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Returning from the Dead in the Hebrew Bible

In thinking about Sheol and death in the Hebrew Bible, it is worth reflecting on passages where the dead come back to life or are contacted by the living.  This does not happen much at all – a couple of instances of resuscitation and one of necromancy. Probably the most famous resuscitation – the bringing back to life of a dead person – involves the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 17:17-24.   Elijah has been helping an unnamed widow from the town of Zarephath, miraculously providing her and her son with food during a divinely-mandated drought/famine (which the prophet brought to teach the wicked King Ahab a lesson).   But the boy dies.  The widow is understandably distraught – the prophet was supposed to be helping her and now her son has died.  Some help. Elijah takes the boy, though, and raises him from the dead.  The woman responds appropriately, declaring him Elijah a man of God who speaks the word of God. In 2 Kings 4:32-37 a similar story is told about the prophet Elisha – [...]

The Name of Saul/Paul and the Sources of the Pentateuch: Weekly Mailbag June 26, 2016

  Why did Saul change his name to Paul?  And what were the sources lying being the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible?  Good questions!  I’ll deal with them here in the Weekly Reader’s Mailbag   QUESTION: What is the meaning of “Paul” that Saul of Tarsus was moved to change to that name upon his conversion? RESPONSE: Ah, right – my students ask me this a lot in my New Testament class.  When we all grew up in Sunday School we learned that when Saul of Tarsus converted, he changed his name to Paul, so that Saul was his Jewish name and Paul his Christian name.  As it turns out, that’s not quite right. Paul himself never gives any indication that he had another name, Saul.   But he is called Saul in the book of Acts.  Until he converts.  After that he is usually called Paul.  But not always!  See, e.g., Acts 11:30 and 13:2 (there are other instances).  There the Christian Paul is called Saul. What gives with that?  Did [...]

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