Monday, January 09, 2012

Monday Review: Resurrection in the Testaments

I have started off the year reading James Charlesworth's (editor), Resurrection: The Origin and Future of a Biblical Doctrine.  I'm playing with the idea of designating Mondays for a post on something I'm reading, and I'll try to move between categories.

The first chapter is by Charlesworth himself, of Princeton Seminary.  I almost said formerly because he is perhaps the last vestige of a past, historically oriented biblical studies program there.  From what I hear, don't go there any more if you're interested in this sort of stuff.  It's all theological interpretation now with a rapidly diminishing number of doctoral students in biblical studies.

Charlesworth's chapter gives a helpful catalog of how resurrection language in Jewish literature can mean a lot of things, ranging from national restoration to recovery from embarrassment. The second chapter is by C. D. Elledge (who also has a book analyzing Josephus on the subject). I found it the most concise and clear overview of the topic I've ever seen.

But my intention today is not to be helpful ;-)  I wanted to jot down some notes for my own research.  In chapter 4, Elledge overviews passages in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs that show belief in resurrection.  Here are some strings for my fingers:

  • Because the book has obvious Christian interpolations and yet a soundly Jewish base, it surely represents Christian Judaism of the late first or early second century.  The documents likely started as pre-Christian Jewish documents, perhaps Essene in provenance, but they were preserved and expanded by Christian Jews even after the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • This plays into my hunch that a good deal of early Christian Judaism flowed directly from an Essene background, including John the Baptist.  I'd love one day before I die to write up a hypothesis.
  • The fact that Testament of Benjamin is one of the most clearly edited by Christians and yet looks to a restored temple (Benj 9.2) corroborates my theory elsewhere that Christians did not see a contradiction between the temple system and belief that Christ's death had decisive atoning significance for Israel.  Similarly, it shows that the political restoration of Israel was important in some early Christian belief after Jerusalem's destruction.
  • As far as the afterlife, the Testament of Judah 25.4 has no resurrection for the wicked (who suffer in Gehenna in Zebulon 10.1-4).  While it does not preclude a total resurrection of the righteous, it focuses on resurrection for those who died in sorrow, poverty, hungry, and for the Lord.
  • Judah 25.1 is very interesting because it mentions the resurrection of the patriarchs, as in the gospels (e.g., Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:28 ). The resurrected sons of Jacob rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, which is interestingly what the twelve disciples do in Matt. 19:28.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

You are the only hope for the "real world" ;-)!

Theological interpretation is post-modern to the core, as there is no connection to the "real world". But, then isn't history, itself, also some form of art, in the way it is "framed"? There are economic, social, political, moral framings of history, depending on what the scholar wants to investigate, and build understanding in/to. Are these "frames" useful as a political "means" to certain political "ends"?

I imagine this is why there has been so much debate around the question of the "Christian Nation" idea....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Maybe, there is only a hope for hope...not really a hope, as there are so many various ways in which our country understands itself, and thus the people in it.

The "real world" is not the supernatural one, but the one where academics determine the theories that will be investigated, where the politicians try to "sell" their wares under the guise of a "better time" or "better hope"....

People are divided as to what and how to make room for "hope in America" today. But, ALL Americans look for hope in this real and present world. It just seems that the "rule of law" doesn't apply equally to those in power, when they are allowed to know and do what the average American cannot, without recrimination....insider trading and such, makes for crony capitalism, that is useful for those that want to change the "state of affairs" (capitalism) altogether!

Scott F said...

"Christians did not see a contradiction between the temple system and belief that Christ's death had decisive atoning significance"

This would be in accordance with Luke's James proclaiming to Paul (Acts 21), "You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law."

Luke would have us believe that Paul viewed the law and temple as still operative for Jews. I still struggle fit this with Paul's apparent view that the law should not prevent a Jew from breaking bread with a gentile. No conflict? Different traditions?