes:

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2i6mDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT142&dq=wisdom+of+solomon+romans+paul&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQodf25eHXAhWJJsAKHVURCi0Q6AEIOzAE#v=onepage&q&f=false

Paul is alluding to the Wisdom of Solomon throughout his letter to the Romans. Wisdom of Solomon 13-14 criticizes the Gentiles for idolatry and sexual immorality. And Paul criticizes the Gentiles for just the same things in Romans…It’s as if Paul is reviewing the Wisdom of Solomon and placing a tick by what is right (e.g., that Gentiles are indeed guilty of idolatry and immorality), and a cross by what is wrong in the book…Paul is alluding to, almost quoting, The Wisdom of Solomon.

"The wisdom tradition of ancient Israel and Second Temple Judaism provided Paul with a category conducive to cosmic Christology. Especially important were passages from Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon.

A key passage is Wisdom 2:77 - 8:1, a text rightly considered “the climax of all Jewish writing on wisdom”. This text comes quite close to hypostatizing Wisdom - that is, ascribing material existence to an abstract idea…There are significant similarities in phrasing to 1 Corinthians 1:30; 8:6; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6-11 and Colossians 1:15-20.

The keen mind of the apostle Paul almost certainly was steeped in this background. How could he have studied at Jerusalem and not known this work? Striking parallels exist between Wisdom of Solomon and Paul’s letters"

  • Helyer, L.R., The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology P. 286 (2008)

Indeed Dr. Richard Goode of the Newman Research Centre for the Bible has calculated using a “wordcloud” derived from Appendix IV in Novum Testamentum Graece 27th edn that Paul alludes to Wisdom of Solomon throughout his epistles far more than to any other apochryphal/intertestamental text:

Which book of the Apocrypha did Paul use most?

Bearing in mind Paul’s theology and his mission, as with his use of the Tanakh, it is not particularly surprising to find that he makes the most allusions (by a very long margin) to the Wisdom of Solomon

The Wisdom of Solomon shares with Paul an inclusive theology in which God is concerned with all human beings (including those outside the Jewish nation) and is universally active. It also explicitly develops the idea of immortality. Importantly, immortality is expressed here as being a gift from God to the righteous, rather than being an inherent quality of the human soul (as in Greek thought)

Which of Paul’s letters contain most allusions?

By far, the most allusions are found in Paul’s letter to the Romans with a total of 76 instances. The Wisdom of Solomon is particularly prominent, especially within the first few chapters – perhaps reflecting their shared belief that wisdom (and the divine) can be learnt through an observation of creation. In the first chapter it has been claimed that there are ten intertestamental allusions…

It is probably not unexpected that the only letter to contain no allusions is Philemon. It might also be significant that the disputed and Pastoral letters tend to have far fewer instances, perhaps indicating a greater distance between Christian thought and language, and non-canonical Jewish literature.

To be continued…


(George Brooks) #12

@Vouthon

You are most kind to provide this survey of some of Paul’s sources.

I didn’t know I was going to need the survey. My problem with Paul is how he discusses Jewish practices.

But I look forward to your next posting.


(Jon) #13

That’s ok, I have been occupied explaining to someone that learning Sumerian cuneiform allows you to read texts in Sumerian cuneiform. Thanks for the post. Let’s look at what you have.

[quote=“Vouthon, post:120, topic:36811”] See:

Stephen Barton., Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? Wisdom in the Bible (2005) p. 112:
“Wisdom of Solomon is an important background source for Paul’s thought in Romans, especially in his condemnation of human sin and idolatry in Rom 1.18-32. Likewise, his account of the ruler’s authority as God-given in Romans 13 owes much to Wisdom 6.1-11”[/quote]

Ok so how exactly does this answer my question “Where are all the intertestamental passages about the immortal soul and going to paradise or hell at death, quoted in the New Testament?”? You have one quotation from a source saying WoS is an important background source for Paul’s thought in Romans, especially " especially in his condemnation of human sin and idolatry in Rom 1.18-3". No problem. Where’s all the “immortal soul and going to paradise or hell at death”? I am sure you are aware that WoS’s views on death are extremely hazy, and the only certainty on which scholars are widely agreed is that WoS believed the soul was not naturally immortal, and that immortality was a gift given only to the righteous (this is conditional immortality, a key component in mortalism).

In fact one of the sources you quoted even says this.

The Wisdom of Solomon shares with Paul an inclusive theology in which God is concerned with all human beings (including those outside the Jewish nation) and is universally active. It also explicitly develops the idea of immortality. Importantly, immortality is expressed here as being a gift from God to the righteous, rather than being an inherent quality of the human soul (as in Greek thought)

You even placed those words in bold. And note how it draws a distinction between this view and the Greek view.

I totally agree that direct quotations are not necessary to make such a case. That’s why I said (and you even quoted me saying it), “How often do the New Testament writers cite the intertestamental texts when explicating or discussing these specific topics?”. Citation really lowers the bar, since citations can be completely indirect.

Yeah this is all fine. I don’t dispute this at all. I’ve written a brief article on Jesus’ use of Jewish proverbs and parables, and I’ve written another brief article on Paul’s use of Greek and Roman scholars and Jewish literature and traditions. So thanks for the half dozen scholarly sources arguing for Paul’s wide usage of WoS, but we’re agreed on that. I’m actually interested in another subject, the one I mentioned previously.


(Colin Cooper) #14

@Jonathan_Burke Thanks for replying, and no worries there - please get back to me whensoever you have the opportunity. This has become long again, so I’m going to split my post in to three posts.

That’s ok, I have been occupied explaining to someone that learning Sumerian cuneiform allows you to read texts in Sumerian cuneiform

Hmm, sounds rather tedious. I hope you don’t find me quite so aggravating! :blush:

Now, you made the claim in a previous post, “references to such texts are not found when the New Testament writers are actually talking about sin, death, and post-death judgment” and specifically asked me "where are the unique beliefs of the deuterocanon found in the New Testament? Where are the books even cited?".

I stated in my introductory paragraph that I would begin by “in post (1) presenting a general overview of St. Paul’s extensive usage of Wisdom of Solomon, whilst post (2) will consist of a targeted textual analysis of a particularly important set of verses in 2 Corinthians in relation to the intermediate state”. And I’m sticking to this sequential order.

So, I decided to demonstrate (before engaging in a focused textual analysis), the sheer degree to which the Wisdom of Solomon is not merely “cited” - as if, on a sporadic or ad hoc basis - but actually relied upon by St. Paul in framing his argument in Romans; an argument that had explicitly to do with “sin, death and judgement”. This is why, the late Scottish Old Testament scholar James Barr averred in his chapter on “Natural Theology in the Jewish Tradition” in the book Biblical Faith And Natural Theology that he would:

"give pride of place to one particular document, the Wisdom of Solomon; for it shows an unusually high similarity to aspects of Paul’s language and thought…as material for the understanding of Paul, the Wisdom of Solomon is of central importance.

Scholarship must take full account of it. Since he came so close to its diction at a number of points, the probability is that that he knew the book [Wisdom of Solomon], and, if he knew the book, that it did count for him as an authoritative religious text.

That this was so can be demonstrated from another aspect shared by Wisdom and by Paul, an aspect which by common consent should belong very definitely to revealed theology: namely the understanding of the first man, Adam, in relation to death and immortality. To this therefore we have to devote some attention…

But all these things, which are lacking in the Genesis text itself, and which are found in Paul and are essential to his argument, are found first in the Wisdom of Solomon and found there together.

Basically, the story of “Adam and Eve” was not popularly referenced within the Hebrew Bible, nor was the narrative itself primarily, or originally, concerned with a catastrophic ‘fall from grace’ at all, as later exegetes assumed on the back of the influential Pauline exegesis in Romans.

But the Adam and Eve myth did achieve crucial prominance in the theology laid out in Wisdom of Solomon and greater still, the author in this text directly linked the story with the idea of a “fall of man” and the entering of ‘death’ into the world through the envy of “the devil” (which the apostolic father 1 Clement later interpreted as a reference to Cain’s envious murder of Abel, as opposed to the supernatural figure of Satan, oddly enough, but that’s neither here nor there).

Within the New Testament, the typology of Adam and Christ, extremely familiar to all of us, is basically Pauline. As Barr notes in his aforementioned study: “after the story of Adam and Eve is first narrated in Genesis, nowhere in the books of the Hebrew canon does anyone go back to that incident in order to use it as an explanation for the origin of sin, evil, and death”. Paul’s belief that Adam and Eve, by their sin, brought death into the world - is in no small part indebted therefore to Wisdom, as Barr says: “Wisdom’s understanding of Genesis is in this regard the same one that is basic to Paul”.

I’m glad you agree with me that Paul does indirectly but comprehensively ‘cite’/widely use Wisdom when discussing “sin, death, judgement and immortality” as the scholar above noted, and as opposed to my interpretation of your earlier (quoted) remarks - which appeared to suggest otherwise.

On that basis, we shall proceed…

I am sure you are aware that WoS’s views on death are extremely hazy, and the only certainty on which scholars are widely agreed is that WoS believed the soul was not naturally immortal, and that immortality was a gift given only to the righteous (this is conditional immortality, a key component in mortalism).

In fact one of the sources you quoted even says this. You even placed those words in bold. And note how it draws a distinction between this view and the Greek view.

Yes, I bolded this sentence deliberately because it serves to reiterate a point I made expressly clear to you in a number of earlier posts, for instance this one:

And when discussing the ‘intermediate state’ in the thought of St. Justin Martyr, the second century church father. Here’s what I wrote:

St. Justin was not a mortalist but rather he believed souls to be neither predisposed to mortality nor inherently immortal (on account of pre-existence) but as existing consciously post-mortem by the grace and will of God. Thus it was solely the denial of resurrection that Justin considered heretical, not the idea of souls retaining conscious awareness somewhere after death until the resurrection when all people will be judged, which he actually adhered to himself.

I have been saying, till I’m blue in the face, I’m not arguing St. Paul or any other NT author believed in Platonic dualist beliefs in a naturally immortal soul (which is connected to the Theory of Forms). In its pure elaboration, this is objectionable from the standpoint of biblical teaching. It really bewilders me why you keep beating this empty drum ad nauseam. The (temporary) existence of a person without a body and bodily resurrection are not mutually exclusive alternatives. It is not a straight choice between “Platonic immortality” on the one hand and “mortalism” on the other. There are alternatives that don’t end up with either extreme.

I explained to you much earlier on in our discussion, that I’m actually arguing in favour of the importance of retaining the language of duality in terms of a “holistic substance-dualism,” which “deletes what is objectionable in the traditional anthropology while retaining the sort of duality required by the scriptural teaching of individual survival between death and the resurrection. Thus the Bible indicates that humans do not cease to exist between death and resurrection, a condition sometimes euphemistically termed “soul sleep,” or that final resurrection occurs immediately upon death. An intermediate state ought not to be confused with a Platonic notion of “the immortal soul,”” (John W. Cooper). I’m not a Platonist but neither am I a mortalist or a soul-sleeper. There is a via media and it was articulated very well by St. Justin Martyr.

As St. Justin himself contended, it is God’s supernatural power alone that temporarily sustains deceased persons in conscious existence apart from their bodies, which become corpses, until the resurrection when they are re-constituted (or perhaps, in the case of the wicked, annihilated). God is the motive force behind “immortality”, or rather survival of conscious existence post-mortem, not some inhering eternality that has a purely naturalistic basis, as with Platonism.

I truly hope that you see the distinction, because otherwise you are going to keep raising redundant points about Platonic dualism/naturalistic immortality.

In my next post, I’m going to address your understanding of the Wisdom of Solomon and then in the one after give you my exegesis of verses in 2 Corinthians that I believe pertain to the intermediate state and allude to an important passage in Wisdom.


(Colin Cooper) #15

@Jonathan_Burke This post will deal with your views on the afterlife in Wisdom, the next with 2 Corinthians (connecting it with Wisdom) and the intermediate state.

With reference to The Wisdom of Solomon you wrote:

I am sure you are aware that WoS’s views on death are extremely hazy, and the only certainty on which scholars are widely agreed is that WoS believed the soul was not naturally immortal, and that immortality was a gift given only to the righteous (this is conditional immortality, a key component in mortalism).

In fact, the “body-soul” anthropology in WoS is much less obscure than you imply. Most of the major scholarly studies I have consulted recognize, to reference John J. Collins, (whose scholarship is included in the Oxford Bibliography on Wisdom) that WoS refers strictly to the “immortality of the soul” in the sense of the soul’s continued existence in a disembodied state after death. The wicked are kept by God in conscious awareness as well, at least until their apocalyptic post-mortem day of judgement (Wisdom 5) (which has been noted to be “very close” to the judgement scenes in 1 Enoch and the Psalms of Solomon), although their ultimate fate thereafter is left rather ambiguous and Collins explains how the author never explicitly mentions bodily resurrection (anastasis) but only discusses soul immortality (athanasia), such that we can confidently conclude it is dealing purely with soul survival (Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age, p. 186) as has been duly noted by other scholars: “the soul’s future life is described in Wisdom of Solomon without reference to the body” (Stead 1994: 29 - 30). If I might quote from a very recent study (published in May 2017) by Casey Elledge (Associate Professor in Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College) entitled Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism, 200 BCE-CE 200, which summarises the present position:

Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism, 200 BCE-CE 200

Any putative hopes in resurrection remain veiled at a more implicit level in Wisdom. There remains no transparent mention of a physical resurrection anywhere within the work.

Instead, Wisdom consistently speaks in terms of the soul’s immortality; and death is even envisioned as the return of the body to the earth, as the dead “return their borrowed souls” to God (Ws. 15:8). Where Wisdom does refer to the postmortem state of the righteous, they dwell “among the sons of God” in an everlasting existence with angelic beings (5:5)…rendering the question of human destiny exclusively in the language of the soul and its immortality…

The language of 9:15 asserts an anthropological dualism between body and soul (“For the corruptible body oppresses the soul, and the earthly tabernacle/tent weighs down the deeply thoughtful mind”). Wisdom also seems to share the philosophical idea that the soul comprises an “energetic” property within the human (15:11)…Immortality and resurrection could potentially be reconciled with each other [in the text], however, even if Wisdom itself does not fully develop this possibility.

Within its Egyptian Jewish contextual setting, Wisdom’s hope in immortality resonates well with the handful of funerary inscriptions that express the hope of a blessed afterlife for the departed soul.

I should emphasis that bodily resurrection is never denied or denounced, it simply was not the focus for the author.

On the contrary, “mortalism” is emphatically rejected and decried out-of-hand in chapter 2 as symptomatic of the reasoning of the “ungodly”, whom most scholars have identified with the Jewish Sadducees or the Greek atomists/Epicureans (or perhaps both):

Wisdom 2

Life as the Ungodly See It

16 But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away
and made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his company.

2 For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
“Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
2 For we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been,
for the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts;
3 when it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air

21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
23 for God created us for immortality,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,[b]
24 but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.

The author explains how, in his exegetical reading of Genesis, God created all human beings in the “image of his own eternity” and intended for them to be kept immortal/incorrupt but the “ungodly” instead invited spiritual death (and the relevant literature makes much of “the author’s distinction between physical death and spiritual or ultimate death”, see Kolarcik, Michael. The Ambiguity of Death in the Book of Wisdom 1–6), through their words, deeds and unsound reasoning. One of their most important errors, if not the most important, was their belief that conscious reason is a mere “spark” triggered by biochemical mechanisms in the body, such that upon bodily death our awareness “is extinguished” and the “spirit dissolves like empty air” meaning hereafter “we shall be as though we had never been”.

I doubt anyone has ever come up with a more forceful critique of mortalism than the author of Wisdom. As the Oxford Bible Commentary notes:

The Oxford Bible Commentary by John Barton (2007) p. 650-653

Wisdom takes, broadly speaking, the Stoic side; Stoics argued for a universe pervaded and directed by a vital force (Wisdom 1:7) and the survival of righteous souls, but Epicureans envisaged non-intervening deities and souls which perished with the body. In the first century CE Josephus (Vita, 12) compares the Pharisees to the Stoics, and his outline of Sadducaic opinion recalls Epicureanism

The cosmos in Wisdom is a world of spirits, good and bad, including ‘the spirit of the Lord’ (1:7), ‘angels’ (16:20), and ‘the devil’ (2:24) and wisdom herself is spiritual (7:22-7); correspondingly, human beings are envisaged above all as ‘souls’ (2:22, etc.)

Among the NT books Wisdom has affinity not only with Romans but also with the speeches in Acts on repentance and faith, with the sapiential morality of James, the vindication of righteous suffering in 1 Peter, the Christology in John and Hebrews…

In chs. I–6, on persecution, the argument seems to be directed against internal foes, as in 1 Enoch and the Psalms of Solomon. These chapters can then be tentatively associated with Sadducaic-Pharisaic strife, in which afterlife was a prominent topic (wis 3:1); persecution of those who defended it figured in the bloody repression of the Pharisees under Alexander Jannaeus in the early first century BCE…Greek epitaphs among Egyptian Jews attest a difference of opinion on afterlife like that evinced between the Sadducee-like Ecclesiastes on the one hand and the Pharisee-like Wisdom of Solomon on the other (Horbury 1994).

And finally as James Barr stated with reference to the aforementioned passage from Wisdom:

For the main thought of the passage it makes little difference whether man was created with immortality (as if this was a built-in constitutional difference) or for immortality (which would have to be gained or merited). Death was, originally, not part of the human scene: only after the devil’s intervention did it emerge as a prospect…In either case death was not originally part of human destiny

The idea that possession of immortality is a common point between God and humanity is supported by comparison with 1 Enoch 6911, ‘for men were created exactly like the angels, to the intent that they should continue pure and righteous, and death, which destroys everything, could not have taken hold of them, but through this their knowledge they are perishing’…

In any case no substantial difference is made: for, if death is not part of the scene for the original humans, it makes little difference whether they ‘were’ immortal from the beginning or ‘were to be’ immortal: in either case they were not going to die. Moreover, the words ‘in the image of his own eternity’ imply that humanity, being made in the image of God, had from the beginning a share in God’s own immortality. Again, Wisdom 113 explicitly states that ‘God did not create death’—and formally speaking this is true.

I’ll deal with that third post (which is finally getting to the part that you wanted) tommorrow.


(George Brooks) #16

When Jews or Christians imply or specify conscious awareness up to the End of Days, it is a Persian/Zoroastrian influence.

Greeks held to reincarnation, which is not a Persian concept…

[Note: I have recently encountered writings indicating that reincarnation views don’t actually contradict Zoroastrian theology – and may well have been one of the offerings of a group of Persian, or Persian-fringe religious groups. I will investigate futher! ]


(Colin Cooper) #17

@Jonathan_Burke One of the most compelling and incisive of Paul’s allusions to Wisdom, outwith Romans and 1 Corinthians, is found in 2 Corinthians 4:16 - 5:10, which is where I would like to narrow my focus in this post.

My first posting will consider the exegesis of a large body of scholars, who find in this passage and a kindred one in Philippians evidence of anthropological duality in Paul’s thinking of the kind I have just elaborated above with reference to John W. Cooper.

The second post, part 2, will explore the very close linguistic parallels between this passage and Wisdom of Solomon, which many scholars have noted.

Let’s have a look at the full verses in question:

2 Corinthians 4:16 - 5:9

16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— 3 if indeed, when we have taken it off[a] we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Many scholars of note have read into this passage, to quote E.P. Sanders in his recent (2015) study Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters and Thought, “anthropological dualism”. Sanders argues:

"…2 Cor.3-18-5:10 and other passages show the influence of inner/outer dualism in Paul’s thought.…In 2 Cor. 4:16, Paul continues to show himself ready to employ individual body/soul dualism…Individual dualism also dominates 2 Cor. 5:1-9. Paul states that “we” live in an “earthly tent”…Here the real human being (“we”) is the “inner person”. What is the body? A tent. The real person - the inner person - lives inside the outer tent and wishes to discard it…The inner, real person may be briefly naked, without a body/tent as covering (5:2-3)…

This accepts the dualistic that the outer shell is not a good dwelling: ‘we groan under our burden’. But he rejects the standard Greek idea [of indefinite disembodied existence]…The real (inner) person will not be unclothed, but rather be further clothed…

In 2 Cor. 5:8, however, Paul once more raises the possibility of a bodiless person: “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord”. ‘We’ is again the real person, who can do without the body and be with the Lord…The formulation of 2 Cor.5:8 will eventually become standard in Christianity…

When thinking of his death, he naturally thought of himself, that is, the “real person,” as leaving the earthly body and going immediately to be with Christ (Philippians 1;23). Here, as in 2 Corinthians 5, there is an inner person that might leave the flesh, or earthly tent, to be with Christ…"

I could cite a multiplicity of other studies which echo the points made above by Sanders, for example the American New Testament scholar, and historian of Early Christianity, Dale C. Allison who contended in 2016 (Death, Imagination, and the Last Things, p. 34), explicitly referring to 2 Cor. 4:18:

"In more than one place, then, the New Testament takes for granted that the inner person or spirit is potentially independent of the body and isn’t inert after death…The New Testament doesn’t anticipate modern physicalism. Matthew, Mark, the author of Luke–Acts, John, and Paul as well as the authors of Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Revelation all believed that the self or some part of it could leave the body and even survive without it…

Paul’s letters hold more of the same. Despite his hope to see the second coming and his insistence on resurrection, his true home is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and he desires to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better than remaining in the flesh (Philippians 1:23–24). The apostle also relates that he was once caught up to the third heaven, to paradise, and that he may not have been in his body at the time (2 Corinthians 12:2–3). Paul even, at one point, sounds a bit Platonic: “we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18)."

Udo Schnelle, professor of New Testament at the University of Wittenberg, likewise argued in his 2012 book, Apostle Paul: His Life and Theology p. 250:

2 Cor. 5:1-10 is characterized by a tendency toward dualism and individualization. This dualism is seen first in the imagery (earthly/heavenly dwelling; being at home/being away from home; being unclothed/being further clothed; mortality/life), which is based on an anthropology stamped by Hellenistic Jewish features. The image of the body as a tent and thus only a temporary dwelling of the self, the mystical understanding of ‘clothing,’ ‘nakedness’ as the result of the separation of body and soul, the idea that living in the body is living in exile from one’s true homeland - all point to Hellenistic influence (esp. Epictetus, Diatr.1.9.12-14). Because the apostle would like to leave his earthly body, he here uses dualistic categories to evaluate bodily life.”

Jan Lambrecht in a 2011 essay (Understanding what one reads: New Testament essays p. 224) states:

"In Cor. 5:1-10 Paul speaks of the earthly body in an objective way, as if it were a substance, an entity of its own. It is a house to dwell in; it is a garment to put on…Paul even refers to the possibility of a ‘naked,’ disembodied state. Paul is at home in the body now, but he would prefer to go away from this body…

The reality of the “outer self” of 4:16 is taken up up in 5:1-10 by several terms and concepts: the nouns house, tent and garment; the adjectives earthly and mortal; the verbs to be destroyed, to take off and to be at home in; but above all, the term ‘body’ in verses 6, 8 and 10…One can hardly deny that Paul as it were claims “to have and possess” a body. However this “we” seems to be the incorporeal self."

Paul Barnett, the Australian historian and New Testament scholar, in his The Second Epistle to the Corinthians has echoed this exegesis once again:

"Perhaps Gentile readers within Greek culture need to be told that the disembodied state is incomplete until the general resurrection, however secure the soul of the righteous beyond death.

Once more a verse in the sequence begun at 6:16 is antithetical in character, arising from the eschatological dualism…The context dictates that “nakedness” means the intervention of death - with subsequent bodilessness - before the inception of the end time at the general resurrection (4:14)…The verse establishes that Paul envisaged a state of disembodiment between death and the universal resurrection."

David E. Aune, Professor of New Testament at the University of Notre Dame, concurred in a 2013 study entitled Jesus, Gospel Tradition and Paul in the. Context of Jewish and Greco-Roman. Antiquity:

This antithesis in verse 4:16 clearly expresses an athropological duality (here I avoid the terms dualistic or dualism because they are often understood to connote opposition or conflict)…The subject of the first-person plural verb [Greek] is that inner aspect or part of the person that will not be destroyed by death, explicitly contrasted with the dwelling place, garment, or body where the inner person resides, whether earthly or heavenly, but never completely identified with either. An implicit anthropological duality is reflected here…

Stanley K. Stowers, Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University, writing in an article in the book From Stoicism to Platonism: The Development of Philosophy, 100 BCE–100 CE published in June 2017 and edited by Troels Engberg-Pedersen, states:

Numerous [Pauline] texts suggest a mind or true self in that it is distinct from the body and at home in a higher realm. Paul writes (2 Cor. 12:2-3) that he once traveled to the third heaven, likely where the court of God is. Whether this trip occurred while he was in the body or outside of his body, he does not know…It is easy for Paul to talk of his self as able to leave the body. He would rather be away from the body and with Christ. Christ lives a pneumatic existence in the heavens, so being in the body means being away from him (2 Cor 5:6-9)…”

Finally, I would like to cite many more authorities but am aware of space constraints so will refer you to one last scholar, namely Jaime Clark-Soles, Death and the Afterlife in the New Testament (2006) which was referenced in the Oxford Bibliography we discussed earlier on with reference to 2 Corinthians 5 and Philippians 1:18b-26:

“Further encouragement comes from Paul’s conviction that death can actually bring one closer to Christ. Paul even claims that it is abundantly and exceedingly far better to die and be with Christ (Phil 1:23)…Phil 1:23 depicts dying as the better of the two goods…Given Paul’s insistence that the resurrection body is bestowed only at the resurrection and given Paul’s anthropological dualism, it is reasonable to assume that Paul implies a disembodied intermediate state, followed by the reunion of the body and soul at the Parousia…Paul is mobilized by as thoroughgoing a dualism as that of Philo. Unlike Philo, though, Paul never denigrates the body. The image of the human being that Paul maintains is of a soul dwelling in or clothed by a body, and however valuable the garment, it it is less essential than that which it clothes. It is the earthly tent that we live in; it is not “we”. The body, while necessary and valued by Paul, is, as in Philo, not the human being but only his or her house or garment. Thus, to “depart” is to die, and to be “with Christ” is to be absent from the body”.

Part 2 of my post will now analyse the very significant relationship between this passage and Wisdom of Solomon (including the ample scholarship illustrating this), particularly Wisdom 9:15 which, as Casey Elledge explained in his very recent 2017 study on the afterlife in Second Temple Judaism (cited in my previous post), “asserts an anthropological dualism between body and soul” just like I believe Paul does in 2 Corinthians. His indebtedness to Wisdom in this passage then (as throughout his letters) should not be overlooked.

I will tease out the parallels and then present you with my own exegesis of 2 Corinthians 5, in light of Wisdom, which takes up the same themes of the preceding scholars.

After doing this, I’m going to then summarize the argument laid out in all of my posts on this thread for @gbrooks9


(Colin Cooper) #18

@Jonathan_Burke In 2 Corinthians 5:4, Paul employs a metaphor describing the unresurrected human body as a burdensome but temporary earthly tent. This, once again, directly echoes language from the Wisdom of Solomon (9:15):

  • “…for a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind.”

As Klaus Berger notes, this text offers two verbal parallels to to 2 Corinthians 5:4 (“weigh down” and “tent”) and “a third could just as well be present (“groan”)”. Furthermore, both texts are herein referring to the travails of bodily existence, that is of unglorified, embodied life.

As already mentioned, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul uses the nearly identical image of an earthly body weighing down a soul identified with the “we/I” inhabiting the body (see the exegesis from scholars on this point in my previous post):

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden . . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:1, 4.)

The Greek phrase translated as “earthy tent” in both Wisdom of Solomon and 2 Corinthians is not the normative word for tent (skene) but rather the highly unusual skenos which is found only twice in the New Testament (here and in v. 4) in this single passage, and only once in the LXX corpus in Wisdom of Solomon 9:15, where it is used figuratively to refer to the ensouled human body, leading one authority on the Apocrypha to conclude that Paul “had at sometime read this passage and [was] impressed by the Wisdom of Solomon.” Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha at 158.

In this regard, Fredrik Lindgård argued in his very exegetically dense 2005 study entitled, Paul’s Line of Thought in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 p. 140:

Skenos does not occur apart from 2 Cor. 5 in the New Testament. The LXX mentions the word once in Wisdom 9:15…It is possible that Paul’s language here is influenced by Wisdom’s dualistic terminology. It is obvious that, at least, there exists a similarity between, on the one hand, Phaedo 81c and Wisdom 9:15 and, on the other hand, between Wisdom 9:15 and 2 Cor 5:1-2

While David Edward Aune in his 2013 Jesus, Gospel Tradition and Paul in the. Context of Jewish and Greco-Roman. Antiquity. Collected Essays II p. 365 noted:

Wisdom 9:25 is a frequently cited parallel to 2 Corinthians 5:1…the italicized words in this quotation (“weighs down”/“earthly body”) indicate relatively close verbal parallels with 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 which suggests Paul’s familiarity with this Hellenistic Jewish mediation of Platonic tradition, if not with this passage itself

Wisdom 8:19-20 states: “As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body.” As with the exegesis provided of the Pauline paragraph in 2 Corinthians above by many scholars, where it can be inferred that Paul identifies the “we” that inhabits the body with the “inner person” or separable soul; Wisdom likewise differentiates between the “I”, identified with the soul, and the body, which the “I/soul” enters and inhabits like a perishable “tent” (Wisdom 9:25) until death, when “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.” (Wisdom 3:1-3) or as Paul would put it the soul will be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) and “I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed. But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1:23-24).

Notice how in Wisdom of Solomon and the Pauline epistles the “I” is within the body but can leave it (“departure”/“depart”) at death to be with God/Christ.

This is important for properly making sense of the anthropology in both texts, which is holistic but also dualistic in the sense that (according to Paul) the soul can be temporarily separated from the body at death (described as “nakedness”) before being re-joined to a glorified pneumatic body at the resurrection by God, which seems to be subtly implied too in Wisdom 3:7In the time of their visitation [resurrection?] they [the righteous souls] will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble.”

Paul was not, therefore, a “mortalist” but rather a proponent of Hellenistic Jewish “body-soul” duality; just like the intertestamental Wisdom of Solomon, which he was so greatly influenced by, and this dualism was holistic in nature: ultimately looking forward to being “re-housed” in a heavenly, pneumatic body at the resurrection, as opposed to a perpetual disembodied “nakedness” in the Greek sense (as the Corinthians appeared to have wrongly understood it, thereby occasioning Paul’s explanation that this wasn’t a complete picture without bodily resurrection at the Eschaton).


(Jon) #19

Thanks for the move @BradKramer, I was looking for this a while ago.


(Brad Kramer) #20

Friendly public reminder that clicking the datestamp on any post gives you an option to respond on a new thread. Massively under-used feature, and saves the mods a lot of work.