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Daniel and a New Doctrine of Resurrection from the Dead

Biblical scholars have long held that the first relatively clear and certain reference to a doctrine of “the resurrection of the dead” occurs in Daniel 12.   This is striking, since Daniel was almost certainly the final book of the Hebrew Bible to be written.  Because of the barely disguised allusions to Antiochus Epiphanes in the second half of the book, it is almost always dated to roughly the Maccabean period, in the 160s BCE.

As I have indicated, in the prophets there were earlier references to some kind of national “resurrection” – as in Ezekiel 37 (and probably, for example, Isaiah 26:19) – in which the nation that had been metaphorically wasted away, killed, destroyed, would revive and once again come to life.   But the prophets – from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, to the twelve so-called “minor” prophets – all shared the older Israelite view about what happens to a person who dies.  She or he goes to Sheol, along with everyone else, to exist forever in a shadowy netherworld where nothing much happens – not even the worship of Yahweh.

Things have changed by the time we get to the Maccabean period.  I am not saying that everyone now has adopted a new point of view.  Possibly only a few people did so.  But more and more accepted this view over time, so that two hundred years later, in the days of Jesus’ public ministry, this new view had taken hold and came to be one of the dominant views – if not the single most dominant view – throughout Judaism

In this view, Sheol was not …

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Celsus  September 21, 2017

    Daniel 12 wasn’t necessarily talking about a physical resurrection involving raised corpses.

    “…Neither does he (Daniel) say that the resurrection will involve a body of flesh and blood. Daniel 12:2, which is usually taken to refer to “the dust of the earth,” can actually be translated as “the land of dust,” or Sheol. The idea then is that the wise, at least, are lifted up from Sheol to heaven.” – John J. Collins, A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, pg. 347.

    Moreover, we have Josephus’ testimony who says the Pharisees believed that their souls would be “removed” into “other” bodies. When we add this to what Paul says in 1 Cor 15:40-44 and 2 Cor 5:1-4 it seems he was talking about a different spiritual entity in heaven, not a revived corpse on earth.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 22, 2017

      Yes, there were a variety of views. I’m not sure I agree with Collins on this one though. It is the body that goes in the ground that is raised up from the ground.

      • Avatar
        Celsus  September 22, 2017

        I think the line of thought is that Sheol was where disembodied spirits dwelled. So those spirits that rest in the “land of dust” (Sheol) are raised to heaven.

  2. Avatar
    Jana  October 15, 2017

    This is a question .. it seems to me then that the nature of God changed or evolved too?? He is not static but evolved as the concept of an afterlife evolved? Is my understand correct? It seems all pinned to what you established before .. that God is Righteous and the Jewish people chosen … as long as these concepts are central then interpretations and reinterpretations take place to justify tragic events including torture. is my summation correct Dr. Ehrman??? (It’s quite overwhelming)

    • Bart
      Bart  October 16, 2017

      Yes, I would say different authors of the Bible had very different views of God, as they developed their understandings in different times and places.

      • Avatar
        Jana  October 17, 2017

        Have you treated the changing image of God from Jewish to Christian in any of your books? I am keen to learn more and thank you.

        • Bart
          Bart  October 18, 2017

          No, I’m afraid I haven’t, not exactly. The closest I’ve come is in How Jesus Became God.

  3. kt@rg.no
    kt@rg.no  July 19, 2020

    My “handicap” is that I have trouble reading the book of Daniel literary. First it was written long after the 1.st excile periode, but it uses symbols whch I suspect describe inner/spiritual forces . Not unlike other books in the OT, and also the Revelation which uses the same imaginary, this book is a symbolic book of the soul in relation to God.

    First, this book shows me the “pattern” of the fall, that human fall into human kingdoms ((humans as royal image of God, as described in Genesis and Psalm 8) disconnected from God become like beasts (chapter 4), but that God will confront and destroy these human “kingdoms” (kingdom, ie statue where the head is Babylon) (King’s dream chapter 2), and chapter 7 (Daniel’s dream) which sees the 4 human fundamentals who oppresses the Son of man (divine agent / servant).

    Then, I think it also tries to give hope, where it shows that God will confront the beasts/human and restore Gods kingdom again (chapter 7, Daniel’s dream and on).

    For me who might think the book of Revelation is a spiritual ascent back to God, where the symbols, animals, etc. are forces or processes within ourselves, the book of Daniel and its imaginary are familiar.

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