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Resurrection

RESURRECTION (Heb. תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים), the belief that ultimately the dead will be revived in their bodies and live again on earth. Resurrection is to be distinguished from the belief in some sort of personal existence in another realm after death (see *Afterlife) or in the immortality of the *soul. A major tenet of Jewish eschatology alongside the *Messiah, belief in resurrection is firmly attested from Maccabean times, enjoined as an article of faith in the Mishnah (Sanh. 10:1), and included as the second benediction of the Amidah and as the last of Maimonides' 13 principles of faith.

In the Bible

The standard biblical view of death took it as man's final state (cf. II Sam. 14:14). Aside from such anomalies as Enoch and Elijah who were "taken" by God (Gen. 5:24; II Kings 2:1), the common lot of all men, as it was then conceived, is aptly described in Job 7:7–9:

 Remember that my life is a breath;
My eye will not again see good…
A cloud dissolves and it is gone;
So is one who descends to Sheol;
He will not ascend.

Rabbah correctly inferred that the author of this passage left no room for resurrection (BB 16a). This accords with the biblical doctrine of *reward and punishment which satisfies the demands of justice during the (first) lifetime of men. When in Hellenistic times the doctrine proved inadequate, "the extension of divine retribution beyond the tomb came as a necessary corollary to the idea of God's justice and the assurance of his faithfulness in fulfilling his promise to the righteous" (G.F. Moore, Judaism, 2 (1950), 319).

The components of the idea of resurrection were present in biblical thought from early times. That God can revive the dead is one of His praises: "I slay and revive; I wounded and I will heal" (Deut. 32:39; cf. Pes. 68a for the argument that death and life of the same person is meant); "YHWH slays and revives; He brings down to Sheol and raises up" (I Sam. 2:6; cf. II Kings 5:7). His power to do so was exhibited through the acts of Elijah and Elisha (I Kings 17:17ff.; II Kings 4:18ff.).

In poetry, severe misery, mortal sickness, and dire peril are figured as death-like states – the victim has descended into Sheol, the (nethermost) pit, the dark regions, the depths of the sea (Ps. 30:4; 71:20; 88:4–7; 143:3). Divine rescue from such circumstances is "restoring to life" (Ps. 30:4; 71:20; 143:11; Isa. 38:17ff.), "redemption from the pit," and "restoration of youth" (Ps. 49:16; 103:4–5; Job 33:24–30). This world, from which the victim is cut off and to which he wishes to be restored, is "the land(s) of the living" (Isa. 38:11; 53:8; Ps. 27:13; 116:9; 142:6; Job 28:13); in contrast to the dark region of death, it is also called "the light of the living" (Job 33:30; Ps. 56:14).

Biblical usage is identical with that of other Ancient Near Eastern poetry. The Mesopotamian sufferer is "plunged into the waters of a swamp" ("Prayer to Every God," Pritchard, Texts, 392a); Ishtar need but look and "one who is dead lives; one who is sick rises up" ("Prayer of Lamentation to Ishtar," Pritchard, Texts, 384c); the sufferer prays that "radiantly… let me enter the streets with the living" (ibid., 385a). A striking parallel to biblical idiom is the doxology that concludes the "Poem of the Righteous Sufferer" ("I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom," ibid., 437d):

 The Babylon[ians] saw how [Marduk] restores to life,
And all quarters extolled [his] greatness:.
Who but Marduk restores his dead to life?
Apart from Ṣarpanitum which goddess grants life?
Marduk can restore to life from the grave,
Ṣarpanitum knows how to save from destruction (trans. by W.G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (1960), 59).

In the Bible, similar figures are applied to the people of Israel in Ezekiel 37:1–14 (the vision of dry bones, which the tanna R. Judah classed as an allegory (Rashi: "An allusion to the Exile – as a dead man come to life the Israelites would return from Exile"): Sanh. 92b) and in Isaiah 53:8ff. (the suffering and dying servant of YHWH).

The idea of resurrection proper makes its first clear and datable appearance in Daniel 12:2–3. In a future time of great trouble (an allusion to Antiochus IV's persecution), a deliverance will come:

And many of those who sleep in the dusty earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, others to everlasting reproach and contempt. Then the knowledgeable shall shine like the brightness of the sky; those who justified the many, like the stars, forever and ever.

That is to say, the generation of the persecution, whose wicked members escaped punishment and whose loyal members died without enjoying a reward for their devotion, would be called back to life to receive their just deserts. Traditional theodicy, explaining national distress as the product of sin, was incapable of consoling the pious victims of Antiochus' agents, for this time it was precisely the righteous who died, while apostates flourished. The anguish of the moment was assuaged by the belief that in the coming deliverance the injustice perpetrated on earth would be rectified by a judgment rendered to the deceased, called back to life on earth for the purpose.

Isaiah 26:19 speaks in similar terms and in a context of world judgment: "Your dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise – awake and sing you who dwell in the earth! – for your dew is as the dew of light, and the earth shall bring to life the shades." Whether this is indeed the later concept of resurrection rather than the earlier, figurative image of restoration is arguable. Critics tend to the first view, dating the passage to Hellenistic times.

Later Jewish exegesis, influenced by the Jewish doctrine of resurrection (see below), read it back into many of the above-cited passages, and others as well. Thus, e.g., the "waking" in which the beatific vision of Psalms 17:15 occurs was explained by Rashi as the resurrection (for the plain sense – a cultic experience – cf. Ps. 27:4; 63:3; and esp. Ex. 24:11). Often enough, however, medieval exegetes give the plain (figurative) sense in addition and prior to the resurrectional one: see Ibn Ezra to Deuteronomy 32:39; David Kimḥi to I Samuel 2:6 and Ezekiel 37:1. Their reserve and sobriety contrasts with M. Da-hood's wholesale adoption of the resurrectional interpretation in most of the above-cited Psalm passages, in addition to many others in which "long enduring life" of royal prayers (e.g., Ps. 21:5; cf. the royal prayers in Pritchard, Texts, 383d, 394a, 397c) and the "future" of the righteous (often meaning progeny as in Ps. 109:13) are whimsically and uncritically combined and offered as evidence of an early Israelite belief in resurrection and immortality (M. Dahood fails to distinguish between the two; Psalms, 3 (1970), xli–lii).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

L. Jacobs, Principles of the Jewish Faith (1964), index; A. Marmorstein, Studies in Jewish Theology (1950), 145–61; L. Finkelstein, The Pharisees, 2 (1962), index; W. Herberg, Judaism and Modern Man (1951), 229.