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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 – [...]

Background to The Christian Afterlife: The Maccabean Revolt: A Blast from the (Recent) Past!

Back in April I was in the middle of a thread about the afterlife, and now, after this unusual hiatus, I am able and eager to return to it.  For those of you who were with us at the time, you may remember that this is the topic of the book I am working on now, that I have been reading massively about for most of the past year.  My views have developed, changed, and deepened since April.  I've had lots and lots of interesting ideas and thoughts, as I have pondered ancient sources (Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian) some of which I will be explaining over the course of this thread. In the thread to this point I have discussed how the afterlife was conceptualized in the ancient Israelite sources found in the Hebrew Bible.  The basic story, for those of you who don't recall or who are not inclined to reread the posts from earlier in the year, is that for most of the Hebrew Bible, the place of the dead was Sheol, [...]

Background to a Different View of the Afterlife: The Maccabean Revolt

The views about the afterlife found in the Hebrew Bible are not, by and large, replicated in the New Testament.  A new view had developed in Judaism by that time, rooted in the ideology known as "apocalypticism," which I have talked about before on the blog.  Ideologies do not arise in a vacuum of course, but are responses to concrete historical, social, and cultural forces, events, and situations.   To make sense of the Jewish notion of "resurrection" (the dominant view of what the afterlife would involve in the New Testament -- in contrast to the Old Testament) it is important to know what socio-political events led to it. And so here is a very brief sketch of the history of Judea over the four hundred years from approximately 540 BCE, when the Persians were in control, up to 63 BCE, when the Romans came in and took over.  I’ve taken the sketch from my textbook, The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction. ************************************************************************** The Later History of Judea In the Persian period (starting in [...]

2020-06-03T15:33:18-04:00April 21st, 2017|Early Judaism, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

Background to Apocalypticism: The Maccabean Revolt

OK, I’m back to my discussion of where Jewish apocalypticism came from.  So far I have laid out the understandings of the Jewish prophets, focusing on Amos (from the 8th century BCE).  Now I need to explain why the “prophetic” views came to change.  To make sense of the change I have to sketch a set of historical events that the people of Israel had to live through.   Some people find these kinds of historical sketches fascinating; others find them dull as dirt.  But in either event, you really have to know what happened among ancient Jews in order to make sense of what their theological beliefs were, since these beliefs were molded by and informed by nothing so much as the historical context out of which they emerged. And so here is a very brief sketch of the history of Judea over the four hundred years from approximately 540 BCE, when the Persians were in control, up to 63 BCE, when the Romans came in and took over.  I’ve taken the sketch from my [...]

2020-04-03T03:55:34-04:00January 15th, 2016|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Readers’ Mailbag December 18, 2015

  It is time for my weekly Readers’ Mailbag.   If you too have a question you would like me to address – on much of anything at all! – let me know, either by sending me an email or by commenting on this post.  I’ll be dealing with two questions today, one on dealing with where apocalyptic views came from, the other with my personal experience as a born-again Christian who had been raised Episcopalian. ********************************************************************************************* QUESTION:  Was there something in the air roughly 2000 years ago that gave rise to apocalyptic beliefs? Was the world uniquely viewed as a ‘hell on earth’ requiring imminent Godly intervention, or are such views one of those ‘hardy perennials’ that exist all the time with deluded individuals perceiving themselves as possessing unique insight into the mind of God and so qualified to opinions on The Plan?   RESPONSE:  I suppose the answer is both Yes and Yes!  There certainly was a historical and cultural context from which apocalypticism emerged.  Scholars of ancient Judaism have traced the origins of [...]

2020-04-03T13:04:19-04:00December 18th, 2015|Bart’s Biography, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|
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