#6. Does man return to the dust upon his death OR is he resurrected? (Gen 3:19; Eccl 3:20; Job 14:10, 12, etc. vs Dan 12:2; 1 Thess 4:15-17; 1 Cor 15:22, 15:51-52; Acts 24:15; Mk 9:1; Jn 5:28-29, 6:40; Rev 2:7)


The axiom of Genesis 3:19, “for dust you are and to dust you shall return,” and similar statements in the Hebrew Bible

a human is in no way better off than an animal. Everything goes to the same place: everything comes from the dust, and everything returns to the dust (Eccl 3:20)

a human being, he dies and dead he remains (Job 14:10)

a human being, once laid to rest will never rise again (Job 14:12)

is predicated on the ontological and empirical evidence that all men die, that Death, if we wish to personify it, comes to all, and that there is no returning from the grave, or Sheol as it is commonly referred to in the Bible. Nothing in the Hebrew Bible, in other words, prepares us for the New Testament’s declarations that, according to Paul, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has defeated Death itself, that Death no longer exists or, in light of Paul’s historical context, is currently becoming extinct (Rom 6:21-22, 8:2; 1 Cor 15:26). Likewise, apart from a very brief one-liner in Daniel 12:2, a late text, there is nothing in the Hebrew Bible that paves the way for belief in resurrection—that is, in a post-mortem reanimated corporal rising from the grave and eternal existence on earth.

Like many of the contradictions contained within the Bible’s 66 different books, whose dates of composition span an entire millennium!, this one is the result of a long editorial process that brought together two vastly different texts, and whose dates of composition were centuries apart (read about Contradictions in the Bible). More so, it is the result of two vastly different religious ideas and belief systems. It would be preposterous to think that there were no religious changes and developments between texts written in the 7th century BC and those written in the 1st century AD, and under drastically different political and religious convictions. Just because the Bible preserves texts written in the 7th century BC and texts written in the 1st century AD does not mean that this so-called “Book” is representative of a continuos religious tradition safeguarded over, as many presume, a divine rational plan. This in itself is a later interpretive framework that was imposed upon these texts by readers and scribes, who much like modern readers, lived centuries after these texts were written and knew next to nothing about the historical circumstances that produced these texts, their authors, and their audiences. It is our task, here and now, to understand this, to lend an ear to these individual texts and their authors. (Read more about What the Bible is).

What follows is a chronological overview of the religious ideas of death and punishment, and their transformation into later ideas and beliefs about an afterlife and resurrection as it can be surveyed in the literature of the Bible itself.

Death for all and for good!: Death and Dying in the Hebrew Bible

Heaven is the abode of Yahweh. Sheol is were the life-spirit (nephesh) goes after death, for both the just and the unjust. There are no exceptions, well other than the mythic Enoch and Elijah. The idea and belief in resurrection would have been unheard of, even unimaginable, to the authors of the Pentateuch (the Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly writer). In fact such an idea would have been unheard of, even blasphemous, to all the authors of the Hebrew Bible except the author of Daniel, the last text to be written. That is to say, not until the 2nd century BC does the idea of and belief in resurrection emerge in the biblical corpus! And as we shall see it emerges as a direct result of a very specific historical crisis. But let us back up a moment.

“I put before you life and death”: The theology of reward and punishment in the Old Testament

We must approach the topic of death and how it morphed into the creation of the idea of resurrection through a discussion of theodicy or divine justice (why there is evil) as it was conceived and portrayed by our various biblical authors. Because ideas and beliefs about divine justice and punishment changed—and the biblical record attests these changes—so too ideas and beliefs about dying and/or being resurrected (i.e., being vindicated).

In the earliest texts of the Hebrew Bible, those written before the 5th century BC, the problem of theodicy is answered in terms that would offend any sensible man or woman of today. It is a theology structured on empirical evidence!

If you or your nation are suffering evils or have been struck down, then it is because you have sinned against Yahweh and his Torah; if you or your nation are healthy and prosperous, then it is because you have keep Yahweh’s laws and statues and Yahweh has blessed you. This is what might be referred to as the Deuteronomic theology, since it is most visible in the Deuteronomic literature and throughout the Prophetic corpus. The quote above, “I [Yahweh is speaking] put before you life and death” (Deut 30:15) sums up this theology of reward and punishment. The reward for obedience is life and prospering on the land; the punishment for disobedience and apostasy is suffering, exile, illness, etc., and death. In other words, how do you know if someone is just or unjust in this theological system? Easy. Just look and see whether he or she is healthy and prosperous or suffering and misfortunate.

It is a retrojective theology. That is, it is dictated by the empirical evidences at hand, and the biblical writers used this to create powerful historicizied theological narratives as we will see in the next section. Certainly, later Biblical authors will questions, and disagree, with this theological interpretive grid, particularly the authors of Ecclesiastes and Job, but let us get there in due fashion.

God is sovereign! How Faith informs history writing for the just and unjust alike

This retrojective theology actually rested on another theological premise which was for our biblical writers an unshakeable given, namely that God is just. Too much lip service is given to this idea in modernity, without much understanding about what this meant in terms of the biblical writers. Even those that toot such axioms today are a far cry from what this theological premise meant for the biblical writers.

To assert that God is just is to expose our human tendency and desire to see and claim that the world operates according to principles of justice, that there is a divine, cosmic system of justice that permeates through the world, even if man cannot see it at times. This idea will become increasingly more important as we move from a religious system that assigns death as the ultimate punishment for transgressions to one that assigns a post-mortem existence in hell as the ultimate punishment. But to give up this premise is to assert that the world did not operate on just grounds. That our biblical authors could not do. So all problems pertaining to the question of why there is evil in the world had to be answered without altering this theological “given.”

This theological premise co-existed with another which was just as important, namely that Yahweh is sovereign. What that means to our biblical writers is that all events whether national or individual were Yahweh’s doing. Now that’s a hard pill to swallow. No devil had yet been created (another religious idea that emerges after the texts of the Hebrew Bible were written). Yahweh was sovereign, period. Here are some expressions of what this sovereignty meant to the biblical writers.

Should evil befall a city and Yahweh has not done it? (Amos 3:6)

I am Yahweh and there is none other; I fashion light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil. I am Yahweh who does all these things! (Isa 45:6-7)

Who makes a person dumb or deaf, gives sight or makes blind? Is it not I, Yahweh! (Ex 4;11)

Of course this meant that while evil comes from God, God is not the cause of one’s evils or suffering, the individual or nation is. Yahweh is just is the theological premise. The choice between life and death was theirs to make. In other words, these theological “givens” work in tandem. The two together create a powerful theological interpretive framework through which the world was seen, and history was recorded by our biblical scribes.

Thus, in the conceptual and theological framework of judgement, death was seen as the ultimate punishment for disobedience and apostasy. And Yahweh was the death dealer. This is perhaps nowhere more accentuated than in the Deuteronomic and Prophetic literature (e.g., Deut 13; 28-30; Is 28; Jer 20-2;  Ezek 18; 33). Much of the Old Testament legislation also ordained death as the punishment for a number of sins and issues of impurity. In fact the over-reaching theology of the Old Testament is that disobedience and apostasy lead to death, while obedience and righteousness lead to life. The goal of existence was living a good life, not an afterlife reward, but for the rewards and comfort of this life. Remember, no such idea was even imaginable to our biblical writers.

Thus, under the Old Testament’s theological framework, an individual or nation that was blessed, was seen as being blessed not only on account of Yahweh, the bestower of those blessings, but more so on account of the individual’s or nation’s own obedience and righteousness. In other words, according to this Deuteronomic theology, the empirical reality of a good life was proof enough of the individual’s or nation’s obedience to Yahweh. For the author of Deuteronomy stipulated this to be so (Deut 28-30). Conversely, the opposite also holds true under this theological interpretive framework: namely if the empirical reality revealed suffering, destruction, exile, loss, and death, the evidence irrefutably pointed toward the individual’s or nation’s disobedience to Yahweh’s Torah. This too was written in the covenant theology of the Deuteronomic law code.

Nowhere is this theology more powerfully presented than in the prophetic literature. Israel’s destruction, loss of land, and death and exile of its people in 722 BC, and Judah’s destruction, loss of land, and death and exile of its people in 587 BC were reasoned to be the result of their disobedience to Yahweh and his Torah. Whether this was an historically valid reason or not for the fall of Israel in 722 and Jerusalem in 587 was not the point. The actual facts of history are never the point in ancient historiography; rather, the interpretive theological understanding was. Faith informed history.

Furthermore, Deuteronomic theology and that of the prophets as well would have seen those that forged this attack on Israel in 722 BC and Judah in 587 BC as servants of Yahweh, an instrument of his divine biding. Yahweh, and Yahweh alone was sovereign. This is what that means. Even the books of Daniel and Revelation, which create an interesting twist to this theology nonetheless see their unjust sufferings as a product of divine providence. To deny this theology for the biblical authors was to question the sovereignty of God!

As a side note, I should mention that this theological interpretation of history through the premise that one’s national deity was sovereign over all the events of history was shared by all ancient Near Eastern cultures. For the Babylonians, for example, Marduk was sovereign; he controlled all the events of history. In this light it’s interesting to compare Ezra 1 where it is claimed that Yahweh was the cause of the demise of the Babylonian empire and for allowing the Judean exiles to return (Yahweh is sovereign) and the Babylonian cylinder seal where it is claimed that Marduk caused the demise of the Babylonian empire because the people disobeyed his laws and commandments AND allowed the exiles to return! It’s the same theology. Aunt Martha isn’t the only one who can bake an apple pie!

Job questions the Deuteronomic theology of reward for the just and punishment for the unjust

Nevertheless this Deuteronomic theology—if an individual or nation is healthy and prosperous it is on account of their loyalty to Yahweh and his Torah, and conversely if an individual or nation is suffering evils, even exiled, it is on account of having transgressed Yahweh’s Torah—comes into question in later periods. It is not difficult to see why. What if an individual or a nation were truly pious and righteous according to the terms of the Torah but were suffering evils anyway—that is suffering unjustly! What then? Remember up to this point the idea of suffering unjustly did not exist. The theology which stipulated that Yahweh is just and Yahweh is sovereign insisted that if the empirical evidence indicated that you were suffering evil, destruction, oppression by your enemies, etc., then it was as clear as day that you have transgressed against Yahweh and his Torah.

The book of Job, written in the 3rd century BC, however, brings this theology into question. And rightly so. Yet even the author of Job is not going to give up the theological “givens” that Yahweh is just and Yahweh is sovereign. The conundrum was whether that theology rested on empirical evidence or not.

In fact, Job’s friends represent the old school theological reckoning which claims that since Job is suffering, since they can see it, he must have sinned; the empirical experience dictates the theology. Job insists, however, that he has not sinned. The reader also knows this to be the case. The book of Job, however, does not provide, nor attempt to provide, an answer to the question of Job’s suffering. It simple asserts that it is beyond human understanding. In other words, although we start to see the emergence of a culture that now questions the older Deuteronomic theology that basically says if you are suffering misfortunes it is because you have offend Yahweh, but it has failed to provide an answer. The first step is to question the old long-standing interpretive tradition, even if no answer is as of yet foreseeable.

Qoheleth concludes all is vain, the just and unjust suffer the same fate: Death comes to all

The picture becomes more dismal when we come to the book of Ecclesiastes, another late 3rd century BC text. Contrary to the aporia that the text of Job ends in, the author of Ecclesiastes does have an answer: the just and the unjust both suffer the same fate! Death. All is vain! What profit is there to man’s labors when all receive the same fate?

In the end, however, like the author of Job, Qoheleth concludes that he has no answer, and that it is nevertheless best to follow Yahweh’s Torah, even if the sun shines on both the just and unjust.

We start to see that the issue of theodicy (why is there suffering/evil) has intensified and that the Deuteronomic answer no longer satisfies. Finally we arrive at the book of Daniel, which is an even later book of the Hebrew canon that also questions this theological belief—well sort of—and postulates a catchy solution.

Daniel speculates the just will rise from the grave and be rewarded: A reply to unjust sufferings

Like many of the texts of the Bible, Daniel is written to address a very specific historical situation and thus attempts to offer a theological rationale for its occurrence and for its hoped for end. The specific historical circumstance that text of Daniel is responding to is persecution. Daniel is written during the persecution of the Jewish nation under the foreign monarch Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who came to power in 167 BC. The emergence and creation of the belief in resurrection, of a post-mortem eternal reanimated corporal existence on a just earth—we are still a long distance from the idea of heaven—can be pin pointed to a specific historical event. In other words, both the textual and historical evidence clearly indicate why and how belief in a post-mortem existence was born.  There is both good literary and historical grounds for seeing the belief in resurrection emerging, that is being created, as a direct response to a very specific situation: persecution.

In fact, Antiochus forbade the practicing of Judaism, burnt all Torahs, killed mothers who circumcised their sons, and forced Jews to forsake the Torah and profane themselves by eating unclean foods, and basically outlawed Judaism and slaughtered those who still followed its tenets and rituals. In the end, he even set a statue of Zeus in the guise of himself in Yahweh’s Temple, Daniel’s “abomination of desolation.”

If, according to the older theological construct of the Deuteronomic theology, an individual’s or nation’s suffering and unjust treatment is due to former transgressions and sin, and thus the suffering is seen as divine punishment and retribution—often referred to as God’s wrath—then Daniel does not really question this difficult to swallow theological construct, even in the face of witnessing his Jewish brethren being persecuted and martyred! However, the author of Daniel did create and amend to this belief another, that of vindication in an eternal life. Let’s pause for a moment and think about this.

Under the old theological system, the goal was to obey Yahweh’s torah in order to live a prosperous and good life. There is no post-mortem existence here; a good life, which largely equated to keeping the land, was the goal. Additionally, under this older theological system heaven was seen as the abode of God, period. Sheol is where one goes upon one’s death, whether one has lived an evil existence or a good one. Thus why Qoheleth lamented that all was in vain.

The reader may be confused at this moment, so drawn in and persuaded by later Christian ideas of reward and punishment in a post-mortem existence. Yet we are in the midst of explaining how this system of ideas and beliefs were created, yes created. In the Old Testament there is no hell. In other words, to address this from the perspective of reward and punishment, which the theology of the Deuteronomic history certainly deals with, Old Testament theology does not conceive of this reward and punishment in terms of a post-mortem reward or punishment. No such thing existed. When one dies, sleeps, or goes down to Sheol, that’s it. “A man once laid in the grave, will never rise again” (Job 14:12). According to this theological system, reward was living!, living a blessed life per the covenantal stipulations of the Deuteronomic writers. Conversely, punishment was living a sufferable existence, like for example, in exile, having your lands destroyed by the Babylonians, having your family cannibally consumed, or having all the plagues of Egypt come upon your nation (Deut 28). Again, under this theological system, these horrid sufferings and experiences were empirical proof of one’s sin or apostasy and thus called for divine retribution.

One now sees why and how the author of Job questioned such a construct. Does reality really work this way? The author of Daniel, although agreeing in part with this theology, amends it as well. What if an individual or nation were truly righteous and piously followed Yahweh’s Torah, but were experiencing horrid sufferings or even persecution anyway? The author of Daniel responds, in accord with the reigning older theological paradigm: that individual or nation is paying for their forefathers’ punishments. Well if the reward for being loyal to Yahweh’s Torah was living itself, and presumably living a blessed life, then what about those who were actually loyal and obedient to the Torah but lived horrible lives under severe persecution and suffering as many did when the book of Daniel was being written? This is Job’s question that goes unanswered.

If the empirical data of the existence of a truly righteous and pious individual is that of unjust suffering and persecution, and even if this is because that individual or nation is still paying for the sins and transgressions of its predecessors, nonetheless, the author of Daniel affirms, there is a reward, and furthermore that reward for being loyal to Yahweh and his Torah is still living, but since living is now a matter of suffering and persecution it is no longer conceived of in terms of living this existence—how could it be when there is nothing but persecution and suffering—but living in a post-mortem existence.

For Daniel, the just, defined as Torah obedient Jews, even though living a sufferable existence under the severe persecution of Antiochus, nevertheless are vindicated for their loyalty to Yahweh through a post-mortem existence. They are rewarded even though the empirical reality of their current suffering and persecution would indicate otherwise. For they are rewarded in an eternal life, which was envisioned to commence at some imminent point in history. For the author of Daniel, it was envisioned to commence after the three and a half years wherein Antiochus persecuted the Jews and placed a statue of himself in the guise of Zeus in Yahweh’s temple, in other words in the year 163 BC!

The text of Daniel 12:2 claims that “of those who are sleeping in the dust will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace.” The resurrection, literally the raising of the body and its life-force from the grave, is seen as a solution to the irresolution created by the Deuteronomic theology. According to the authors of Daniel, those who have suffered persecution and martyred themselves and were indeed loyal to the Torah—a theme that rings throughout the book—will be raised from the grave to everlasting life. This is a reanimated body living in what is conceptualized in the literature as the kingdom of God. Most significantly this is an earthly kingdom that our author sees as imminently coming upon the demise of the last foreign kingdoms, specifically that of Antiochus’ evil rule. This post-mortem reanimated life is therefore perceived as the due vindication for the righteous and loyal who have died from Antiochus’ persecution. It is a martyr’s vindication—uniquely for those who have given their lives to remain loyal to the Torah of Yahweh. This is more explicitly portrayed in the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees which were written also in the context of Antiochus’ persecutions and provides us with a good amount of historical information about these persecutions. 2 Macc 7:1-11 brings home quite vividly this belief in resurrection for those who martyred themselves.

It happened also that 7 brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and throngs, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. One of them, acting as their spokesperson, said “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” The king fell into a rage and gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated. These were heated immediately and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesperson be cut  out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and mother looked on.

And the second brother, when he was at his last breath said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting resurrection of life because we have died for his laws.”

And after him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands and said nobly, “I got these from heaven and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again”

Bodily resurrection from the grave, and if necessary the recreation of lost limbs as seen in the above example, to an eternal corporal reanimated life was the theological solution for the righteous Torah-obedient Jew who suffered and was martyred for his god’s sake—a true vindication. More than describing the ontological constitution of reality, the tales of vindicated martyrs served a literary and historical purpose: to consol and praise those who died, and were dying for Yahweh and his Torah. Approximately 200 hundred years later, the same ideas and beliefs were to reappear in the book of Revelation, where also those who martyred themselves—and only the martyrs the text affirms—were to be vindicated in a reanimated post-mortem eternal or millennial life on earth.

Resurrection, Judgement, and the Just and Righteous in Jewish Intertestamental Literature

We do not have the time to review this large corpus of literature, but starting in the 2nd century BC, the notion that the just sufferer will be given his reward in a post-mortem resurrected existence spread like wildfire. It answered the question of theodicy while nevertheless kept intact the theological “givens” that Yahweh is just and sovereign. The book of Enoch, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other texts expressed this same idea. Thus the belief in resurrection was something that Paul inherited from his Judaism; it was not born from his belief in Christ. Something else was however.

Paul proclaims the Resurrection has begun: Death is Dead! 

Paul, who is the first author of what will become Christian literature, believes in the resurrection and most likely he was informed about such beliefs from these Jewish traditions that already existed in the Judaism of the 1st century AD. However, on account of his Christ-experience Paul also believed that the Resurrection, capital R, of the dead had begun! In other words, if Jewish tradition affirmed that on the day of Judgement, the God of the cosmos was going to raise up the bodies in the grave in order to pass judgement on them and assign everlasting life on earth to the righteous ones, then for Paul that moment had already commenced. This belief was predicated on the empirical fact, for Paul, that Jesus rose from the dead. In other words, and harmonious with the Jewish tradition Paul adopted, Paul deemed that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was the sign that the Resurrection of all the dead had begun (1 Cor 15). In fact, Paul also seems to have firmly believed that he himself and other believers in Christ would not die! (1 Thess 4). That’s how much Paul was caught up in the belief that the day of Judgement and the Resurrection had already begun. Some of the righteous living during this event would not even die; their bodies will just be transformed and they will join those who are being raised from the grave, and apparently they will all sit down to a meal of French toast and Earl Gray (that last part is not in the Bible; it’s been a long night typing this up). This is exactly why Paul can also proclaim that Death is dead; it exists no more; that sin too is dead, that Torah obedience is gone, that we are all dead in fact—because what was happening was the beginning of a post-mortem existence awakening. Paul was witnessing this … or so he believed.

“There are some standing here who will not taste death!”

Paul’s belief that he was living in the midst of the Judgement and Resurrection, and that therefore he himself and others of the righteous would not die, was passed on to some of the writings of the early church. The quotation above (Mk 9:1; Matt 16:28; Lk 9:27) expresses this belief. Although placed on the lips of Jesus in these gospels, it most likely was the very words and beliefs of the authors who, much like Paul, believed that they were living in the midst of the Judgement, the second coming, and the Resurrection, so much so that some were thought not even to die!

48 thoughts on “#6. Does man return to the dust upon his death OR is he resurrected? (Gen 3:19; Eccl 3:20; Job 14:10, 12, etc. vs Dan 12:2; 1 Thess 4:15-17; 1 Cor 15:22, 15:51-52; Acts 24:15; Mk 9:1; Jn 5:28-29, 6:40; Rev 2:7)

  1. Just off the top of my head, and reading the comments above, as concerns the resurrection from the dead, let me just point out that indeed the Scripture is consistent. There is a basic message. We have been given a very short time here on earth, it is like a vapor coming up off water, appearing for a short time and then it vanishes. So our life is short; especially in comparison to eternity; make the most of it. It is a blessing or a curse. You decide. It is also a test. Prepare for the test and pass it.
    Put it another way. In the womb we also have life, but only in the sense of preparing for coming out when we actualize it and realize it and experience the reason for the 9 month gestation. So this life is similar. It is preparation for eternal life. Where will you spend it? All the passages that speak of judgment are replete, from Genesis on to the end. Beginning with the 2nd verse and then with the garden in Genesis 3. There are consequences and we must not claim that we have no responsibility. “Know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. So remember also your Creator in the days of your youth. The conclusion? When all has been heard: Fear God, keep His commandments, because this is for everyone. Because God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
    Solomon has his name attached to that. He lived 1000 years before the Christian era. Yes, I know of the desperate need to put this way up in the future, claiming that this concept came from the followers of ha Masheach Yeshua. This idea of judgment for what we do in this life has no “teeth” if there is no resurrection from the dead. So the need to denigrate this is also obvious. But one thing we have is the book of Isaiah and the Scroll in the museum in Jerusalem. There in the 8th century BCE the prophet (and his Scroll which validates the Masoretic Text) spoke on more than one occasion of this concept: Take, for instance Isaiah 25 and in that context, verse 8. 26:19 where we read,
    “Your dead will live; Their bodies will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew equals the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.” Contrast that with what seems a contradiction. Verses 13-14. Departed spirits.
    And speaking of “departed spirits” Isaiah ends with chapter 66 and verses 22-24 “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” The context for mankind here is when there is a “new heavens and a new earth” (v.22).
    Remember, Isaiah is the cornerstone. You can’t even divide it up into some kind of schizophrenic tripartite “reconstructionism” as per the Source Hypothesis Theology.
    Anyway, Isaiah’s contemporary Hosea also gave a passing nod to judgment and resurrection in 13:14; next was Ezekiel 37 who was a contemporary of Daniel and verses 2 and 13: “But as for you, go to the end of your life; then you will enter into rest and rise for your allotted portion at the end of days.” When eternity arrives.
    The message is clear through out the 66 books. Despite what happened in the Garden, there is hope. Set your heart on that and don’t let anything deter you from being in the standing of those who will hear Him someday say, “Well done!”

  2. Job 19:26 is in the midst of several verses (vs 23-27) where the author not only confirms that “my Redeemer (or Vindicator, defender; lit. ‘kinsman’) lives but that someday he would see this One who would take His stand on the earth. At the last. In the end. From the author’s perspective, this would occur in the distant future. A future in which, “With my body, in the flesh will I see God; Whom I myself shall behold and whom my eyes will see”.

    But not with the body he has currently. As it concerns his skin, his body of flesh, he is like all mankind which will leave the body behind; which will then return to dust. Presently he differs from most of humanity by his consignment of extreme suffering. But in that there is hope.

    Unlike an earlier assessment (Grossman, 01/15/2014) the verb “destroyed” is not in the Hebrew passive voice (“I forgot to mention that nifqu as a passive nifal verb form”). And the three letter Hebrew root is NQF (nun-quph-pey) or niqfu, the way the verb is used, as it is in Job 19:26. נִקְּפוּ-זֹאת (‘niqfu-zot’ is the phrase being observed here). It is in the 2nd person plural, masculine. Directed to “you”, a plural masculine subject of this verb form. In other words, Job is addressing God; he is speaking to Elohim whose name is plural by nature. This verb is in the Qal Imperative which is always expressed in the 2nd person whether singular or plural in number or masculine or feminine in gender. And in this manner, the author of Job expresses sentiments emphatic, in the form of a direct command, which in this case concerns his suffering body. So Job is depicted demanding (pleading) “Destroy this!” And this verb tense does “…not carry the ordinary force of meaning. Sometimes (i.e. the Imperative Mood that is being used here, the ‘niqfu’) emphatically and vividly communicates a promise or prediction…”

    http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/hebrew_grammar.htm ref. C) IMPERATIVE

    *That this is lost in translation is but another example of the challenge that this website faces as it seeks to dismantle, via contradictions, the Hebrew text and “rebuild” it to reflect a sentiment that is imposed.*

    That mood of predictive promise, inherent in the Hebrew Imperative, is what is at work here in this verse. And the unique way he uses this verb form lends to understanding the sentiment of the author as he expressed himself.

    Job directs this demand to God Himself knowing (predicting) “yet from my flesh shall I see God”.

    Whether this is convincing proof of the resurrection can be argued. Except in the negative. In other words, it cannot be argued that such a concept of life from the dead never occurs, is never even mentioned in the Hebrew Scripture. This is a false premise and seems to be insisted upon to make but another, yet one more contradiction where none occurs.

    More on this later

  3. Hmmm….but the resurrection has to do with our bodies, right? The verse you cite has to do with the spirit, and there is no mention in this verse of the resurrection.

  4. Ecclesiastes 12:7 – Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

    Sorry Atheist, you lose. God checkmates every-time.

  5. Hi Richard

    For me, it isn’t about God not creating (I believe in God, who created everything and loves us tremendously). Rather, it is about the Bible being a collection of stories, that tell truth, but aren’t *necessarily* factual. It’s about reading these stories as they were told, not imposing our beliefs on them, but seeing them for what they are…stories, poems, morality tales, fireside sagas, songs, victory marches, ghost stories, mysteries, love stories…fantasy? The storytellers and scribes who told them and eventually wrote them down were human with very human agendas, and these agendas are apparent in the reading, when we take them for what they are, and what they were intended at the time of their writing.

    Did God guide the storytelling and writing? I believe so, but that doesn’t mean this is a book of sheer fact. It is a group of books and stories, worth something on their own, for their own merit, whether they are “God’s word” or not.

    1. That’s a nice balanced response Heidi. In the main, I agree.

      Richard, you misconstrue the situation or more accurately your thinking starts from a premise that is not necessarily true or valid. Here on this site, with this project, what we are interested in as our object of study is the biblical text or texts and what they themselves reveal about their own composite nature. Theological talk about God, however one wants to construe that, is not what I’m doing here. Certainly my work may have ramifications on how we as a culture conceptualize God or what that word means. But I’m making no theological, speculative assertions or negations about god here. Indeed I may talk about the biblical god, but that’s always done from the perspective of the authors of these texts—not my own. nor our cultures, not those of later readers.

      For instance, if the objective study of these 70+ different ancient texts written over a period of 1,000 years by diverse scribes, priests, theologians, poets, laypeople, etc., reflect variant beliefs, ideologies, religious and political convictions, competing stories and interpretations of history, etc. — which is the actual objective case here supported by the texts themselves—then I’m making no claims about God. God is not my object of study here; the biblical texts are.

      You’ve misconstrued the issue or have created a theological problem where there actually is none (and I’m well aware of the fact that your position represents the majority position of Christians out there—thus my attempt to educate on this matter, rectify the issue, and be honest to the beliefs and views of the authors of these texts) by assuming that claims alleging these ancient texts of variations, inconsistencies, and contradictions—which are all claims that the texts themselves are making/revealing when read on their own terms—are likewise claims against God, God’s existence, non-existence, etc. Not so by a long shot. This conclusion is only erroneously drawn when one takes as a given the incorrect premise that the Bible is the word of God. The texts, their 70+ different authors, and more so their variant beliefs, ideologies, etc all make a different claim. We start with an examination of the texts here, and on their own terms, not from a theological premise—the Bible is the word of God—carved centuries after these texts were written by readers who knew nothing about the authors of these texts and their historical and literary contexts. It’s time we as a culture start being honest to these ancient texts, their authors, and their beliefs—not ours, nor the beliefs about these texts carved from readers who knew and know nothing about the historical and literary contexts that produced these texts. Once we can be honest to these ancient texts and their competing stories, then we as a culture can tackle the more difficult questions.

      I encourage you to take a look at some of my more recent posts on the contradictory views and beliefs evidenced in a close comparative reading of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 each on their own terms and in their own historical and literary contexts. My goals have been to faithfully reproduce the views, beliefs, and convictions of the authors of these texts—not ours nor our beliefs about these texts. http://contradictionsinthebible.com/category/genesis/genesis-two-creation-accounts/

  6. So, from all of you finding that the Bible is not God breathed nor God instructions to His prophets to write for our salvation, the conclusion has to be there is no hope! I distinctly remember a verse that is written and I quote: ” the fool has said in his heart that there is no God”. So where does that leaves each one of you who believes your own words and not the words of God? I suppose each of you created the world, the stars and all of the planets too!

  7. Thanks for the analysis. It is frustrating, reading the Bible and not having Greek or Hebrew. I do like reading it with the context of the author(s) and scribes in mind, trying to see what they were trying to communicate on their terms, not through my own (and my teachers’) lenses.

    I am very happy to learn of the various traditions JEPD because it explains a LOT. Oddly, it doesn’t make me think less of the Scriptures. It only makes the topic more fascinating to me.

  8. Actually, I meant to say “Dry Bones” OR Daniel rather than “dry bones” OF Daniel, but I didn’t catch it. The Talmud uses both of these references for their resurrection – (one having to do with the guys in the furnace – Daniel, and the other having to do with the dead in the field). Thanks for the catch. (Must remember to proofread before submitting!).

  9. Thank you for your analysis of the Hebrew, Eliyahu. Regarding your last post, do you perhaps mean Ezekiel’s dry bones reference rather than Daniel’s?

  10. Oh, and as far as physical resurrection belief, that is described in detail in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, in the chapter titled “Chelek” (chapter 11, I believe). – A spent quit a bit of time on that one. The belief in a physical resurrection (which has some weird implications – such as God putting thoughts and memories into your brain) typically uses the “dry Bones” of Daniel as “proof”, but they debate the nuances of it. Keeping in mind that this section of the Talmud was written while Christianity was in full power, and it is hard to determine which side was influencing which. Although the Talmudic version has Christians restored and dying a normal life, serving the Jews as slaves in the World to Come, for up to 100 years until they die again forever, while the Jews keep on enjoying the World to Come.

    Yeah, I can see the Creator of the Universe having THAT as a plan – NOT!

  11. I forgot to mention that nifqu as a passive (nifal verb form) would translate it as “had been” verses the simple verb form of “was”. Interestingly enough, something else that is lost is that it is in the passive-past-plural form relating to his SKINS (although skin itself is in the singular feminine). I prefer to think of of the multi-layers coming undone with disease, like in a zombie movie!

    The use of “zot” as a feminine specific article (“that/this”) is also normally lost in the translation. It provide specific emphasis, as though he is pointing to his flesh while talking to his “friends”, saying “it had been done to THIS flesh”.

    And there is an explicit past-tense verb followed by a present tense (inferred “is”) with an explicit future tense.

    So the better opening would be “after [all of this] my skin, *this* [skin], that *had been* corrupted/disfigured (past), it is from my skin (present) that I will perceive (future) God”.

    Nice to see that you are keeping up with your blog.

    All the best, Eliyahu.

  12. Three notes.

    1) “I will see”, or echzeh refers to a prophetic sight, a grasping, and so forth. It is a spiritual envisioning.
    2) nifku really isn’t “destroyed” is a passive verb form of that which is corrupt, falling apart, which goes with the story of his diseased and painful form, that will give him no respite. It is not the end of something, but part of a process.
    3) The next sentence (verse 27) has his guts rotting, so it should be apparent that we are talking about something that is ongoing, not something that ended and a “reset button” made it all better.

    To put it in context, I might say “And even after my flesh is ripped and diseased (by these trials), from this corrupt skin and in pain I will continue to suffer and will behold God.”

    He is not talking about the future when his flesh will be restored (no term for restoration is there), but a future when his flesh, which is barely hanging on his bones, will also experience his insides suffering without any relief, and still he will not see any other than God. He will remain irrationally faithful.

    This one sentence is a lament to his “friends”, who are persecuting him (“you must have done something to cause this”), and that he is saying that not only had he not done anything wrong, but that it is THEY who should be careful, because even when he will be at his worst (think of the worst zombie movie ever!), he will still only see God.

    Iyov (Job) is also interesting from the aspect that the Jewish Sages could not agree who wrote the book, and whether or not he was a metaphor or historical.

    But no, I don’t see any resurrection here, just someone in pain, willing to endure even more, and chastising those who would condemn him.

    1. I love this close reading of the Hebrew text and the textual analysis you provide here. Thanks Eliyahu, and welcome.

      I myself was simply going to respond to Heidi’s question by re-referencing the explicit non-resurrection language of Job 14:10—“a man, he dies and dead he remains”—and 14:12—“a man, once laid to rest will never rise again.” Since most scholars place the date of composition for Job, despite its achaisizing Hebraic style—in the 3rd c. BCE, it’s interesting that the text does take an explicit stand against the idea of resurrection as if it was “in the air.” But here I am speculating a bit.

      Yet, and this has nothing to do with the MT or the beliefs and/or non-beliefs of its author, when Job is translated into Greek (LXX), ideas about resurrection did make it into the translation, as if its translator projected his own (his culture’s) beliefs into the text! The LXX’s Job witnesses expansions to the text of the MT. One particular expansion is found in Job 42:17, where the LXX adds to the MT text, and specifically the idea of resurrection!

      “And Job died, an old man and full of days: and it is written that he will rise again (anastesesthai) with those whom the Lord raises up (anistesin).”

      Again, that the 2nd/1st c. BCE LXX version reflects a belief in resurrection does not mean that its original author shared this belief, which as you and I have both noted is not in the MT. Nevertheless, this later translation with its belief in resurrection might have influenced how early Christians interpreted the original text of the MT. Indeed, it did.

      If interested in an early Jewish text which displays belief in physical bodily resurrection, read 2 Macc 7—a text, like Daniel, written in the historical context of Antiochus’ persecutions of the Hebrews circa 167-163 BCE.

  13. Sorry this comment is coming more than a year after you first published it. I have a question about your statement that the OT doesn’t have any allusions to Resurrection, save a one liner in Daniel. A passage in the book of Job (ironically) came to my mind immediately…
    Job 19:26… “even after my skin is destroyed, even so I will see God in the flesh” Job is an OT book. This seems to indicate Job’s belief in a bodily resurrection.

  14. Interesting, I hadn’t even heard of Yeshu. I was mainly familiar with the claim that Josephus mentioned Jesus, which is apparently more or less accepted by historians (“more or less” because it seems that someone may have also made interpolations in his writing to bolster the connection to Jesus). Of course, even if one believes that Jesus is attested to in secular records, this does not make a religious statement, because believing he existed is different from believing in his divinity. But that’s besides the point.

    I do think, just to clarify, that the writer of 65:20 was saying that infants would not die young. Infant mortality was probably enormous in the old days (it was three times higher in the 1950s than it is today), so as part of the writer’s image of a New Earth he included that infants would get to live out their days. So yes, it would make sense if this meant that people were “30” for a very long time, for instance from the age of 30 to 400, only gradually becoming an old man and dying at 600 or 900 like the pre-Flood characters of the OT.

    I’m not actually surprised that there would be sinners in the Jewish conception of the New World — if a sinner is someone who sins at some point in time. To believe otherwise would be to imply that man will be made “perfect” by God upon entering that world. I’m not sure what Jewish writings have to say on the subject of perfection; I tend to think of it as an abstract Christian construct not referred to in the early Bible, but perhaps later rabbis did discuss the concept.

  15. “Since most scholars believe that Daniel was finished during the persecution by Antiochus IV from 167-164 BCE–and it’s putatively set in the sixth century BCE–how could belief in resurrection, even if you mean a limited one, have started as late as 120 BCE? Also, what do you mean by, “The Jesus in their polemics died a lot earlier than the one in the Christian Scriptures”?

    By the polemical Jesus, I mean the Yeshu HaNotzri character in the Talmud, added in the 2nd-3rd century, who is listed as having lived during the time of King Yannai, of the Masmonean clan. Since I find it unlikely that Jesus or Yeshu existed, the date is not that important for the Christian implementation of assorted theologies. I was speaking of the Christian concept of Heaven, which does not seem to exist in Hebrew Scripture, rather than the resurrection of the dead, where the debate was if capital punishment for criminals will take place (“he will die”), or if the goyim will just breed and die, living their years of up to 100 to serve the Jews in the new place.

    You would think if God wrote this nonsense, that he would have been a lot more clear, eh?

    The reality is nobody knew. Everybody in the Talmud was seeing their own vision. Teachers see the best thing is to live forever doing nothing but learning. Many would call that hell! heh!

    But I agree, that it appears that at least as far back as Alexander the Great, and probably further, that the idea of a physical resurrection after a long time a dark pit was probably part of the ideology.

    Finally, “OOL” עול is one of those many words where the meaning is lost, and we have people guessing. So I am okay with accepting that it could be “tike”. I see some commentators play comparison games to make it fit one way or the other. My favorite is saying that it was an Aramaic expression (Aramaic “ool” is akin to l’hichanes [to enter, or come in). But there are those who will say “enter into manhood” rather than “enter into this world”. So let’s make it “tikes” and end up reading it as: “There shall no longer be a tike or elder who will not fill his days, but the youth of 100 years will die, and the sinner of 100 years will be cursed.”

    Looking back, I am still not fond of “tikes”, but I’m willing to let it be since we will never know for certain. In any case, it appears to be speaking of a low-to-high end age range. I’m just not comfortable with infants in the world to come being stuck at infants. You’d think that a God could make everyone 30 years old forever!

    As an aside I kind of like the idea of there being sinners in the World to Come! Makes it more interesting!

  16. Hmm, not knowing Hebrew, I was just going by biblehub.com, which says here (testing embedded links, go here if there was no link there: http://interlinearbible.org/isaiah/65-20.htm) that “ool yamim” is an “infant of [a few?] days”. Although Strong’s lists 65:20 as the only occurrence of that word in the Bible, it gives “ulah” as a “nursing child” in Isaiah 49:15. Not sure how much weight that has, since that too is the only occurrence of that word.

    When you say “death penalty”, do you mean natural death, or death by execution? I’m a little confused. Unless you’re speaking in the Christian sense of all death being a penalty for sinfulness, I wasn’t saying that I thought 65:20 referred to any death penalty. The sinner will be “cursed” somehow, but besides that all that the verse seems to be saying is that people will not have their lives curtailed abruptly; no more infant mortality, and old men will not die suddenly (by heart attack, violence, etc.), but will live out a long lifespan akin to the patriarchs. But I admit to being confused by the grammar; looking at an interlinear translation doesn’t help me much when the grammar is so foreign and seemingly fragmentary. I’m just clarifying what I was saying before, not pretending to know what the writer meant.

    I do feel more confident in saying that Isaiah 65 is speaking about blessings coming to Jerusalem, which (midrashic interpolations aside) would have to refer to the Jewish people, wouldn’t it? There’s no mention here of geir-toshavs, just young and old ones. I don’t mean to be argumentative, but I do think that this verse speaks volumes on the subject of the actual post we are commenting on, and so I feel that it’s worth haggling over the details.

    As far as Christians throwing out their Hebrew Scriptures if faced with a literal translation, keep in mind that they don’t believe that these blessings are still in store for the Jews (rejection of the Messiah and all that). So any scriptures talking about blessings for the Jews are now considered to be blessings for *spiritual* Jews. Any scriptures referring to “strangers”, “foreigners”, or Gentiles are now considered to mean “non-believers”, e.g. Zech. 8:23 now refers to non-Christians taking hold of the skirt of a Christian. That way they can have their cake and eat it too — God was not wrong when he promised these blessings before rejecting the Hebrews; he simply changed the definition of a “Jew” after Pentecost 33 CE ;)

  17. EGross wrote:
    When this belief in a resurrection occurred is still unclear. Perhaps it was an influence by early Christianity, which, according to Jewish tradition, began around 120BCE, or earlier. (The Jesus in their polemics died a lot earlier than the one in the Christian Scriptures).

    E. Gross, thank you for the translation and explication of the text. Could you please clarify what I quoted? Since most scholars believe that Daniel was finished during the persecution by Antiochus IV from 167-164 BCE–and it’s putatively set in the sixth century BCE–how could belief in resurrection, even if you mean a limited one, have started as late as 120 BCE? Also, what do you mean by, “The Jesus in their polemics died a lot earlier than the one in the Christian Scriptures”?

  18. A couple of points.

    First, it is likely not speaking of infants, that would be “tinok” and other associated terms (“one that nurses”, etc). Na’ar always means a young fellow (na’arah is a young lass of marriage age), but old enough to be self-sustaining and on one’s own. For example, at the near-sacrifice of Isaac (the akeida), he was referred to as a na’ar, as age 30. So it is an important distinction to make. And Ool-Yamim refers to the flowering youth who is at his peak.

    In the case you cited, “The youth of 100 years will die” is a na’ar. What might cause them confusion is the passive form of the verb “he will die”, which is common in biblical Hebrew, rather than the active “he will be killed”, which is not found. Another is the use of “But”. Since “Ki” can have several meanings, one needs to use the grammatical context. In modern Hebrew “aval” is the normal “but”, while in Biblical Hebrew, there are several forms “efes, ki, oo” come to mind). And those also have more than one meaning (efes can be “zero”, ki can be “for, because” and “oo” can be “and”). But with the positioning of the etnachta, “but” becomes the clear translation choice.

    Yes, the positioning of personal pronouns is sometimes difficult. Assume inclusiveness unless there is a grammatical indicator to denote exclusion.

    I find the idea of having a death penalty in the World-to-Come scenario as less likely than having non-Jewish slaves who don’t get all of the goodies. ;)

    As far as Jerusalem goes, a non-Jew who lives in Israel is called a geir-toshav, a “stranger/foreigner who dwells”, and there are rules that such a person must obey (the 7 Noahide laws, for one). There have almost always been non-Jews living in Jerusalem, so it can be speaking of them. And perhaps not. My comment about not accepting either interpretation has to do with my own lack of belief, even though, in other places, both interpretations are held as true and are repeated throughout Rabbinical literature.

    For example, in BT Sanhedrin, page 91b, a little more than halfway down the page we read:

    “It is written: ‘But the youth of 100 years will die’ and ‘There shall be no more anymore one hundred years, a young one…’ It is not a difficulty. Here (where death ceases) it speaks of Jews. There, it speaks of idolaters (all non-Jews are idolaters from their view). ‘But what are idolaters doing in the world to come?’ (Ulla replies) ‘They are of what is referred to (as the slaves of Jews) as it is written, ‘And strangers will tend your flocks and foreigners will be your plowmen and vinedressers.” (Isaiah 61:5).

    My guess is that the better the translation, the more likely Christians would be to toss the Hebrew Scriptures and burn them!

  19. Yay, you actually heard my request for help :-) Thanks for the translation and rabbinical interpretations. It’s possible that when I asserted that some translations were saying, essentially, that there would be no more babies, that I was confused by the grammar when they divided the infant and the old man into separate clauses and then said “that does not fulfill his days”, as if referring only to the old man. It could be that all translations are saying the same thing here — that both the baby and the old man are living out their days in the full — and the wording is just misleading.

    More interesting is the second half; if it’s saying that “the youngest shall die a hundred years old”, as mentioned in your midrashic quote, then a lot of Bibles seem to be botching that by saying things like “one will die as a mere boy, though a hundred years of age” or “the child shall die an hundred years old”. Perhaps they are attempting to say the same thing, but darn, those translators didn’t make it easy for the reader.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that translators fall short when they get to this point, as it seems that 65:20 flies in the face of both modern Christian and modern Judaic beliefs. Like you, I cannot agree with the rabbi who says that 65:20 only refers to non-Jews dying, because the context is talking about Jerusalem! “Isaiah” seems to have been looking forward to the Jews being restored to patriarchal lifespans, nothing more, nothing less.

  20. Isaiah 65:20

    לא יהיה משם עוד – There will not be from there (Jerusalem) anymore (again/more)
    עול ימים – a young, inexperienced, immature one, (in the flower of his youth)
    וזקן – and/or elder
    אשר לא – who/that will not
    ימלא – will fill (causative, in the pi’el form)
    ימיו – his days. (the “enachta” indicator at his point indicates a semi-colon, indicating a separate thought).

    כי – But (כי can mean “for”, “that”, and “but”. Because of the etnachta (it look like an upside-down “Y” under the last letter of the ימיו “his days”), “But” works best, since it is stating a new clause that gives an opposing point to consider)
    הנער – the youth (refers to anyone between 3-30 who is strong and has a lot of years left.)
    בן ( while often referring to youth, indicates “in years” as will be used for the “sinner” reference of age. So rtranslate it to “of”)
    מאה שנה – one hundred years
    ימות – will die
    והחוטא – and the sinner
    בן מאה שנה – of one hundred years
    יקולל – he shall be cursed (niphal form).

    So this single verse really contains 2 thoughts. The first is that people will live long and fill their days. The second is that the idea that people, in the World to Come, will still be free to sin, and that he will either be killed, or cursed by God.

    It’s a weird concept, that people in the World to Come would sin, but that’s the simple view of it.

    Also, keep in mind that in halachic Judaism, there are two forms of capital punishments (which are further divided). Execution at the hands of man, or “kares”, execution by the curse of God (there is no certainty what this punishment actually is).

    So if you hold that the World to Come is just another world, has no relation to the Christian “Heaven”, and, according to the Rambam, will have nothing supernatural about it except concerning “eternity”, then getting yourself killed for crimes (which is odd), is still an option!

    Now for a fun quote that supports this from Midrash Berashit Rabbah 26:2:

    “Rabbi Chanina said: ‘In the Messianic age there will be death among none except the non-Jews’ (lit. the children of Noah). But Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: ‘Neither among Israel nor among the other nations, for it is written, And HaShem Elohim will wipe away tears from off all faces (Isaiah 25:8)’. How does Rabbi. Chanina explain this?(“all faces” only means) ‘From off all faces of Israel’. Yet surely it is written, ‘For the youngest shall die a hundred years old’ (Isaiah 65:20), which supports Rabbi Chanina. So how then does Rabbi Yehoshua explain it? – ‘That means that he will then be liable to punishment.'”

    So you had 2 positions. One is that the verse speaks that only the non-Jews will die, and the other that any person who sins will be killed in the World to Come for capital crimes committed.

    Personally, I find either position untenable! ;)

    All the best.

  21. I will separate this into two posts, since there are two concepts here that need addressing.

    The first has to do with the concept of exactly what is “olam haBah” (the world to come). That is discussed in great (and confusing) detail in the BT Sanhedrin, chapter 11 in the section titled “Chelek”. A very long discussion. At any rate, the theology behind it is that all people worthy would get to go, Jews and non-Jews. The non-Jews would, of course, not get to live eternally, but get to live for a long lifespan, say a century or more. Their job would be to serve the Jews who would be living eternally (I kid you not.) And “the world to come” would require that this world get destroyed, then the righteous get to hover above the waters for 1000 years while God gets around to making the new planet, and the righteous get to land and populate. This is one of the majority opinions, which should show how stupid this entire thing really is.

    When this belief in a resurrection occurred is still unclear. Perhaps it was an influence by early Christianity, which, according to Jewish tradition, began around 120BCE, or earlier. (The Jesus in their polemics died a lot earlier than the one in the Christian Scriptures). Or perhaps it was from an Egyptian influence. After all, Alexander the Great was also the Pharaoh as well (with the title “Son of the Gods”) and there could have been an interest then. It was certainly in place by the year 1CE.

    According to the Talmud, there was a belief in a resurrection, using an anecdote of Ben Pesisa having a discussion with Alexander the Great on this very issue, or Rabbi Meir having one with Cleopatra (which would have been historically impossible). In fact, the entire theological reference to any afterlife seems to have gotten messed up, if you compare Psalms, where “the dead know nothing at all” or the delivery to Sheol, which was more akin to the Hades of the Greek/Roman theology than the Egyptian one.

    So, in response to why Isaiah has some people live forever and some just live a long life, the Sages would have replied that this was a distinction between the righteous Jews and the non-Jews in the world to come. (Non-Jews who would dwell in Jerusalem would have the status of gerei-toshav).

    By the way, I reject the entire “resurrection of the dead” and “olam HaBah” or Gan Eden or Sheol concepts. But I do study the Talmudic texts concerning the beliefs of 1800+ years ago since I find it a fascinating mindset.

    I’ll respond to the translation in a second post.

  22. Yes, that’s a good point. There’s no concrete indication of a belief in resurrection that I’m aware of before Daniel except Job’s referring to release from a compulsory period in Sheol, though Dr. DiMattei said that Job was composed around the same later period as Daniel.

    But the word for the “witch” in the 1 Samuel account is yidde’oni, meaning “knowing one”, if memory serves; there’s an interesting passage on it here: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14960-witchcraft. Apparently the medium would only speak in the voice of the dead one, “knowing” the deceased in that only they could see/hear them (it’s quite interesting that the witch ‘sees Samuel coming up from the earth’ when he appears to her, seeming to to refer to the location of Sheol). So as you say, it’s not a physical resurrection, even temporarily.

  23. KW,
    I like how Dr. Michael V. Fox characterizes Sheol: “Biblical Israel knew of no afterlife with reward and punishment–everyone, irrespective of behavior or social status, descended to ‘She’ ol,’ the dark underworld, and lived a quasi-life there.” This is part of his annotation of Psalm 6:6 in *The Jewish Study Bible,* page 1289. I think that the plain reading of 1 Samuel 28 is that Samuel really was brought up from the grave, the NWT’s placing quotation marks around “Samuel” notwithstanding. This “quasi-life,” as Dr. Fox puts it, is still not the resurrection that we see in Daniel 12.

  24. Still thinking about this post, it’s definitely one of the most interesting on the site for me. By the way, my own NWT Bible has this unusual translation of 65:20:

    “No more will there come to be a suckling a few days old from that place, neither an old man that does not fulfill his days; for one will die as a mere boy, although a hundred years of age; and as for the sinner, although a hundred years of age he will have evil called down upon him.”

    It doesn’t necessarily support the JW expectation of eternal life on a paradise earth any more than other translations; in fact it says that one who dies at 100 will still seem like (or look like) a boy. But it’s a really weird rendering because it doesn’t say that babies will no longer die at a few days old, but instead that there will *be* no days-old babies. It then does not have the sinner dying before one hundred, but simply being *accursed* at the age of 100.

    This may seem nonsensical compared to the version that John Kesler supplied above, but even though most Bibles read like Kesler’s, as I look at parallel translations, it seems that there is not total agreement on how to render the original Hebrew. The mainstream translation as supplied by Kesler seems to be doing a lot of “reading between the lines”. By contrast, here’s the venerable KJV’s version:

    “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.”

    Looking at the original Hebrew using the handy bible.cc, the KJV/NWT actually looks *most faithful* to the Hebrew even though it seems to make the least sense. I’d love to hear EGross’ take on this, as a native reader of Hebrew.

    Anyway, another thought entirely that I had today, on the subject of the evolving Jewish view on the afterlife (or lack of one). What about Saul’s summoning of Samuel’s ghost in 1 Sam. 28? My religion, not believing in the traditional afterlife, always hand-waved this as a demon posing as Samuel, but certainly the account says no such thing. Wouldn’t this account imply that at the time of the writing of this account, the Jews believed that there was definitive life after death? And how does this mesh chronologically with the other passages described in Dr. DiMattei’s post, showing the evolution of the theology?

  25. Yes, it’s interesting to see the theology becoming more abstract and absolutist (much like the change from Yahweh being the source of both good and evil, and feeling regret, to Yahweh being completely good, and perfect, and other superlatives). “Isaiah” clearly was writing about people living in the physical world, building houses and tending vineyards, whereas by Paul’s time, as Dr. DiMattei points out, the Judeo-Christian hope shifted to life in a spiritual world, which helps explain why they could expect absolutely no death or other ills.

  26. KW,
    I think that you are correct about “Isaiah’s” intent, and what he could have said if eternal life were in view. Revelation reinterprets the NH/NE and makes explicit that death will not be present:

    Revelation 21:
    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
    ‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
    He will dwell with them;
    they will be his peoples,
    and God himself will be with them;
    4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
    Death will be no more;
    mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
    for the first things have passed away.’

  27. Yes, I used to read this passage and wonder why I was being taught that people would live forever in the New Earth. Also of note is verse 22 which says that God’s people will have the “lifetime of a tree”, or the “days of a tree”. If Isaiah meant to say “infinity”, I’m sure he could have found a way to express that in Hebrew, e.g., “without end”. However, someone could argue that he was merely being poetic, whereas verse 20 is clearer about Isaiah imagining a world where people lived a long time by mortal standards — not forever.

  28. It’s interesting that even “Isaiah” envisioned death in the New Heavens and New Earth:

    Isaiah 65:
    17 For I am about to create new heavens
    and a new earth;
    the former things shall not be remembered
    or come to mind.
    18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in what I am creating;
    for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
    and its people as a delight.
    19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
    and delight in my people;
    no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
    or the cry of distress.
    20No more shall there be in it
    an infant that lives but a few days,
    or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
    for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

    That Isaiah took a very this-worldly view of the NH and NE is obvious, too, in looking at the next verses, which talk about planting vineyards and building houses (v:21) as well as having children (v:23). And even in a text cited above, Daniel 12, it still isn’t a universal resurrection, but a resurrection of “many.”

    Daniel 12:
    ‘At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. 2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

  29. I think that just because a supernatural being (or beings, since there is a “we/us” pronoun involved) proclaims that mankind will suppress/dominate/tyrannize (from the word לרדות that is found in the text) and has the right to do so against all non-humans, doesn’t mean that humans will be free from reprisals any more than many of the Jewish kings (according to the stories in “Book of Kings”) who were murdered by their own subjects. So I don’t see “You shall oppress and subjugate those wolves” and “holy crap, the wolves are attacking!” as a contradiction as much as either setting up a it of favoritism or stating the obvious – man is going to suppress/dominate/tyrannize wherever he can. (As an aside, most translations tone down the ugly nature of the verb form used, and prefer “rule” or “have dominion” so the gods don’t appear so downright boorish!)

  30. I was posting something on the project reason web boards about a falsehood in the Bible and I saw a message from you linking to what their site should really offer, your site. The falsehood may be a contradiction is someone has ever been killed by an animal.

    The falsehood is genesis 1:26 where it is said that we are given dominion over all the animals (let’s just assume for the Bible’s sake that they don’t mean humans as well).
    If this were true, we would be impervious to all animals, sharks, spiders, snakes, bears etc…
    However, this is not true. If you can find an instance in the Bible that shows someone is not impervious to animals, then you’ll have a contradiction instead of a falsehood.

  31. One item to add about Job. It is considered to be a text even older than the 5-books, and that Job was not a Hebrew. The Jewish Sages debate who wrote the story. Some say Moses did. Others disagree, and that it came before. Those who hold the theory of the multiple writers put Job a century or so before them.

    Which brings up the question why it is even in there. One theory, that I hold, is that it is to teach that suffering can come to the righteous. There was a schism in the position by the Sages. Some held that all suffering comes from sin, and others held that was not the case. This story may be in here to position these two camps. The transitional period of that point of view came much later than the story, however.

    The Sages give sahtahn three names and jobs – (1) the yetzer harah (the evil inclination, or tempter), (2) the accuser (think of the prosecuting attorney as in the Job story), and (3) the angel of death. All cute ways of trying to define some supernatural entity that works for God.

    Finally, the word sahtan first appears as the name of one of the wells that were dug up, where there was contention, and so it was called “sitnah” (Gen 26:21, Ezra 4:6). So I guess you could say that Satan is a female! :D (sitnah is the female form of sahtan). The male form of the term does appear 27 times in the Tanach, with the 2 in Numbers (the Bilaam story), 2 in Samuel, 4 in 1-Kings, 3 in Zacharia, 1 in Psalms, 14 in Job (the winner!), and 1 in Chronicles.

    Please note that the sahtan does not have a kingdom, and that is sort of like a Loki, a trickster who gets people to be deserving of punishment. He also doesn’t work against the Creator, but is playing some weird game. I’ve always had a problem with this character being in the stories, because if he works for God, then God is just plain weird!

    P.S., to address this resurrection of the dead concept, the in Bavli (Sanheidrin), there is an entire chapter devoted to this to prove that it existed during the time of Alexander the Great, by quoting someone who cannot be proven to exist (Gevuha ben Pesisa) having debated with Hellenized Jews who did not see the resurrection of the dead even hinted at. But the concept of “going to heaven” is not like that of Christianity. First you die. Then you go to dust. Then you are re-formed. Then you are judged. And the special people get to have new bodies and go to the “world to come” (righteous non-Jews can come, but only for 100 years, and only to be servants), while the others remain and die, returning to nothingness.

    But, again, that is all conjecture based on textual nuances to fit an accepted philosophy that did not come from the plain text. Frankly, I don’t believe in a heaven or a world to come, which means I don’t get to go!

  32. Steven,

    I disagree that Job certainly does not believe in an afterlife. A mere 2 verses after 14:12 make that obvious. And if you would only read on in verse 14:12 itself you will see that it says: “So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer he will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep.” Not quite so explicit when you actually read the whole text.

    Also, you seemed to ignore my reference to Ezekiel. Clearly Ezekiel was written after Job which is quite the trouble spot for your theory.

    I can only echo what Jesus said in John 5:46 – “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

    Of course I do not deny that many people wrote the different books in the Bible, however, “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:21)

    The Bible is a fantastic collection of writings, written over hundreds of years by many different writers yet somehow provides a consistent message of salvation from the Lord. “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10-12).

    Ignoring this aspect in the writings is ultimately futile as these supposed and easily refuted contradictions demonstrate.

  33. “There are some standing here who will not taste death!”

    I think this accurately sums up my thoughts on this post. Rip a text apart and it’s easy to claim a contradiction. If you read on, you will see the true quote is: “…there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” Letting the text speak for itself does wonders.

    First off, I’ll comment that there is some truth to the fact that God’s revelation is progressive and, especially with the revelation through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-5), we are given a greater understanding of the truth.

    However, I reject the idea that the Old Testament teaches contradictory things to the New. I’ll try to explain below, starting with theodicy:

    The Bible as a whole gives a consistent message – God is in control of all things and for reasons known to Him (and sometimes revealed to us), He allows evil. Specifically, Isaiah 10 mentions God using Assyria to judge the Jewish people and then punishing Assyria for that very act, even though their action was decreed by God. Genesis 50 explains that God was in control of the action of Joseph’s brothers and He meant if for good while his brothers meant it for evil. Acts 2 refers to the predetermined plan of God in Christ dying on the cross, yet the individuals are still responsible for this action. Romans 9 discusses that God will have mercy on whom He desires and harden whom He desires. Paul answers the objectors similar to how Job is answered: ‘who are you O man to answer back to God?’.

    I’m confused that you added Ezekiel 18 in your argument of Job’s ‘questioning’ previously held beliefs. Ezekiel chapter 14 verse 14 specifically mentions Job.

    Time will fail me to reference all the eternal life passages in the Psalms. Proverbs 14:32 is also quite obvious. Many other passages allude to this (Jesus quotes from Exodus to prove resurrection to the Sadducees in Luke 20). It is interesting how you must completely disregard Enoch and Elijah in order to continue your claim.

    So, while later revelation does indeed provide more information about eternal life, this is in no way contradictory to older revelation. Instead, it is an explanation of and elaboration on previous revelation. In regard to your title, men BOTH return to dust AND are resurrected.

    1. Your quote from the gospel proves this post’s point, indeed I myself end with it! My goal here is to understand the texts and their authors each on their own terms and in their own historical and literary worlds. So the idea of resurrection would have been utterly inconceivable and unimaginable to the earliest authors of the Hebrew Bible. Job’s assertion “a human being, he dies and dead he remains” (Job 14:10); “a human being, once laid to rest will never rise again” (Job 14:12) explicitly lays this out. Whoever authored this passage, this was what he believed. You cannot change that. That is what I call be disrespectful to the text. Maybe, indeed, he was starting to question this, and sets Job up as a character who does just that. But you’re not even listening to the individual texts, because you’ve already prejudged them to be no individual texts at all.

      Point in fact: the Bible as a whole does not give a consistent message. This is not my claim, but the 60+ texts and authors who wrote over a 1,000 year period under diverse political and religious convictions. You’re again favoring a later interpretive umbrella and disfavoring the individual texts. This is in fact, as you stated clearly in a previous comment—“I claim that the Bible as a whole (Law, Psalms, Prophets, and New Testament) are all written by a variety of individuals, yet are God-breathed and can also be considered as written by the Holy Spirit”—your interpretive “given,” inflexible. This is, however, the creation of later readers and crafted under the influence of their own historical needs, concerns, and perspectives. I can pinpoint in history when this idea emerges, just as the biblical texts tell us when the idea of resurrection emerged, and why! If you were educated, or desired to be such, then the natural response to me having just said that would be. “What is he talking about” And then go find out when later tradition labeled these texts as “the Book,” why and under what circumstances? Did the original authors think this? And where would I begin to research this? I myself ponder these very questions in What is the Bible? Thinking always starts by asking questions. The task of understanding how this complex piece of literature got assembled, labeled as “the Book,” and then decreed the infallible words of God are complex. We, all if us, must start be bringing into questions our presuppositions and inherited beliefs about what the Bible is, and then proceed to educate ourselves about the texts as products of their own historical and literary worlds.

      The idea of revelation or a progressive divine plan is also a centuries-later creation and construct, and it was used to legitimate and authorize a particular readerships’ interpretation of the text or of history! These are all later subjective, i.e., from the vantage point of the readers, interpretive grids that then get retrojected back into the past and onto these texts. I too am interested in how and why these interpretive frameworks got created and ultimately how they affect our understanding and reading of these earlier texts which were not written under such presuppositions. But here, I have devoted this space to the texts themselves apart from later theological constructs about them. If you were inquisitive, you should also be asking yourself, “How can Dr. DiMattei say that these were not the original intentions of the writers of these texts? What evidence, textual (biblical and extra-biblical) is there for such a claim?

      The Qur’an also speaks of revelation, and adopting your theological lens of a progress in God’s revelation, it is the next stage in God’s revelation! So heed your own words. But here you would argue that the Qur’an is a different source. Why? because it visible is a separate book? The literature of the Bible spans 1,000 years, 60+ authors, and 3 languages, but that’s all part of God’s plan because a later reading community told you it was? But an even later reading community is telling you that that magnificent divine plan has even progressed further into another collection of texts and in a yet forth language, the Qur’an. I’m sure, well maybe I’m not, that you might start to see the inherent flaw in your methodology. Exterior, subjective, and centuries-later theological claims are quite different from studying the actual texts on their own terms and in their own contexts, apart from these later theological assertions made to promulgate the particular agendas of later readers. The imposition of a subjective, i.e., reader-oriented, theological interpretive lens, onto these texts logically leads you to follow God’s revelation and accept the Qur’an. Your inability to do that reflects the subjective nature of your whole interpretive enterprise. You spout theology when it confirms to your beliefs, you disregard the same theological claims built on the same principals when it doesn’t confirm to your beliefs. This is the exact same methodology you have adopted when you engage with these texts. Here, belief is secondary. I’m not interested in your beliefs nor mine, nor any of my readers. I’m interested in the beliefs of the 60+ authors of these texts and why they believed what they did. But that inquiry cannot be answered by looking at these texts from a later vantage point. It must be tackled by looking at the texts, to the best of our ability, from their own historical and literary worlds. Jesus, nor any Jew of the first century, did not have access to the historical, archaeological, and extra-biblical knowledge, texts, and data, that we have today at out disposal. You yourself are probably unaware of the vast majority of this data; yet you feel competent to proclaim things about these texts not having all, not having any! of, the data at your finger tips. It is the texts that we study here as best we can, on their own terms and in their own historical and literary framework, not through the framework, nor limited knowledge, of later readers. You seem incapable of doing, and recognizing, this.

  34. Hmm, looks like my last few words got cut off. Well, all I had written was “Anyway, I will continue to think about all this.” Guess I shouldn’t flirt with the character limit like that (the post I submitted was exactly 2500 characters ;-). It also stripped the links I provided to show where ruach and nephesh are used in Ecclesiastes. Oh well.

    “I still don’t see how Job or “his satan” is to blame. Doesn’t the text go out of its way to present Job as righteous, i.e., guiltless?” Sorry, maybe I was unclear here. I was referring to “hassatan”, “the adversary” found in 1:6-9, 12, 2:1-4, 6-7. As far as I can tell, Job was written to give a reason why, even if someone keeps the commandment regarding sacrifice (1:5) and all the other commandments faithfully, bad things can still happen to him. The reason is precisely *because* of their faithfulness — that “the adversary” (has-sa-tan’) will call their motives into question if they have been blessed by God. (It almost makes one not want to be too successful or too faithful, to escape notice!) ‘Thus,’ the moral goes, ‘sometimes we all have to suffer in order to prove our good motives.’

    As you noted, sometimes the word is used without the definite article or any article at all. In Num. 22:22 Balaam meets le-sa-tan’, “an adversary”. I think the distinction being made is that any angel might resist us if we’re disobeying God (or tempted to, as in Balaam’s case), but then there’s also *the* adversary who questions our motives before God and might lead to us being tested, as in Job’s case.

    As you indicate, this seems to be the development of a new concept, which I suppose could be a response to people who said after the law was written, “Well, I’m keeping all these commandments and still suffering, so what gives? I’m not a sinner!” One could even speculate that the point was to provide an explanation for times when the nation as a whole or its king might suffer in some way. “It’s not because the king sinned! And don’t ascribe any bad to God or turn away from him when the nation suffers misfortune!”

    Anyway, it seems we’re basically in agreement on all this. I hadn’t heard of The Life of Adam and Eve, will try to check that out.

  35. Ah, thanks for the response, I was wondering if I’d stumped you ;-)

    I’ll grant you the Ecclesiastes argument, as nothing is clearly spelled out there with regards to a possible view on the afterlife. I do think, though, that the mention of a “judgment” in both 11:9 and 12:14 is very interesting. Also, the passage in ch. 3 surrounding verse 20 is rather strange, as it asserts that man is no different from beast and that they share the same eventuality; however in vs. 21 the writer asks who can know whether man’s spirit (which is ruach; nephesh is only used to refer to the fleshly man throughout Eccl.) might ascend upward while a beast’s spirit descends downward. It’s almost as if Qoheleth is considering, but skeptical of, the idea of an afterlife. I really don’t know what to make of it, esp. in light of 12:7.

    I also grant you that the earlier OT books don’t seem to discuss the afterlife at all. I wasn’t technically arguing that they did; rather I was focusing on what the writers of Job and Ecclesiastes thought, but still that’s food for thought — that we’re seeing the evolution of a theology over time.

    I didn’t realize that your aporia was in reference to the fact that Job himself gets no explanation for what happened. Of course this is true, and a rather odd fact about the book, considering that *we’re* told up front what is going on. But you stated emphatically that Job does not provide an answer to unjust suffering, and I still maintain that it does provide an answer to the reader as to why undeserved tragedies befall men. The reader is being told that he can blame has-satan for his own troubles.

    I’m not sure that I see this “adversary” as working for God, but it might explain why Satan is reporting to God in heaven along with “ben Elohim”, the “sons of God”. As you know, Christians connect Satan with the temptation of Eve by the snake; that is, Satan *was* the serpent, and now he’s the Devil, and later he gets thrown from heaven for his crimes. I am still trying to come to terms with the notion that perhaps the snake was just a snake, and that Satan was initially just an angel that liked giving men a hard time, and later the two figures were connected by Jewish thinkers. Anyway,…

    1. KW nice to hear from you. Looks like we’re in agreement then. I’ll cede the ruah/nephesh distinction to you, or leave it to those whose Hebrew is better than mine.

      His satan” is an interesting take on the Job. I can’t say whether the text supports this reading or not—I really can’t. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Job, and I won’t be getting to its contradictions until… well a couple of years! I still don’t see how Job or “his satan” is to blame. Doesn’t the text go out of its way to present Job as righteous, i.e., guiltless?

      Check out the use of satan in Num 22:22: “God became enraged that he [Balaam] was undertaking the journey. The angel of Yahweh stationed himself on the road, confronting him as an adversary (satan).” Here it is explicit that Yahweh’s angel presents himself as an adversary. Interesting the text does not use, purposely?, the direct object, the adversary. I think, if I recall, in Job it is used that way. Satan is also used to reference a human adversary in political or military contexts (1 Kings 11:14; 5:3).

      Again, I find the 3rd – 1st c. BC so fascinating because this is when religious ideas of resurrection, apocalypse, after-life, and an independent “evil” agent start to emerge, and these are all elements that relate in some for or another to theodicy.

      Careful not to read later tradition back into these earlier texts. I don’t think the Hebrew text supports any notion of the serpent as Yahweh’s satan or Satan. As you properly note these are later interpretive traditions. So too is the myth of Satan’s fall. If you’re looking for a good read, get a hold of the text The Life of Adam and Eve, written sometime in the 2nd c. BC – 1st. AD. It’s a great read. It’s a discussion between Adam, Eve, and Satan after the expulsion. Eve gets duped again, and Adam finally confronts Satan and asks: What do you have against us? The response is this heart-felt story explaining Satan’s exclusive love for Yahweh, and thus his inability to love the human pair, and the reason for his expulsion. I’m not sure if this is the earliest version of this story. In fact, the text is actually about resurrection. Adam (Hebrew for mankind) preserves his right to be resurrected.


  36. Hi.

    I am finding your writing very interesting, thank you for the time and effort.
    I would like to hear the answer to the point raised in an earlier comment, that the devil clearly is spoken of in Job 1. Can you reconcile this with your statement about there being no mention of a devil in the hebrew scriptures?

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words. Yes I can, and I was preparing a longer response to KW but got side tracked with other things. But, behold!, I have found it, so I’ve pasted that below as well.

      Linguistically the Hebrew term is satan, and as in the Balaam story of Num 22-24, the satan figure is presented as Yahweh’s agent. In other words, the satan figure is presented as an adversary—the meaning of the Hebrew is adversary—to mankind, not God! Remember too that most of the Hebrew Bible is adamant about expressing the theological “given” that Yahweh is sovereign and this even includes when evil befalls a city (Amos 3:6; Isa 45:6-7), when hardships befall mankind (Job via Yahweh’s satan), or evil comes upon a king (Saul in Samuel). Later, however, this changes and satan becomes Satan, the adversary to God.

      KW, this had been sitting on my computer. I think I was waiting to add some stuff, but it’s long enough.

      Remember that the books of Ecclesiastes, Job, and Daniel are all late writings (4th-2nd c. BC) grappling with, each in their own terms, the Deuteronomic tradition that they inherited and its answer to the question of suffering, catastrophe, and evil. Even if you wished to see hints of the emergence of the idea of vindicating or justification in a post-mortem existence here, which I have more comfortably identified with Daniel, it still confirms the fact that such an idea is utterly absent, even unthinkable, for the writers of the Torah and most of the rest of the Hebrew canon.

      In both texts, why would you assume that judgement is going to happen after death rather than during one’s life? Eccl 12 ends with the exhortation to, since all is vain, remember God when your young before the suffering and decrepitude of old age settle upon you. “The spirit (nephesh; this is not to be equated with soul, which is a Greek idea) was God’s to begin with (Gen 3). Also Eccl 9:5: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten” (cf. the quotes at the top of this post too). I don’t really see much here to suggest that this represents resurrection. However, I might add that, if I recall, the Septuagint version of Job, which is longer, does end with talk of resurrection. So such ideas were percolating in the 2nd c. BC.

      The aporia that the book of Job ends with is that, now having dismissed the Deuteronomic’s explanation for why Job is suffering, as represented by his friends, the text does not answer the question from Job’s perspective, but leaves it as a mysterium dei. It is a divine mystery, an epistemological conundrum from man’s perspective.

      “This is a complete answer to the question of evil!” – that Yahweh allows the satan (Adversary) to impart evil? Are you sure you want to go there? Indeed, in Daniel, and even as late as the book of Revelation, the “evil” that exists is said to exist because God has permitted it for a certain amount of time – epistemologically speaking it is unfathomable to man however. He cannot understand. My aporia is synonymous with an epistemological lack of understanding. This was not the case for the Deuteronomist’s theodicy. Thus in Job, Yahweh is still very much sovereign, the satan figure, like in Numbers 24, works for Yahweh. He is the adversary to man, not God. This all changes in later Jewish and early Christian tradition, where this now independent entity from God becomes the answer to suffering and evil. We see the steps that lead us here by arranging the biblical texts in chronological order. In short, that was my point. We’d have to take a good look at the Dead Sea Scrolls too. As I recall ideas of a separate entity, Belial, start to emerge in that literature as well (2nd -1st c. BC).


  37. Thanks Steve. I will read the links and as time allows, the other links too. Hopefully things will get clearer. Thank you again for your work.

  38. KW, you have voiced some thoughts I have had on this matter (as you have in other replies so far). I was hesitant to comment, as I’m not sure how to separate the wheat from the chaff : how do I trust my former understanding of scripture (which so far seems to align with yours) in light of ‘J’ and ‘P’ etc?

    Steve, I’m worried about what to trust with these theories, just as I was with the various interpetations of scripture. My default position was the NT writers. Their understanding of the OT and how they ‘explain’ stuff from the OT, is what forms my understanding. Maybe all this won’t be clear until we come to the NT.

    1. Catherine, you are not alone in the concerns you express. When all else fails, trust the texts—but through whose eyes or what later interpretive community might be the question. If we’re reading a text through the interpretive framework of the NT writers (who knew nothing about the original historical and literary contexts of the texts they were reading), then are we being honest to, say, the 8th c. BC author and the reasons that led him to write what he did and to whom he did? Is not such a reading rather placing the beliefs, views, interpretation, and reading of the NT writers’ before those of the actual authors of these texts?

      Granted, I take the extreme position here: the meaning of these texts must, and can only, be understood with respect to who wrote them, in response to what historical circumstance, in dialogue with what literary texts, and to whom—regardless how these texts were viewed and re-interpreted by centuries-later reading communities. I’m interested in this, but only after we have established what these texts mean as products of their own historical and literary contexts. Then we as a culture can engage in the conversation of how (and why) these same texts were reread and (mis)understood when they were co-opted as part of a larger creation, “the Book,” a title which serves to impose an exterior interpretive framework onto these texts. In other words, such a label does not describe its contents, but prescribes how its content ought to be read, as a book. This belief, as well as the belief that this “Book” is the word of God are later interpretive frameworks that are imposed on these earlier texts—likewise, reading the earlier OT texts through the beliefs and interpretive framework of the NT. Here, we are trying to eliminate these later interpretive frameworks and get right to the texts, their authors, audiences, and historical contexts. This is no easy task. It is very complex.

      The reading community that created “the Book/Bible” would have us believe that these texts were all written as part of, and to be part of “the Bible,” but this is merely the views and beliefs of that particular reading community itself. Studying the Bible and how and why it came to be is extremely complex. I think much of what we do here will become more clear, especially when we get to the book of Deuteronomy because we will see—it is transparent—how our author subverts earlier texts but at the same time introduces his new text and laws as the old tradition since that tradition is already authoritative. Later this text, Deuteronomy, that was written to replace how the “history” of Israel was told in the earlier traditions will be collected together with the very texts that he sought to replace, and then centuries later this and other books will be co-opted as part of an even larger re-interpretive process called “the Bible.” 99% of the contradictions that we are studying are the result of these different texts having been collected together as part of this so-called “Book.” In actuality, however, this “Book” contains numerous variant and contradictory stories and histories. It is this very fact which we as a culture need to start grappling with and conversing about. I hope this project here moves us toward that goal. And yes, these are difficult issues, and weigh heavily on us as a culture and as individuals.

      Do not hesitate to express your concerns or questions. Having said that, you might find these helpful

      What is the Bible, particuarly the last few sections
      And How we know the biblical writers were not writing history.

  39. Rather than respond to the seeming contradictions here from an apologist standpoint (trying to unify the texts), I’d like to present alternative readings to some of these verses from the theological standpoint of the writer at the time.

    In Ecclesiastes, the writer makes it clear in expressions like 3:20 and 9:5 that man dies just like the animals, ceasing to exist at that time. However, the ultimate thrust of this message of seeming futility is revealed in chapter 12 when the writer says that “the whole obligation of man” is to “fear the true God and keep his commandments” because he will be judged according to his actions. Nowhere in this book does the writer assert that God’s judgment will immediately lead to “exile, illness [or] death”; rather, “Solomon” speaks of the importance of serving God before one has passed from youth to old age (12:1). Then in 12:7 we are told that man’s spirit returns to God.

    What do these concepts — (1) the return of man’s “breath” to God, and (2) the idea that man might live into old age even if he doesn’t serve God, to be judged at a future time — tell us about the writer’s view of man’s fate? A judgment at the end of one’s life would serve no purpose in a world without an afterlife or resurrection. Therefore, the message of Ecclesiastes could be considered to be this: no matter how a man lives, when he dies, he lies in his grave; however, if he served God, then God will see fit to judge/resurrect him. However, I admit that this is not spelled out explicitly.

    Although Job seemed to reiterate the thought of Qoheleth when speaking in 14:12, he then goes on to say in verse 14, “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? All the days of my compulsory service I shall wait, until my relief comes.” The RSV renders this last part as, “All the days of my service I would wait, till my release should come.” This is suggesting the view that, yes, man ceases to exist while dead, but after a ‘compulsory period’ is over, God can bring him back. This is why Job asks to be concealed in Sheol, the grave — not because he wants to cease existing, but because he wants his suffering to be over until it’s time to face God’s judgment.

    Additionally, you state that there is an “aporia” in Job, which Google tells me is a puzzle or unresolved situation. I see the exact opposite. The account starts off by explaining that Satan is challenging God over whether man’s servitude to him is based on the rewards God gives in return, or on true loyalty (1:9-11). God agrees to let Satan “touch” Job in order to show that he is truly loyal to Him. This is a complete answer to the question of evil! (Also, you claimed that “no devil had yet been created” until “after the texts of the Hebrew Bible were written”, but here he is, right in Job 1.)

    Finally, at the end of the story, God rewards Job by giving him twice what he had before the Devil took everything, with one notable exception. While his 7000 sheep became 14000, his 3000 camels became 6000, and his 500 she-asses became 1000, “he also came to have seven sons and three daughters”. That’s the same number he had before! Rather than getting twice the number of children, the fact that he received the same number indicates belief in a resurrection. How?

    The animals, who God would not have reason to bring back to life, being lower than man, were replaced with double the number. But if God intended to bring back Job’s original 10 children, we see that by granting Job 10 more children, he was in fact doubling the number that would be given to Job upon resurrecting the original 10! There is no other logical reason that God would give back Job’s things in double except for his children, considering that the account also tells us that Job lived another 140 years, so it would hardly have been far-fetched if the writer wanted to tell us that Job conceived 20 more children in that time as a replacement for the 10 he lost.

    I was going to write more (about Paul’s belief in the afterlife differing somewhat from your description of it), but I don’t want this to get any longer. Forgive me, but this was a long article, so it’s hard to respond briefly to it!

  40. “apparently they will all sit down to a meal of French toast and Earl Gray (that last part is not in the Bible”

    Just typical! There’s no humour in the bible at all. :-(

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