Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews

Kevin J. Madigan
Jon D. Levenson
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This book, written for religious and nonreligious people alike in clear and accessible language, explores a teaching central to both Jewish and Christian traditions: the teaching that at the end of time God will cause the dead to live again. Although this expectation, known as the resurrection of the dead, is widely understood to have been a part of Christianity from its beginnings nearly two thousand years ago, many people are surprised to learn that the Jews believed in resurrection long before the emergence of Christianity. In this sensitively written and historically accurate book, religious scholars Kevin J. Madigan and Jon D. Levenson aim to clarify confusion and dispel misconceptions about Judaism, Jesus, and Christian origins.

    Madigan and Levenson tell the fascinating but little-known story of the origins of the belief in resurrection, investigating why some Christians and some Jews opposed the idea in ancient times while others believed it was essential to their faith. The authors also discuss how the two religious traditions relate their respective practices in the here and now to the new life they believe will follow resurrection. Making the rich insights of contemporary scholars of antiquity available to a wide readership, Madigan and Levenson offer a new understanding of Jewish-Christian relations and of the profound connections that tie the faiths together.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14520-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. 1 Christian Hope And Its Jewish Roots
    (pp. 1-23)

    Darkness prevailed early that spring morning in Jerusalem. It was the middle of the Jewish month of Nisan, just at the start of the feast of Passover, perhaps around the year 30 C.E. Shortly after Jesus of Nazareth’s grisly execution by crucifixion, his friends and followers gathered, in fi-delity to long practice and the prescription of the Torah, or “the Law,” to observe the Sabbath. We can only imagine their feelings; presumably they were crushed with shock and despair.

    Within a day or so of Jesus’ death, several of his female followers, including those who had witnessed his death and...

  7. 2 The First Fruits of Those Who Have Died
    (pp. 24-41)

    An apostle who was not one of the disciples, a follower who never knew Jesus in the flesh, Paul was nonetheless transformed by the message that Jesus had been raised from the dead. In turn, Paul transformed his world—and world history—by tireless proclamation of that message. A zealot for the traditions of his fathers, he becametheapostle to the gentiles. After what he took to be a life-transforming encounter with the risen Christ near Damascus, he soon became a champion for the good news of Christ risen. A persecutor of the “church of God” who hoped indeed...

  8. 3 A Journey to Sheol (and Back)
    (pp. 42-68)

    The belief that Jesus was resurrected and that his followers would be as well pervades the New Testament, as we have seen in detail in the previous two chapters. But we have also seen that something else pervades the New Testament: a heavy reliance on the Hebrew Bible, which it quotes or echoes incessantly and which is the only scriptures that Jesus, Paul, and all other early Christians knew (the term “New Testament” did not even exist until about a century and a half later). This, in turn, poses a conundrum. For in the Hebrew Bible—in the book, that...

  9. 4 Who Goes to Sheol—and Who Does Not
    (pp. 69-80)

    In our last chapter, we cited the scholarly view that “everyone who dies goes to Sheol” so that the netherworld is “the destination of all, good and bad without discrimination, where existence is wholly undesirable.” If this is so, then Qohelet (also known as Ecclesiastes) was surely correct when he wrote that “the same fate is in store for all” (Qoh 9:2), namely, death and the “wholly undesirable” existence that goes with it.

    For Qohelet, this is a sad thought, one that seems to offend his sense of justice. And well it should. For if the conventional view (widely...

  10. 5 Heaven on Earth
    (pp. 81-106)

    In the previous chapter, we were at pains to argue that there is no positive antipode to Sheol in the sense of a place, like the Jewish Garden of Eden or the Christian Heaven, to which the fortunate dead arrived to experience everlasting happiness. Instead, we advanced the claim that the happiness of such figures after death had a great deal to do with the fact that their deepest identities were inextricably embedded in the continuation of their families. The death of an individual has a different meaning in a culture that instinctively understands the self in familial and thus...

  11. 6 How Birth Reverses Death
    (pp. 107-120)

    In our previous chapter, we noted in passing that the death of an individual has a different meaning in a culture that understands the self in familial, transgenerational terms. In such cultures, we must recognize the difficulty of separating individuals from their families (including, ultimately, the extended family that is the nation). If, in fact, individuals are fundamentally and inextricably embedded within their families, then their own deaths, however terrifying in prospect, may not be thought to have the finality that death carries in a culture with a more individualistic, atomistic understanding of the self, like the culture of the...

  12. 7 The Death and Resurrection of the Promised Son
    (pp. 121-131)

    The intimate connection of infertility with death, and of childbirth and familial survival with resurrection, that we developed in our previous chapter appears nowhere in the Hebrew Bible with greater clarity than in 2 Kgs 4:8–37, the story of the great lady of Shunem and the wonder-working prophet Elisha ben Shaphat. The tale is deceptively simple. The wealthy woman, we are told, urges the prophet to stop at her house for a meal, and soon the practice becomes regular whenever the prophet is in town (vv 8–9). After a while, at her suggestion, she and her husband provide...

  13. 8 Revival in Two Modes
    (pp. 132-155)

    The greatest assault on Israel’s existence during the periods documented in the Hebrew Bible was the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. In short order, the Temple was torched, the house of David was overthrown, and a significant segment of the populace of the southern kingdom Judah was sent into exile (the northern kingdom, Israel, had fallen to the Assyrians 136 years earlier). As we saw in Chapter 5, to the ancient Israelite the Temple was not just another building, if an architecturally impressive one. It was the very House of the Lord. And the house of David...

  14. 9 “I deal death and give life”
    (pp. 156-170)

    In the second book of Samuel, we hear of a clever effort on the part of King David’s general Joab to persuade the king to allow his son Absalom to return and be reconciled with his father. (Absalom had fled from Jerusalem after killing his half-brother Amnon, the rapist of his sister. See 2 Samuel 13). Joab enlisted a wise woman from the town of Tekoa to pretend to be a widow who is in mourning for a son whom another son had killed, just as Absalom had killed his brother Amnon. The community, she says, is demanding that she...

  15. 10 The Great Awakening
    (pp. 171-200)

    The great reversal of death of which poets had long sung becomes an explicit prophecy in Dan 12:1–3, the first transparent and indisputable prediction of the resurrection of the dead in the Hebrew Bible:

    ¹At that time, the great prince, Michael, who stands beside the sons of your people, will appear. It will be a time of trouble, the like of which has never been since the nation came into being. At that time, your people will be rescued, all who are found inscribed in the book. ²Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth will...

  16. 11 The Least Known Teaching in Judaism
    (pp. 201-220)

    In the hands of the figures who shaped rabbinic Judaism in the first few centuries of the common era, the expectation of resurrection that had made its first unambiguous biblical appearance in Daniel 12 became a defining doctrine of Judaism. A highly liturgical religion, whose forms of worship are regulated by religious law, rabbinic Judaism early on gave the doctrine of resurrection a central place in its daily worship. Consider the second benediction in the prayer known variously as theAmidah(“The Standing Prayer”), theTefilla(“The Prayer,” par excellence), or theShemoneh Esreh(“The Eighteen Benedictions”):

    You are mighty...

  17. 12 What Was Wrong with the Gnostic Gospel?
    (pp. 221-234)

    At the same time the early rabbis were defining the resurrection of the dead as an indispensable requirement of Judaism, Christian teachers were doing the same thing for their own tradition. As we saw in Chapter 2, as early as the time of Paul some Christians doubted the reality, or even the possibility, of resurrection. That doubt persisted within some Christian communities at least until the time the Gospel of John was written (around 100 C.E.). We know this because, in that gospel, one of the apostles, Thomas, is depicted as doubting the claim of the other apostles that Jesus...

  18. 13 The Redeemed Life—in the Here and Now
    (pp. 235-258)

    It is conventional to say that Christianity is the child of Judaism and cannot be understood apart from its parent religion, for Jesus and all his disciples were Jews and references to the Jewish scriptures pervade the New Testament. This is, of course, true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point that the form of Judaism from which the religious traditions of modern Jews descend took shape in the early centuries of the common era, that is to say, at the same time, and to a significant degree, in the same places as the church was taking...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 259-268)
  20. Index of Primary Sources
    (pp. 269-279)
  21. General Index
    (pp. 280-284)