The Jewishness of Resurrection

Jim Davila mentions the New York Times article reviewing Jon Levenson’s new book, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life, a “frontal challenge” to the idea that resurrection was not only a late innovation in Judaism, but a movement away from a religion which had always accepted mortality matter-of-factly.

“Professor Levenson does not deny that an unambiguous belief in resurrection of the dead makes a late appearance in Judaism, or that some groups, like the Sadducees, mentioned in the Gospels and by the historian Josephus, never accepted it.

“He argues, however, that this late appearance was ‘both an innovation and a restatement of a tension that had pervaded the religion of Israel from the beginning.’ The full-fledged doctrine of resurrection was not primarily a response to the needs of the moment or the challenge of martyrdom. It flowed from ‘deeper and long-established currents in the religion of Israel’…

“He analyzes biblical accounts of God’s power to reverse life-threatening adversity — enslavement, infertility, loss of children, famine — or in exceptional cases, death itself. Many of his instances are the same ones that rabbis have cited over the centuries to support the doctrine of resurrection: from the opening of Sarah’s infertile womb and the binding and near sacrifice of Isaac to the sufferings of Job, the miracles of the prophet Elisha and Ezekiel’s vision of a new people arisen in the valley of the dry bones…

“Many Christians have misunderstood Judaism because of their assumption that belief in resurrection is exclusively associated with Jesus. ‘The stereotypes on both sides are destructive,’ he said, ‘and destroy an important bond between Judaism and Christianity.’ For all the differences between the two faiths — and Professor Levenson is not known for minimizing them — ‘early Christianity and rabbinic Judaism had no division on belief in eschatological resurrection.'”

Levenson’s book may be aimed at building bridges between Judaism and Christianity, but I would also prescribe it to the many Unitarians who are shocked to learn that resurrection was a Judaic belief. It’s going to be a good book in any case, not least because Levenson wrote it.

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2 thoughts on “The Jewishness of Resurrection

  1. ‘He analyzes biblical accounts of God’s power to reverse life-threatening adversity — enslavement, infertility, loss of children, famine — or in exceptional cases, death itself.’Many Christian apologists deny that such reverses of death itself were resurrections, or even that they were relevant to Jewish ideas of resurrection.Paul, when arguing for the resurrection, never uses such examples.(Although the fake Paul of 3 Corinthians did)

  2. ”early Christianity and rabbinic Judaism had no division on belief in eschatological resurrection.'”‘Presumably then , 1 Corinthians was not written to early Christians, as the recipients did not believe in resurrection.

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