Resurrection [N]

The Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the idea of bodily resurrection evolves from a vague concept into a developed expectation. Beginning with the judgment of death in Genesis 3:6, the divine plan of God unfolds in history. The patriarchal period is more concerned with the first stages of the design. Community function is central because of the "promise" concerning the "seed." The extension of existence is passed through progeny ( Gen 12:1-3 ; 15:1-6 ) and individual resurrection is not the central concern.

Nonetheless, in the Old Testament concern is expressed for the individual soul. Job's despairing vacillation over death and decay is answered by the radiant expectation of preservation: "For I know my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God" ( Job 19:25-26 ; NRSV cf also Psalm 16:10 ; Isa 26:19 ).

One of the principal factors in the development of a fixed notion of an individual resurrection is in response to the problem of theodicy. Because it could easily be seen that corrupt people sometimes were not punished for every wrong and that God's people were at times unjustly treated, individual resurrection was a natural philosophical resolution to this quandary. The resurrection of the just to reward and the unjust to punishment resolved the otherwise meaningless existence for those who followed Yahweh during times of persecution. There must be incentive to faithfulness toward God when there is no prosperity and no immediate compensation for belief. A further affront was the prosperous nonbeliever who endured no immediate, perceivable effects of sin and selfishness. Therefore, reward for one's earthly actions is integral to individual resurrection and is its initial catalyst.

Psalm 49 points out that all die, the "wise" and the "fool" alike. Fools are appointed to Sheol (which is used as a synonym for death or the grave) and "their forms will decay in the grave" (v. 14). Fools cannot continue in their resplendence of material possessions; therefore, the psalmist says, "Do not be overawed when a man grows rich for he will take nothing with him when he dies" (vv. 16-17). Even though theodicy is not directly in view, at the core of the psalm is a proclamation of God's justice, which is dispensed to the fool and the wise person after death. The wise follower of Yahweh is triumphant: "But God will redeem my life from the grave, for he will surely take me to himself" (v. 15).

In Psalm 88 the psalmist's existence is about to cease. This is evidenced by the words used to denote death: "the pit" (vv. 4, 6); "the dead" (vv. 5, 10); "the grave" (vv. 5, 11); "the darkest depths" (v. 6); "the lowest pit" (v. 6); "Abaddon" (v. 11); "the place of darkness" (v. 12); "the land of oblivion" (v. 12); and "darkness" (v. 18). The psalmist says, "my life draws near to Sheol" (v. 3), the penumbral expanse of the netherworld. The psalmist then asks the rhetorical questions: "Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise you? Is your steadfast love declared in the grace, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?" (vv. 10-12 NRSV). As with Psalm 6:4-6 the point is that one must be alive in order to praise God. The reference reveals a cognizance of the concept of an individual's resurrection even though the questions are unanswered (cf. Psalm 7:15 ; 49:15 ).

Psalm 6:5 says, "For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give your praise?" (NRSV). The psalm reveals God's justice being demonstrated in theodicy: "Deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." Psalm 73 is enlightening in regards to the development of the concept of individual resurrection. The psalm begins, "Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart" (NRSV). The problem is stated clearly: "I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (v. 3 NRSV). These wicked people mock, do violence, oppress, are prideful, and speak evil (vv. 6-9). Yet they are at ease and their wealth has increased (v. 12). The psalmist then makes the rhetorical statement, "Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure" (v. 13). Seeking to understand this seeming incongruity was troublesome to the psalmist (v. 16) until he perceived the end of the unfaithful (v. 17). They will be destroyed in a moment (vv. 19, 27), but the righteous Yahwist will receive a different recompense. Even though his flesh and heart may fail, God is his "portion forever" and "afterward will take [him] into glory" (v. 24b).

Isaiah 26:10 says, "If favor is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely" (NRSV). Yet God's justice is revealed in the afterlife, as indicated in verse 19: "Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy!" But the wicked have a different end: "The Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins; the earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer" (v. 21).

Just prior to the exile, an eschatological emphasis instilled by prophetic preaching imparted a growing concern for individuals. The result was a heightened awareness of the afterlife. For example, Jeremiah 31:30 says, "But everyone will die for his own iniquity" (NASB). The concern was no longer just for the nation of Israel or for Abraham's descendants, as it tended to be in the pre-Mosaic period, but for individuals as well.

The most conspicuous references to a resurrection are to be found in later apocalyptic literature, as the salvation leitmotif moves closer to the comprehensive perception that is later spelled out in Christ's resurrection. A resurrection of the just and the unjust is affirmed in Daniel 12:2-3: "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." Unlike the "resurrections" of 1 Kings 17:17-24, 2 Kings 4:31-37, and 2 Kings 13:20-21, which are resuscitations to the conditions of earthly life, Daniel 12:2-3 apportions a future allotment by the use of the future tense (both in the Hebrew text and LXX).

Second Temple Judaism. With the prophetic voice being silent in the second temple period, and a feeling of the remoteness of God, harmonization with the justice of God took the form of requital after death. The question of why bad things happen to righteous people continued to fuel the concept of the resurrection, especially in light of the failure to establish Israel as the powerful nation it had once been. Apocalyptic literature was more commonplace, and the afterlife and the concern for individual salvation were prominent. It is in the context of persecuted saints in the second temple period that resurrection from the dead was developed into the form that is found in the New Testament. It is during this period that the concept of bodily resurrection takes shape.

The Maccabean revolt in 167 b.c. incited the earlier belief in the resurrection of the just and polarized it to new heights. The second of seven tortured brothers responds to his persecutors "in his last breath of consciousness" by saying, "You like a frenzy take us out of this present existence but the King of the universe shall raise us up to eternal life, because we have died on behalf of his laws" (2 Macc 7:9, translation mine ). The third brother, after putting forth his hands to the fire, says, "I received these [hands] from heaven and from him I hope to receive them again" (2 Macc 7:11). After the seven brothers are slain, their mother says, "The Creator of the universe will give you breath and life again" (2 Macc 7:23).

Other Jewish sources reveal a belief in a resurrection. The early second-century SyriActs (translated from Greek) text 2 Baruch is an example. Baruch ask God the questions, "In which shape will the living live in your day? Or how will remain their splendor which will be after that? Will they, perhaps, take again this present form, and will they put on the chained members which are in evil and by which evils are accomplished?" (2 Bar 49:2-3). The answer that is given in 2 Baruch 50-51 is that initially the "earth will surely give back the dead not changing anything in their form" (2 Bar 50:2). After this event, "the shape of those who are found to be guilty as also the glory of those who have proved to be righteous will be changed" (2 Bar 51:1-2). The evil will take a more evil "shape" and the righteous will take a more righteous "shape."

By the time of Christ, the Pharisees (the most influential Jewish sect just prior to the Christian period who dated back to at least the second century b.c.) believed in a resurrection ( Acts 23:8 ) whereas, the Sadducees did not ( Matt 22:23 ; Acts 23:8 ).

The New Testament. The resurrection of Jesus is the principal tenet of the New Testament. Baptism is centered in Jesus' resurrection. Even though Jewish illustrations were present for at least a hundred years before Christ, Paul applies the act symbolically to death, burial, and resurrection. He says, "When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" ( Col 2:12 ; NRSV see also Rom 6:3-5 ; 1 Peter 3:21-22 ).

The Lord's Supper is less connected in its symbolism than baptism, but the early correlation that it was celebrated on the Lord's day, that is, on the day that Jesus raised from the dead, reveals an early association.

The retelling of the empty tomb of Jesus is found in all four Gospels ( Mark 16:1-8 ; Matt 28:11-15 ; Luke 24:1-12 ; John 20:11-18 ). The empty tomb of Christ stands in sharp contrast to other world religions whose prophets and their adherents never make such a claim.

The appearances of Jesus after his resurrection to chosen individuals play an important role in the proclamation of the gospel message (e.g., Matthew 28:9-10 Matthew 28:16-17 ; Luke 24:34 ; John 20:11-17 ; 21:1-2 ; Acts 2:32 ; 3:15 ; 4:20 ; 10:40-41 ; 13:30-31 ; 1 Cor 15:5-7 ).

The resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the general resurrection of all humans, which will be followed by the dispensing of God's justice; to the righteous there will be a "resurrection of life" and to the unrighteous a "resurrection of condemnation" ( John 5:28-29 ; cf. Rev 20:4-6 ). Regardless of the complex time sequence involved in the various resurrections recorded in the New Testament, Jesus' bodily resurrection is the basis for the future resurrection of humans ( 1 Cor 15:42-50 ). The Spirit, which was given after his resurrection, is the "guarantee" (or "first installment") that God will raise the righteous from the dead, and that they will not be found "naked, " that is, incorporeal ( 2 Cor 5:1-5 ; cf. Eph 1:13-14 ), but will have a corporeal existence with God. Even though believers "groan" while in their bodies ( 2 Cor 5:2 ), they will be "further clothed" after their resurrection (v. 4). There will be recompense for what was done in the body; therefore, one must seek to please God (vv. 6-10).

First Corinthians 15. The earliest teaching in the New Testament concerning the resurrection is undoubtedly 1 Corinthians 15. Paul "passes on" that which he has received (presumably by oral tradition), which is of "first importance." Paul says that the resurrection was in accordance with the Scripturesa perception that was an important one considering the magnitude of the teaching. The seemingly insignificant detail of the time sequence ("the third day") is not an inconsequential component; rather, it reveals the historical nature of the event, which was not a private, subjective experience but one that occurred in actual time and was attested by Cephas, the Twelve, and five hundred people.

Paul, using simple logic, concludes several things "if the dead are not raised." The specific problem that he is addressing is that some of the Corinthians were saying that there was no resurrection of the dead. If there is no general resurrection, then the conspicuous conclusion that "Christ has not been raised" can be deduced. If "Christ has not been raised, " then several philosophical conclusions can be outlined.

First, the missionary proclamation concerning Christ "is useless" (v. 14). This perception was undoubtedly an important one for Paul considering that his commission to the Gentiles was rooted in the idea that Jesus was "first to rise from the dead" ( Acts 26:23 ). Therefore, Paul's mission to the Gentiles unfolds in light of the resurrection of Christ and the corollary futility of his own life ensues if there is no resurrection. Paul corresponds with the Corinthians with much passion in these verses. The collapse of the resurrection was commensurate to Christianity being fallacious for Paul.

Second, if there is no resurrection the faith of the believer is "vain" and "futile" (vv. 14, 17). The eschatological aspect of faith is rooted in the notion of resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus guarantees the resurrection of the believer. Future salvation is based on the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, faith in God's justice in resolving the problem of theodicy is "vain" (cf. 1 Peter 3:21 ; Rom 4:25 ) if there is no resurrection.

Jesus' resurrection is a prototypical event. As "the firstfruits" ( 1 Cor 15:23 ) he gives the Spirit as the firstfruits to the believer ( Rom 8:23 ). This Spirit indwelling is the "first installment" ( 2 Cor 1:22 ; 5:5 ; Eph 1:14 ) and the basis for the hope of the "redemption of our bodies" ( Rom 8:23 ).

Third, the early missionaries were "misrepresenting God" if there is no resurrection ( 1 Cor 15:15 ). Paul's logic allows no room for a "spiritual" approach that discounts the resurrection. The belief in bodily resurrection is commensurate with belief in God. If God exists and if he created the universe and has power over it, he has power to raise the dead. Attempts to explain the resurrection as a mere sociological phenomenon without the supernatural element minimizes the magnitude of the event and the role that it played in the formation of Christianity.

For example, the fourth of Paul's conclusions"you are still in your sins" (v. 17)shows the magnitude for Paul of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus showed that Christ's oblation as the sacrificial lamb was accepted by God, which is the basis for the giving of the Spirit to believers and the forgiveness of their sins.

Fifth, if there is no resurrection "those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost" (v. 18). In other words, they have returned to dust with no future cognizance of any existence. This statement gets at the core of the basis for hoping and not fearing death. It also affects morality. God's future judgment modifies earthly behavior. Paul's conclusion that "If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'" (v. 32) reveals the tenable resolution of materialistic hedonism, when the resurrection of Christ as the firstfruit and the ensuing general resurrection are dismissed. As in the Old Testament, theodicy, especially in times of persecution, was perceived as futile if there was no future vindication.

Finally, the result of such logic led Paul to declare that "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" (v. 19 NRSV). Paul articulates the persecution he received at Ephesus in verse 32, which only has meaning if the dead are raised. The persecution and even death of many of the early Christians led to Paul's conclusion that theodicy is resolved by bodily resurrection.

The rhetorical question is asked in verse 35, "With what kind of body will they come?" Paul's answer is to stress continuity of identity. Even though individuals will be "changed, " they will remain in essence who they are. He illustrates this by using a grain of wheat that will, after it is planted, be changed, but will remain wheat. In the Gospels, the appearances of Jesus stress the continuity of his identity even though he changed. His pierced hands and side attest to the continuity of his identity.

Paul's discussion on the "first Adam" who is born of "dust" and the "second Adam" who is Christ and is a "life-giving spirit" has as its goal the statement "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." In other words, spiritual rebirth is necessary to enter the eternal kingdom of God.

Not only does the resurrection of Jesus have implications for the individual, according to Paul, but Christ's passage through the cosmos unharmed by evil spirits has placed the universe itself in his subjection (vv. 24-28). This early perception, the so-called classic view of the atonement, is common in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:32-35 ; Eph 1:20-23 ; Heb 1:13 ). In second temple Judaism, ascension into the cosmos by a saint who confronted evil spirits (e.g., Eth Enoch) was commonplace, but none were permitted passage to "the right hand of God." Jesus' resurrection and subsequent ascension (which are often treated together as one event) is unique in that sense.

Eric W. Adams

See also Second Coming of Christ

Bibliography. J. E. M. Dewart, Message of the Fathers of the Church; R. B. Gaffin, Jr., The Centrality of the Resurrection: A Study in Paul's Soteriology; G. R. Habermas, The Resurrection of Jesus: An Apologetic; M. J. Harris, Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament; G. E. Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Resurrection'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.


rez-u-rek'-shun (in the New Testament anastasis, with verbs anistemi, "stand up," and egeiro, "raise." There is no technical term in the Old Testament, but in Isaiah 26:19 are found the verbs chayah, "live," kum "rise," kic "awake").


1. Nationalism

2. Speculation

3. Religious Danger

4. Belief in Immortality

5. Resurrection

6. Greek Concepts


1. The Old Testament

2. The Righteous

3. The Unrighteous

4. Complete Denial


1. Mark 12:18-27

2. In General


1. References

2. Pauline Doctrine

3. Continuity

4. 2 Corinthians 5


1. New Testament Data

2. Interpretation


I. Israel and Immortality.

1. Nationalism:

It is very remarkable that a doctrine of life after death as an essential part of religion was of very late development in Israel, although this doctrine, often highly elaborated, was commonly held among the surrounding nations. The chief cause of this lateness was that Israel's religion centered predominantly in the ideal of a holy nation. Consequently the individual was a secondary object of consideration, and the future of the man who died before the national promises were fulfilled either was merged in the future of his descendants or else was disregarded altogether.

2. Speculation:

Much speculation about life after death evidently existed, but it was not in direct connection with the nation's religion. Therefore, the Old Testament data are scanty and point, as might be expected, to non-homogeneous concepts. Still, certain ideas are clear. The living individual was composed of "flesh" and nephesh, or ruach (a trichotomy appears to be post-Biblical, despite 1 Thessalonians 5:23; see PSYCHOLOGY). In the individual nephesh and ruach seem to be fairly synonymous words, meaning primarily "breath," as the animating principle of the flesh (so for the lower animals in Psalms 104:29,30). But nephesh came to be used to denote the "inner man" or "self" (Deuteronomy 12:20, etc.; see HEART), and so in English Versions of the Bible is usually rendered "soul." But there are only a very few cases where nephesh is used for the seat of the personality after death (Psalms 30:3; compare Psalms 16:10; 38:17; Job 33:18, etc.), and nearly all of such passages seem quite late. Indeed, in some 13 cases the nephesh of a dead man is unmistakably his corpse (Leviticus 19:28; Numbers 5:2; Haggai 2:13, etc.). It seems the question of what survives death was hardly raised; whatever existed then was thought of as something quite new. On the one hand the dead man could be called a "god" (1 Samuel 28:13), a term perhaps related to ancestor-worship. But more commonly the dead are thought of as "shades," repha'im (Job 26:5 margin, etc.), weak copies of the original man in all regards (Ezekiel 32:25). But, whatever existence such "shades" might have, they had passed out of relation to Yahweh, whom the "dead praise not" (Psalms 115:17,18; Isaiah 38:18,19), and there was no religious interest in them.

3. Religious Danger:

Indeed, any interest taken in them was likely to be anti-religious, as connected with necromancy, etc. (Deuteronomy 14:1; 26:14; Isaiah 8:19; Psalms 106:28, etc.; see SORCERY), or as connected with foreign religions. Here, probably, the very fact that the surrounding nations taught immortality was a strong reason for Israel's refusing to consider it. That Egypt held an elaborate doctrine of individual judgment at death, or that Persia taught the resurrection of the body, would actually tend to render these doctrines suspicious, and it was not until the danger of syncretism seemed past that such beliefs could be considered on their own merits. Hence, it is not surprising that the prophets virtually disregard the idea or that Ecclesiastes denies any immortality doctrine categorically.

4. Belief in Immortality:

Nonetheless, with a fuller knowledge of God, wider experience, and deeper reflection, the doctrine was bound to come. But it came slowly. Individualism reaches explicit statement in 1848/A>; Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:29,30), but the national point of view still made the rewards and punishments of the individual matters of this world only (Ezekiel 14:14; 2 Corinthians 5:3). The nephesh and ruach were uncertain quantities, and even the New Testament has no consistent terminology for the immortal part of man ("soul," Revelation 6:9; 20:4; "spirit," Hebrews 12:23; 1 Peter 3:19; Paul avoids any term in 1 Corinthians 15, and in 2 Corinthians 5 says:

"I"). In the Talmud a common view is that the old bodies will receive new souls (Ber. R. 2 7; 6 7; Vayy. R. 12 2; 15 1, etc.; compare Sib Or 4:187).

6. Greek Concepts:

Where direct Greek influence, however, can be predicated, pure soul-immortality is found (compare The Wisdom of Solomon 8:19,20; 9:15 (but Wisd's true teaching is very uncertain); Enoch 102:4-105; 108; Slavonic Enoch; 4 Macc; Josephus, and especially Philo). According to Josephus (BJ, II, viii, 11) the Essenes held this doctrine, but as Josephus graecizes the Pharisaic resurrection into Pythagorean soul-migration (II, viii, 14; contrast Ant, XVIII, i, 3), his evidence is doubtful. Note, moreover, how Luke 6:9; 9:25; 12:4,5 has re-worded Mark 3:4; 8:36; Matthew 10:28 for Greek readers. In a vague way even Palestinian Judaism had something of the same concepts (2 Esdras 7:88; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 12:2), while it is commonly held that the souls in the intermediate state can enjoy happiness, a statement first appearing in Enoch 22 (Jubilees 23:31 is hardly serious).

II. Resurrection in the Old Testament and Intermediate Literature.

1. The Old Testament:

For the reasons given above, references in the Old Testament to the resurrection doctrine are few. Probably it is to be found in Psalms 17:15; 16:11; 49:15; 73:24, and in each case with increased probability, but for exact discussions the student must consult the commentaries. Of course no exact dating of these Psalm passages is possible. With still higher probability the doctrine is expressed in Job 14:13-15; 19:25-29, but again alternative explanations are just possible, and, again, Job is a notoriously hard book to date (see JOB, BOOK OF). The two certain passages are Isaiah 26:19 margin and Daniel 12:2. In the former (to be dated about 332 (?)) it is promised that the "dew of light" shall fall on the earth and so the (righteous) dead shall revive. But this resurrection is confined to Palestine and does not include the unrighteous. For Daniel 12:2 see below.

2. The Righteous:

Indeed, resurrection for the righteous only was thought of much more naturally than a general resurrection. And still more naturally a resurrection of martyrs was thought of, such simply receiving back what they had given up for God. So in Enoch 90:33 (prior to 107 BC) and 2 Macc 7:9,11,23; 14:46 (only martyrs are mentioned in 2 Macc); compare Revelation 20:4. But of course the idea once given could not be restricted to martyrs only, and the intermediate literature contains so many references to the resurrection of the righteous as to debar citation. Early passages are Enoch 91:10 (perhaps pre-Maccabean); Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Test. Judah 25:4 (before 107). A very curious passage is Enoch 25:6, where the risen saints merely live longer than did their fathers, i.e. resurrection does not imply immortality. This passage seems to be unique.

3. The Unrighteous:

For a resurrection of unrighteous men (Daniel 12:2; Enoch 22:11; Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Test. Benj. 10:7,8, Armenian text--in none of these cases a general resurrection), a motive is given in Enoch 22:13:

for such men the mere condition of Sheol is not punishment enough. For a general resurrection the motive is always the final judgment, so that all human history may be summed up in one supreme act. The idea is not very common, and Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Test. Benj. 10:7,8 (Greek text); Baruch 50:2; Enoch 51:1; Sib Or 4:178-90; Life of Adam (Greek) 10, and 2 Esdras 5:45; 7:32; 14:35 about account for all the unequivocal passages. It is not found in the earliest part of the Talmud, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Test. Benj. 10:7,8 (Greek) has two resurrections.

4. Complete Denial:

Finally, much of the literature knows no immortality at all. Eccl, Sirach and 1 Maccabees are the most familiar examples, but there are many others. It is especially interesting that the very spiritual author of 2 Esdras did not think it worth while to modify the categorical denial in the source used in 13:20. Of course, the Jewish party that persisted most in a denial of any resurrection was the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23 and parallel's; Acts 23:8), with an extreme conservatism often found among aristocrats.

III. Teaching of Christ.

1. Mark 12:18-27:

The question is discussed explicitly in the familiar passage Mark 12:18-27 parallel Matthew 22:23-33 parallel Luke 20:27-38. The Sadducees assumed that resurrection implies simply a resuscitation to a resumption of human functions, including the physical side of marriage. Their error lay in the low idea of God. For the Scriptures teach a God whose ability and willingness to care for His creatures are so unlimited that the destiny He has prepared for them is caricatured if conceived in any terms but the absolutely highest. Hence, there follows not only the truth of the resurrection, but a resurrection to a state as far above the sexual sphere as that of the angels. (The possibility of mutual recognition by husband and wife is irrelevant, nor is it even said that the resurrection bodies are asexual) Luke (20:36) adds the explanation that, as there are to be no deaths, marriage (in its relation to births) will not exist. It may be thought that Christ's argument would support equally well the immortality of the soul only, and, as a matter of fact, the same argument is used for the latter doctrine in 4 Macc 7:18,19; 16:25. But in Jerusalem and under the given circumstances this is quite impossible. And, moreover, it would seem that any such dualism would be a violation of Christ's teaching as to God's care.

2. In General:

However, the argument seems to touch only the resurrection of the righteous, especially in the form given in Lu (compare Luke 14:14). (But that Luke thought of so limiting the resurrection is disproved by Acts 24:15.) Similarly in Matthew 8:11 parallel Luke 13:28; Mark 13:27 parallel Matthew 24:31. But, as a feature in the Judgment, the resurrection of all men is taught. Then the men of sodom, Tyre, Nineveh appear (Matthew 11:22,24; 12:41,42 parallel Luke 10:14; 11:32), and those cast into Gehenna are represented as having a body (Mark 9:43-47; Matthew 5:29,30; 10:28; 18:8,9). And at the great final assize (Matthew 25:31-46) all men appear. In the Fourth Gospel a similar distinction is made (John 6:39,40,44,54; 11:25), the resurrection of the righteous, based on their union with God through Christ and heir present possession of this union, and (in John 5:28,29) the general resurrection to judgment. Whether these passages imply two resurrections or emphasize only the extreme difference in conditions at the one cannot be determined.

The passages in 4 Maccabees referred to above read:

"They who care for piety with their whole heart, they alone are able to conquer the impulses of the flesh, believing that like our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, they do not die to God but live to God" (7:18,19); and "They knew that dying for God they would live to God, even as Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the patriarchs" (16:25). It is distinctly possible that our Lord's words rnay have been known to the author of 4 Maccabees, although the possibility that Christ approved and broadened the tenets of some spiritually-minded few is not to be disregarded. More possible is it that 4 Maccabees influenced Luke's Greek phraseology.


IV. The Apostolic Doctrine.

1. References:

For the apostles, Christ's victory over death took the resurrection doctrine out of the realm of speculative eschatology. Henceforth, it is a fact of experience, basic for Christianity. Direct references in the New Testament are found in Acts 4:2; 17:18,32; 23:6; 24:15,21; Romans 4:17; 5:17; 6:5,8; 8:11; 11:15; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15; 2 Corinthians 1:9; 4:14; 5:1-10; Philippians 3:10,11,21; Colossians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Timothy 2:18; Hebrews 6:2; 11:19,35; Revelation 20:4,5 (martyrs only); 20:12,13. Of these only Acts 24:15; Revelation 20:12,13, refer to a general resurrection with absolute unambiguity, but the doctrine is certainly contained in others and in 2 Timothy 4:1 besides.

2. Pauline Doctrine:

A theology of the resurrection is given fully by Paul. Basic is the conception of the union of the believer with Christ, so that our resurrection follows from His (especially Romans 6:5-11; Philippians 3:10,11). Every deliverance from danger is a foretaste of the resurrection (2 Corinthians 4:10,11). Indeed so certain is it, that it may be spoken of as accomplished (Ephesians 2:6). From another standpoint, the resurrection is simply part of God's general redemption of Nature at the consummation (Romans 8:11,18-25). As the believer then passes into a condition of glory, his body must be altered for the new conditions (1 Corinthians 15:50; Philippians 3:21); it becomes a "spiritual" body, belonging to the realm of the spirit (not "spiritual" in opposition to "material"). Nature shows us how different "bodies" can be--from the "body" of the sun to the bodies of the lowest animals the kind depends merely on the creative will of God (1 Corinthians 15:38-41). Nor is the idea of a change in the body of the same thing unfamiliar:

look at the difference in the "body" of a grain of wheat at its sowing and after it is grown! (1 Corinthians 15:37). Just so, I am "sown" or sent into the world (probably not "buried") with one kind of body, but my resurrection will see me with a body adapted to my life with Christ and God (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). If I am still alive at the Parousia, this new body shall be clothed upon my present body (1 Corinthians 15:53,54; 2 Corinthians 5:2-4) otherwise I shall be raised in it (1 Corinthians 15:52). This body exists already in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1,2), and when it is clothed upon me the natural functions of the present body will be abolished (1 Corinthians 6:13). Yet a motive for refraining from impurity is to keep undefiled the body that is to rise (1 Corinthians 6:13,14).

3. Continuity:

The relation of the matter in the present body to that in the resurrection body was a question Paul never raised. In 1 Corinthians 6:13,14 it appears that he thought of the body as something more than the sum of its organs, for the organs perish, but the body is raised. Nor does he discuss the eventual fate of the dead body. The imagery of 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; 1 Corinthians 15:52 is that of leaving the graves, and in the case of Christ's resurrection, the type of ours, that which was buried was that which was raised (1 Corinthians 15:4). Perhaps the thought is that the touch of the resurrection body destroys all things in the old body that are unadapted to the new state; perhaps there is an idea that the essence of the old body is what we might call "non-material," so that decay simply anticipates the work the resurrection will do. At all events, such reflections are "beyond what is written."

4. 2 Corinthians 5:

A partial parallel to the idea of the resurrection body being already in heaven is found in Slavonic Enoch 22:8,9, where the soul receives clothing laid up for it (compare Ascension of Isaiah 7:22,23 and possibly Revelation 6:11). But Christ also speaks of a reward being already in heaven (Matthew 5:12). A more important question is the time of the clothing in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5. A group of scholars (Heinrici, Schmiedel, Holtzmann, Clemen, Charles, etc.) consider that Paul has here changed his views from those of 1 Corinthians; that he now considers the resurrection body to be assumed immediately at death, and they translate 2 Corinthians 5:2,3 " `we groan (at the burdens of life), longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven':

because, when we shall be clothed with it, we shall have no more nakedness to experience" (Weizsacker's translation of the New Testament). But 2 Corinthians would have been a most awkward place to announce a change of views, for it was written in part as a defense against inconsistency (1:17, etc.). The willingness to be absent from the body (5:8) loses all its point if another and better body is to be given at once. The grammatical reasons for the interpretation above (best stated by Heinrici) are very weak. And the translation given reads into the verse something that simply is not there. Consequently it is far better to follow the older interpretation of Meyer (B. Weiss, Bousset, Lietzmann, Bachmann, Menzies, etc.; Bachmann is especially good) and the obvious sense of the passage: Paul dreads being left naked by death, but finds immediate consolation at the thought of being with Christ, and eventual consolation at the thought of the body to be received at the Parousia. (In Philippians 1:21-24 this dread is overcome.)

Of a resurrection of the wicked, Paul has little to say. The doctrine seems clearly stated in 2 Corinthians 5:10 (and in 2 Timothy 4:1, unless the Pauline authorship of 2 Timothy is denied). But Paul is willing to treat the fate of the unrighteous with silence.

V. Summary.

1. New Testament Data:

The points in the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection of the righteous, then, seem to be these:

The personality of the believer survives after death and is with Christ. But it is lacking in something that will be supplied at the consummation, when a body will be given in which there is nothing to hinder perfect intercourse with God. The connection of this body with the present body is not discussed, except for saying that some connection exists, with the necessity of a transformation for those alive at the end. In this state nothing remains that is inconsistent with the height to which man is raised, and in particular sexual relations (Mark 12:25) and the processes of nutrition (1 Corinthians 6:13) cease. For this end the whole power of God is available. And it is insured by the perfect trust the believer may put in God and by the resurrection of Christ, with whom the believer has become intimately united. The unrighteous are raised for the final vindication of God's dealings in history. Two resurrections are found in Revelation 20:5,13 and quite possibly in 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:23,24. Hence, the phrase first resurrection.


2. Interpretation:

Into the "blanks" of this scheme the believer is naturally entitled to insert such matter as may seem to him best compatible with his other concepts of Christianity and of philosophy. As is so often the case with passages in the Bible, the student marvels at the way the sacred writers were restrained from committing Christianity to metaphysical schemes that growth in human knowledge might afterward show to be false. But theologian must take care to distinguish between the revealed facts and the interpretation given them in any system that he constructs to make the doctrine conform to the ideas of his own time or circle--a distinction too often forgotten in the past and sometimes with lamentable results. Especially is it well to remember that such a phrase as "a purely spiritual immortality" rests on a metaphysical dualism that is today obsolete, and that such a phrase is hardly less naive than the expectation that the resurrection body will contain identically the material of the present body. We are still quite in the dark as to the relations of what we call "soul" and "body," and so, naturally, it is quite impossible to dogmatize. A. Meyer in his RGG article ("Auferstehung, dogmatisch") has some interesting suggestions. For an idealistic metaphysic, where soul and body are only two forms of God's thought, the resurrection offers no difficulties. If the body be regarded as the web of forces that proceed from the soul, the resurrection would take the form of the return of those forces to their center at the consummation. If "body" be considered to embrace the totality of effects that proceed from the individual, at the end the individual will find in these effects the exact expression of himself (Fechner's theory). Or resurrection may be considered as the end of evolution--the reunion in God of all that has been differentiated and so evolved and enriched. Such lines must be followed cautiously, but may be found to lead to results of great value.

In recent years the attention of scholars has been directed to the problem of how far the teachings of other religions assisted the Jews in attaining a resurrection doctrine. Practically only the Persian system comes into question, and here the facts seem to be these:

A belief among the Persians in the resurrection of the body is attested for the pre-Christian period by the fragments of Theopompus (4th century BC), preserved by Diogenes Laertius and Aeneas of Gaza. That this doctrine was taught by Zoroaster himself is not capable of exact proof, but is probable. But on the precise details we are in great uncertainty. In the Avesta the doctrine is not found in the oldest part (the Gathas), but is mentioned in the 19th Yasht, a document that has certainly undergone post-Christian redaction of an extent that is not determinable. The fullest Persian source is the Bundahesh (30), written in the 9th Christian century. It certainly contains much very ancient matter, but the age of any given passage in it is always a problem. Consequently the sources must be used with great caution. It may be noted that late Judaism certainly was affected to some degree by the Persian religion (see Tob, especially), but there are so many native Jewish elements that were leading to a resurrection doctrine that familiarity with the Persian belief could have been an assistance only. Especially is it to be noted that the great acceptance of the doctrine lies in the post-Maccabean period, when direct Persian influence is hardly to be thought of.



The older works suffer from a defective understanding of the presuppositions, but Salmond, Christian Doctrine of Immortality, is always useful. Brown, The Christian Hope, 1912, is excellent and contains a full bibliography. Charles, Eschatology, and article "Eschatology" in Encyclopedia Biblica are invaluable, but must be used critically by the thorough student, for the opinions are often individualistic. Wotherspoon's article "Resurrection" in DCG is good; Bernard's in HDB is not so good. On 1 Corinthians, Findlay or (better) Edwards; on 2 Corinthians, Menzies. In German the New Testament Theologies of Weiss, Holtzmann, Feine; Schaeder's "Auferstehung" in PRE3. On 1 Cor, Heinrici and J. Weiss in Meyer (editions 8 and 9); on 2 Corinthians, Bachmann in the Zahn series. On both Corinthian epistles Bousset in the Schriften des New Testament of J. Weiss (the work of an expert in eschatology), and Lietzmann in his Handbuch.


Burton Scott Easton

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'RESURRECTION'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.