OT & NT + Jewish/Christian views of afterlife and resurrection


(George Brooks) #1

@Jonathan_Burke

I will accept your opinion/verdict on either:

When did the ELITE religionists adopt the view of an afterlife for the common man and woman?

OR - -

When did the folk religionists adopt the view of an afterlife for the common man and woman?

I’m not fussy … but I do insist that the answer be about the fate of common men and women.


Neuroscience and Afterlife
Noah's flood & the table of nations
(Jon) #2

Do you mean afterlife as in resurrection? If so, I would say at least by the early monarchy for both elite and folk religion.


(George Brooks) #3

By early Monarchy, you mean around this time?

167–161 BCE
The Maccabees (Hasmoneans) revolt against the Hellenistic Empire of Seleucids, led by Judah Maccabee, resulting in victory and installation of the Hanukkah holiday.


(Jon) #4

No. The Maccabean era isn’t the early monarchy, it’s right in the middle of the Second Temple Period, just before the last monarchy. The early monarch started in the eleventh century BCE.


(George Brooks) #5

@Jonathan_Burke

Ahhhh… I see what you mean.

  1. Since I think Judah was essentially just the Jerusalem city-state until Jerusalem starts to acquire surrounding towns in the 700’s BCE, I don’t really acknowledge a Judean monarchy as early as the 1000’s BCE.

  2. There is ZERO evidence that the moloch-prone kingdoms in the region (Moab, Ammon, Edom, Israel, Jerusalem, etc.) believed in an afterlife for common men and women.

  3. The belief in an afterlife was Egyptian and Persian … and not really anywhere in between. I think it is ironic that so few of the semites appear to have adopted Egyptian views of an afterlife. But I’m willing to be convinced of any examples you know of …


(Jon) #6

Historians and archaeologists refer to the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon as the early monarchy. When I say “afterlife”, I mean resurrection, as I said. That was not Egyptian or Persian. Nor was it Moabite, Ammonite, or Edomite.


(George Brooks) #7

@Jonathan_Burke

I would suggest there is no evidence for a Semitic view of resurrection for the common man and woman. And that it would be the Essenes who are first to adopt a pre-Resurrection afterlife for common people:

In Samuel, we encounter the usual Semitic view of a dull, sleeping afterlife:

1 Samuel 12 -
Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.

And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.

And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.

And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?

And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.


(Jon) #8

Ok well I suggest you read the primary literature and the relevant scholarly commentary. You should start with NT Wright’s massive study of resurrection beliefs in “The Resurrection of the Son of God”. Or just pick up a decent Bible dictionary or encyclopedia and you’ll find it noted that resurrection is already attested as early as the eighth century. Belief in the resurrection of common people was around long before the Essenes. Even being really skeptical, it’s difficult to avoid the references in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, not to mention the Maccabees. No to mention some of the sapiental literature.

What you see there in 1 Samuel is the folk religion of a witch in Philistine territory, and the text makes it clear that Saul has apostasized by turning to her. So as early as 1 Samuel, the idea of spirits enduring after the death of the body is seen as false.


(George Brooks) #9

@Jonathan_Burke… that is sort of my point! At best … it depicts the ancient view that the dead live a sleepy hardly aware kind of existence.

Or …at worst … it is as you describe it. But we should note that whether it was heretical or not … the scribe doesnt contradict that it was Samuel.

A view of an afterlife …or resurrection… doesnt appear to arrive amongst the Hebrew or Jews until the 400’s BCE!


(Jon) #10

George you’re not presenting much in the way of evidence. And yes the fact that the scribe is presenting it as heretical indicates he believes it wasn’t real. Look at bout 1 and 2 Samuel and you show me how many passages indicate belief in ghosts, or spirits which can be called up from the underworld.


(George Brooks) #11

@Jonathan_Burke,

All you are doing is arguing AGAINST the idea that the Hebrew had a belief in ANY kind of afterlife. This is probably because you think the Pharisaic view of resurrection only at the End of Days is the only valid Jewish viewpoint. But this supports my general position about Jewish theology.

But at the moment, I am exploring the nuanced distinctions between a good afterlife for common men/women … vs. a drab or depressing one. I know of NO Semitic people who thought a good afterlife was possible for commoners prior to the arrival of the Persians in the region.

But let’s continue on with our discussion of the Endor incident. Read these 3 lines about it:

1Sa 28:14-16
"And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself."

“And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.”

"Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? "

It’s pretty clear that the writer accepts that the spirit IS Samuel.

Let’s read further:

1Sa 28:19-20
"Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines."

“Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.”

In these texts, we see this spirit EXPLAINING the righteousness of Yahweh … and the narrator explaining that Samuel correctly assesses Saul’s situation.

Returning to the issue of whether there was a happy afterlife at all … we read this discussion in Wright’s “Death, the Dead and the Underworld in Biblical Theology”:

“. . . . rather than presenting a uniquely Judeo-Christian view of the destination of the dead, elements of Sheol parallel other underworld descriptions from the Ancient Near East. Dahood considers Sheol as a place of
sludge, slime, mire and filth (Ps. 7:6; 22:15; 30:10; 46:3,24; 69:3; 90:3), which, if correct, finds parallels in Ugaritic material.52 The seminal work of Martin Achard recognises that the biblical presentation of Sheol, at times, is depicted as a vast subterranean underworld deep within the earth (Is. 5:14; 7:11; 57:9) where there is overwhelming darkness (Job 10:21; Ps. 88:6,12; 143:3; Lam. 3:6). This leads him to consider that the Old Testament conception of Sheol is considered to be akin to other ancient views of the underworld.”

" ‘The Israelites, like most of the primitive peoples, believe that the dead are gathered together in a vast and usually subterranean region that is set apart for them. The world of the dead, the Sheol of the Hebrews, corresponds in every particular to the Hades of the Greeks and the Arallu of the Assyro-Babylonians.’ "

The singular strength of this view is that it recognises that Sheol is not a place of punishment. Rather it is the place to which all the dead—righteous and wicked, believer and non-believer—descend upon their death."
[END OF CLIP]

Wright does protest this kind of presentation. But I don’t think very convincingly.
Also in his discussion:

“. . . a number of passages speak of all descending to Sheol (e.g. Ps. 89:48-49; Ecc. 9:7-10). . .”

"This silence suggests a denial of ongoing relationships, especially with God, a suggestion confirmed by the description of Sheol as a place where the dead cannot remember, praise or thank God (Ps. 6:6; Is. 38:18;
Jonah 2:5), a land of forgetfulness where the dead are cut off from him and forgotten (Ps. 88:5,12). Unsurprisingly then, sleep is an appropriate description of death and the dead (2 Kings 4:31, 13:21; Job 3:13, 14:12; Ps. 13:3; Jer. Death, the Dead and the Underworld in Biblical Theology—Pt 1 17 51:39, 57; Dan. 12:2). "

Frankly, @Jonathan_Burke, you have quite a task: you have to convince me that Old Testament Hebrew BELIEVED in a good afterlife … but NO spirits of mortals … How exactly do you plan to do that?

All I have to do is show that the afterlife was believed to be generally unpleasant … AND that this unpleasant afterlife allowed for the possibility of spirits of mortals.


(Jon) #12

George I’ve cited several Bible passages which you haven’t even commented on, I’ve directed you to standard dictionaries and encyclopedias, and all you’ve done is quote a bit of Wright and said you disagree. You need to work harder than this. Here are some more facts for you.

  1. To pre-exilic Hebrews sheol meant the grave, and this is well attested in the Elephantine Papyri.

  2. To pre-exilic Hebrews, resurrection was the only way out of the grave (see the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, as well as the texts in Isaiah and Jeremiah).

  3. In the pre-exilic sapiental literature, those who are dead are unconscious because they do not exist.

That’s how I “plan to do that”. Let me know when you’ve discovered the Hebrew word for “immortal soul”.


(George Brooks) #13

@Jonathan_Burke,

Like I said, the harder you attempt to prove issue, the more you will disprove one of your other pet issues!

For example, the Elephantine Payri is largely a collection of POST-exilic writings! The well known Passover Letter is dated to around 419 BCE.

As to your specifics, yes, Sheol meant GRAVE. And the Bible texts I cite talk about EVERYONE going to the grave … but not to a particularly pleasant afterlife.

I agree with you that there was a physical resurrection in the Old Testament – BECAUSE they had no happy expectations of a spiritual existence. Elijah and Elisha… even Enoch … they commune with God ONLY because they exist, still, in their fleshly bodies.

Moses, in the New Testament transfiguration story, is portrayed in a similar way - - as part of a popular view that explains why the body of Moses can’t be found.

These are all EXCEPTIONS that prove MY case, rather than yours, Jon.

Elijah, Elisha, Enoch …were examples of what common men and women could expect. For them, there was just Sheol… where they either lost their existence all together, or they lived a shadowy, drab and listless existence. I brought up the incident at Endor not to PROVE a happy afterlife, but to prove that there really wasn’t a happy or positive view of existence after death.

Are you catching on to these nuances ?


(Jon) #14

George you keep pointing to belief in resurrection as if it proves I’m wrong. But I am arguing for belief in resurrection. Remember, I do not believe the Hebrews believed in any “spiritual existence” at death. So here we go again.

  1. Of course the Elephantine Papyri are post-exilic. But the colony settled there in the seventh century (well before the exile), and that’s precisely why the papyri are valuable. The papyri contain a fossilized record of seventh century Hebrew beliefs which were carried from Israel to Elephantine. So you can’t claim they merely represent post-exilic beliefs. The people who wrote them never even experienced the exile.

  2. To pre-exilic Hebrews, resurrection was the only way out of the grave (see the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, as well as the texts in Isaiah and Jeremiah).

  3. In the pre-exilic sapiental literature, those who are dead are unconscious because they do not exist.

  4. Let me know when you’ve discovered the Hebrew word for “immortal soul”.

Bear in mind that you haven’t yet addressed points 2-4. In addition, you haven’t actually cited any lexicographical or exegetical evidence.


(George Brooks) #15

@Jonathan_Burke

[2] Jon, AND resurrection was not generally available to commoners. So why do you keep bringing it up? Resurrection, in the Old Testament, was a rare intervention by God … and it isn’t even clear that they were resurrected in the USUAL sense of this English word. To be “resurrected” means, usually, that they first must die.

Did Enoch die? No.
Did Elijah die? No.
Elisha? Yes, he DID die. But in the Old Testament Elisha is not resurrected!

In 2 Kings 13:14-21, we learn that someone ELSE has died… and is
truly resurrected by TOUCHING Elisha’s corpse.

[3] Why do you fixate on pre-exilic sapiental iterature? A) It proves my point that there is no general and favorable “afterlife” for commoners generally found in the Old Testament.

And finally, [4] I am not familiar with the Hebrew word for “immortal soul”. Are you? If you are, please tell us. If you aren’t, doesn’t this lend YET ANOTHER NAIL in the coffin of the topic that the Old Testament shows any adherence to a notion of an immortal soul?


(Jon) #16

This is what you need to substantiate. The only people resurrected in the Old Testament are actually commoners.

You are totally avoiding the point I am making. I am not saying Elijah was resurrected, or that Elisha was resurrected, or that Enoch was resurrected. I am reminding you that Elijah resurrected someone (a commoner), from the dead. Elisha also resurrected someone (a commoner), from the dead. Another man (a commoner), was resurrected when his dead body touched the bones of Elisha. And leaving aside Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel (a resurrection of many people from the dead), we have resurrection of many people from the dead, in Daniel.

That is exactly what I am talking about. That puts paid to your claim that the Hebrews had no idea of anyone being resurrected (especially commoners), until the fifth century.

I am not fixating on it, I am simply point out that you haven’t addressed it. There is no spiritual afterlife for the dead in the sapiental literature.

There isn’t one. That’s my point.

Of course it does. In case you need reminding, I have been arguing this time that the Old Testament does not show any adherence to the notion of an immortal soul. I have been through this with you several times.


(George Brooks) #17

@Jonathan_Burke

I fear you are just trying to win debate points.

When I use the phrases “resurrection for commoners” or a “a favorable afterlife for commoners” … I mean as an indication that this is the fate for ALL people.

Surely you don’t think it is important that a handful of COMMON people get resurrection while everyone else doesn’t?

I’m going to respond to the rest in a separate thread.


(George Brooks) #18

@Jonathan_Burke

I HAVE addressed this topic… essentially I have said more or less :EXACTLY… the Old Testament does not PROVIDE for a favorable and general afterlife!


(George Brooks) #19

AND… for the last time… I AGREE … You have a knack for using evidence that contradicts your position … and then insisting that i disprove it.

The Old Testament does NOT show any adherence to the notion of a favorably immortal soul.

This dispute started when you proposed the first temple period as a time when resurrection became a general belief. The problem is you think SELECTIVE resurrection is the important milestone. It isn’t. The important milestone is when resurrection or an afterlife for ALL believers becomes a general belief.


(Andy) #20

Some caution is needed here. I think the Elisha/Elijah miracles are more in line with Jesus and Lazarus or the servant girl which were resuscitations, not the resurrection Daniel talks about. Jesus’ resurrection is the only instance of this occurring. All the resuscitated people eventually died and are still awaiting resurrection. Obviously that is not the case with Jesus, which is why is was such a big deal to the Gospel writers, Paul, etc. While I agree there is evidence in the OT elsewhere, I am not sure why you’re using those examples to support the pre-exilic resurrection belief. I don’t think they are.