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.
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:
“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:
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
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
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.”