Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pharisees, Afterlife, Paul

I have been writing yesterday and today on what Pharisees likely believed about resurrection at the time of Paul.  My argument is that Pharisees and the populace were moving toward a general resurrection of all the righteous in all history but that it is also likely that some Pharisees at the time only pictured a resurrection for those who died prematurely out of faithfulness to the Jewish Law.

My argument is also that while we find an increasing sense that the wicked suffer in the afterlife from about 200BC on, belief in a resurrected return to the land of Israel was at first restricted to those who died as "martyrs," so to speak.  The premise is, for Essenes and others, that the "normal" righteous have a blessed afterlife under the earth or, perhaps for some, in the stars.  Resurrection belief arises as a function of the problem of evil, against the backdrop of deuteronomistic theology, to explain how the righteous can die because they are righteous.

The question then comes to Paul.  Does he think of resurrection in terms of Old Testament people like Abraham or only in terms of those "in Christ"?  Does he picture a time when the wicked will return to the earth for judgment?  It is a question of silence.  He makes no comment on either topic.

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