Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


Additional Links

I. General Considerations.-The resurrection of Christ does not fall to be discussed in this article, the next article being devoted to it. Nevertheless it will be impossible to treat of the Pauline view of resurrection without some discussion of his attitude towards the nature of Christ’s resurrection. St. Paul is practically the only NT writer who has really worked out the problem of the resurrection on the basis of the resurrection of Christ. It will be necessary to show how much he has in common with the Jewish apocalyptic writers of the 1st cent. a.d. in his attitude towards the problems of the resurrection, and also how far he has introduced new elements and developed along fresh lines. In dealing with the Fourth Gospel we have to examine the relation between that Gospel and St. Paul, how far the author is developing along the lines laid down by St. Paul and how far he is travelling on independent lines.

The principal questions that must be answered by any inquiry into the subject of the resurrection from the historical point of view are: (1) What was the place of the resurrection in the eschatology of the time? (2) Are there more than one resurrection in any of the eschatological schemes of the 1st century? (3) How is the resurrection of Christ related to the general Christian resurrection-doctrine of the period? (4) How is the question of the relation between body and spirit, flesh and spirit, worked out? (5) How far does an ethical element enter into the various views of the resurrection developed by NT writers? These questions involve ethical, metaphysical, and eschatological considerations which were not clearly distinguished in the thought of the time, and cannot be separated in our treatment of the subject; yet they must be borne in mind in examining the various systems of the period.

The roots of eschatology have been found to be far more widely spread in early civilizations than was formerly believed, and of all the conceptions of eschatology none has a more varied and complicated history than the conception of the resurrection. It is not our task to trace out its roots in the ancient past. But we have to consider and take stock of the stage of development which the conception of resurrection had reached at the beginning of our period. It was the moment when the focus of national and political consciousness was shifting from the present to the future-a movement which expressed itself in every phase of human activity, especially in religion. Hence the significance of the mystery-religions, whose emphasis was wholly on the future life. The word ‘syncretism’ has been much abused, but it expresses well the characteristic tendency of this period. An immense number of currents of religious and philosophic thought were meeting and influencing one another, and it is easier to distinguish the main currents than to estimate the extent to which they intermingled and modified one another. The history of the interpretation of St. Paul bears witness to the difficulty of this attempt. The main currents may be broadly distinguished as follows:

(a) Neo-Platonism, in its earliest form, representing a fusion of Platonic philosophy with Oriental mysticism, and emphasizing the superiority of the intellectual principle in man, the νοῦς, over the body. Hence, for our inquiry, it is an influence against the conception of a bodily resurrection. Possibly it would be more accurate to call this current, in which Philo has a place, Neo-Pythagoreanism.

(b) Orientalism, to use a broad term for the various forms in which the dualism and mysticism of the East expressed themselves in religious sects and mystery-cults, and so influenced religious thought in the Graeco-Roman world of our period. The eternal antithesis between matter and spirit, the necessity of redemption from the bondage of matter, and the consequent stress on asceticism, are factors working against the conception of a bodily resurrection.

(c) Judaism, although logically coming under the head of Orientalism, yet practically stands apart. At the time under consideration Judaism presents two forms of resurrection-doctrine: (1) the doctrine of the resurrection of the righteous only, developed from ethical and spiritual interests, and probably quite independent of external influences; (2) the doctrine of a general resurrection of both righteous and wicked, possibly, but not necessarily, due to the influence of Mazdeism (cf. R. H. Charles, Eschatology2, London, 1913, pp. 139-141). In addition to this divergence, Judaism also represents two other lines of divergent thought on this subject, lines which were not so sharply separated at this period as they became later: (i.) the Palestinian doctrine of bodily resurrection, both of the individual and of the nation, for the Messianic kingdom; (ii.) the Alexandrian doctrine, influenced by Neo-Platonic ideas, teaching only a spiritual resurrection, and tending to abandon the idea of the Messianic kingdom. These various forms of thought will be dealt with in fuller detail in the historical examination of the Jewish literature.

(d) Christianity, receiving its doctrine of resurrection from both forms of Judaistic thought, but profoundly modifying the doctrine it thus received by the conception of the nature of Christ’s resurrection as interpreted by St. Paul, to be reacted on later by contact with the Hellenic and Oriental streams of thought, especially in the conflict with Gnosticism.

The fuller discussion of these various currents of conflicting and intermingling views concerning the nature of the resurrection, its time and conditions, will arise out of our examination of the various passages relating to it in the literature of the Apostolic Age.

II. The Resurrection in the Literature of the Apostolic Age

1. Jewish literature.-The references to the subject of resurrection and the related question of body and spirit may be considered under the separate heads of Alexandrian and Palestinian, although, as already pointed out, at this time there was not a sharp line of demarcation. Palestinian Judaism was influenced by Alexandrian, and the literature of the former will show the influence of the latter in its conceptions.

(a) Alexandrian Judaism.-The principal literary sources for Alexandrian Judaism are Philo, the Book of Wisdom , 2 Enoch, and 4 Maccabees. The general attitude of this phase of Judaism towards the resurrection can only be touched on briefly, as our main inquiry lies in the Christian literature of the period. The Alexandrian and Palestinian Judaism must be touched on sufficiently to show its influence on the formation of Christian thought.

Philo holds the Neo-Pythagorean view of the evil nature of matter. The soul was once free from matter, has become united to and debased by matter, and can attain to the full knowledge of God, the supreme good, only by deliverance from matter. Hence the resurrection of the body is obviously impossible, and any doctrine of a corporate resurrection of a blessed community can have no place. Philo’s mysticism is purely individualistic, like that of Plotinus, and looks to the perfection of the disembodied soul, after death, with God. The national Messianic hope is replaced by the expectation of the universal triumph of the Law. In the words of a French scholar, E. Bréhier, ‘Of the whole Jewish eschatology, this idea alone retains its vitality in Philo’s system, the future of the Law which is destined to attain universal sway’ (Les idées philosophiques et religieuses de Philon d’Alexandrie, Paris, 1908, p. 10).

The author of the Book of Wisdom also held the eternity and evil of matter, and, in spite of some objections, it is most probable that he held the pre-existence of the soul (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20). The body, even if ‘undefiled,’ is nevertheless ‘corruptible’ (Wisdom of Solomon 9:15), and clogs and imprisons the soul. Hence ‘immortality’ (Wisdom of Solomon 8:17), ‘incorruption’ (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23, Wisdom of Solomon 6:19), are terms which belong only to the state of the soul, and do not imply any resurrection of the body. The judgment is immediately after death, for both righteous and wicked (Wisdom of Solomon 3:18, Wisdom of Solomon 4:10; Wisdom of Solomon 4:14).

In 2 Enoch we have the conception of the millennial Messianic kingdom, at the end of which occurs the Final Judgment. There are intermediate abodes for souls (7:1-3, 32:1). The writer holds the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls. It is not clear whether he holds a resurrection of the body, since his description of the change from the earthly to the heavenly body is curiously akin to St. Paul’s doctrine of the spiritual body (cf. 22:8-10). His account, too, of the torments of the wicked suggests a bodily state in hell, unless the language used be taken symbolically (10:1, 2).

In 4 Maccabees there is no resurrection of the body. The souls of the righteous are received by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after death, and enjoy eternal communion with God (13:16, 17:5).

(b) Palestinian Judaism.-The chief sources are the Assumption of Moses, 2 Baruch , , 4 Ezra for the apocalyptic literature, and such portions of the Talmud as may reflect the Rabbinical tradition of this period. The division Sanhedrin contains the most important of the traditional utterances on this subject.

The Assumption of Moses presents a temporary Messianic kingdom, without a Messiah (cf. 2 Bar.). At its close Israel, probably identified by the writer with the righteous in Israel, is exalted to heaven, and sees its enemies in Gehenna. As in Alexandrian Judaism, so here there is no resurrection of the body.

2 Baruch is a composite work, containing, according to Charles’s analysis, three apocalypses written prior to a.d. 70 and three fragments belonging to a later date. In the parts of the book composed before a.d. 70 we have the following important passages: 30:1, 2, ‘And it will come to pass after these things, when the time of the advent of the Messiah is fulfilled, and He shall return in glory. Then all those who have fallen asleep in hope of Him shall rise again.’ Here the resurrection of the righteous is placed after the period of tribulation preceding the advent of Messiah. The form of the passage strongly suggests Christian influence or interpolation, especially the phrase ‘fallen asleep in hope of Him’ (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). This doctrine of the bodily resurrection of the righteous seems to be characteristic of only the portions of the book composed prior to a.d. 70. In 30:2-5, which belongs to the sections written after a.d. 70, we have the doctrine of a general resurrection, also in chs. 50, 51. These chapters also discuss the nature of the resurrection very fully. [Note: It should be remarked here that the precise place of the resurrection in the general eschatological scheme depends entirely on Charles’s analysis of the book in question into sources. There are signs of a reaction against this tendency to carry analysis to an extreme (cf. Burkitt, Jewish and, Christian Apocalypses, Lecture III.).] The personal identity of the dead is to be preserved in the resurrection in order to give force to the judgment by the recognition of identity, ‘when they have severally recognized those whom they now know, then judgement will grow strong’ (50:4). The bodies of the righteous will be changed into bodies of glory that they may be able to take part in the world to come; they will be hade like to the angels.

The close resemblance of this teaching to that of the Pauline Epistles and of Luke 20:34-36 is very striking.

4 Ezra is also a composite book, written partly before a.d. 70 and finally edited after that date. The doctrine of resurrection occupies a large place in it. It contains the doctrine of a Messianic kingdom of 400 years’ duration, at the close of which the Messiah and His companions are to die, before the Final Judgment and end of all things. In the earlier sources, i.e. the Ezra-Apocalypse and the Son of Man Vision, we have the doctrine of the revelation of Messiah from heaven with the saints who had been caught up alive, prior to the establishment of the 400 years’ kingdom. Then follows the death of the Messiah and all men, then the Final Judgment for which all will be raised (cf. 4 Ezra 4 f.). In the Salathiel-Apocalypse, the most important of the later constituents of the book, the souls of both the righteous and the wicked await the Final Judgment in a kind of intermediate state of blessing and misery respectively. The terms in which their condition is described suggest some kind of bodily state (cf. 7:75-101). In 7:32 there is a clear reference to the resurrection of the body, but G. H. Box would assign this verse to the redactor, who, according to him, is seeking to supplement the resurrection-doctrine of the author of the Salathiel-Apocalypse. The souls of righteous and wicked are assembled for the Final Judgment which determines the full blessing and torment of each respectively. Hence the resurrection-doctrine of the Salathiel-Apocalypse lies midway between the Alexandrian doctrine of a spiritual resurrection immediately after death, and the Palestinian doctrine of an intermediate disembodied state and a resurrection of the body for the Final Judgment.

The most important point, however, in these two apocalyptic works is the suggestion of the doctrine of a first resurrection which appears explicitly in the NT. This germ of the idea of a first resurrection appears especially in 4 Ezr 7:28, 13:52 (see Charles, Eschatology, p. 133 ff.).

For the Rabbinical views on the resurrection at this period we have the second article in the Shemoneh Esreh, which speaks of the power of God in raising the dead. Lagrange finds no trace of a connexion between the resurrection and the Messianic kingdom earlier than R. Meir; but it must be remembered that the apocalyptic writings already quoted may well represent Rabbinical eschatology of this period, and it is not necessary to suppose that the Talmud is the only source of information as to contemporary Rabbinical belief.

The general tradition, however, is clear for a belief in the bodily resurrection of both righteous and wicked for the Final Judgment. (For an excellent account of the Rabbinical doctrine of the resurrection see Lagrange, Le Messianisme chez les juifs, Paris, 1909, p. 176 ff.)

2. St. Paul.-If the passages relating to the resurrection in St. Paul’s correspondence be collected and compared they appear to show three distinct elements at work.

(a) There is his own view of the resurrection, which, as the evidence of Acts plainly indicates, he held in common with the Pharisaic party of his time. It is not very easy to determine precisely what shade of resurrection-doctrine he held, and possibly St. Luke was not clear himself on the matter, but the point must be discussed as the passages are examined. This form or shade of resurrection-doctrine may be assumed to have constituted a part of St. Paul’s general eschatological belief at the time of his conversion to Christianity. (b) There is the distinctively Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ as a historical fact. Possibly it was afterwards interpreted in different ways according to the particular view held concerning the resurrection, but it is absolutely clear that the belief in the fact of the resurrection of Christ operated more powerfully than any other cause in transforming current beliefs in the resurrection. (c) There is the particular line of modification in St. Paul’s view of the resurrection which can be traced out in process of development and which is due to his interpretation of what he accepted as the historical fact of the resurrection of Christ.

If the speeches in Acts may be accepted as in any degree authentic, they depict the Apostle as holding the general belief in a resurrection of just and unjust for a Final Judgment (cf. Acts 23:6; Acts 24:15). The passage in Acts 17:31 does not necessarily refer to the resurrection of the dead in general, though Acts 17:32 may imply that the Athenians understood it in that sense.

In 1 Thessalonians, where St. Paul’s exposition of the resurrection clearly implies a resurrection before the Messianic kingdom in order that the dead may share in its blessings, it is possible that the idea may have been already present in his original scheme of eschatology, although he had not imparted it to his converts. But it is also clear that, whatever be the source of the idea, it receives a new setting, and is brought into organic connexion with the resurrection of Christ (see article Parousia).

In 1 Corinthians 15 the whole argument presupposes a belief in the resurrection, not necessarily depending upon the resurrection of Christ, although the resurrection of Christ is used to support the belief in the resurrection of the dead and to modify the general outline of the eschatology.

The question of St. Paul’s indebtedness to the mystery-religions for any ideas as to the resurrection belongs rather to the discussion of the development of his doctrine than to the evidence for his original stock of ideas on the subject.

(b) Turning to the second point, St. Paul’s interpretation of Christ’s resurrection, we have first of all several passages which do not call for special discussion proving the Apostle’s belief in the resurrection of Christ as a historical occurrence. Indeed, the whole of his correspondence rests upon this as the most fundamental thing in his religious experience. It is well expressed in Acts 25:19 : ‘a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul pretended to be alive.’ The discussion of this point belongs to the following article. We are here concerned only with St. Paul’s interpretation of the fact in so far as it bears on his view of the resurrection of believers or of a general resurrection.

The passages in 1 Thessalonians only yield the general inference that the resurrection of Christ is related to His Parousia; through His resurrection He is able to enter upon the Kingdom in power; God will bring Him again with the dead saints; it is as raised from the dead that He becomes the deliverer from the coming wrath.

In Galatians the subject of resurrection is not touched on, but it is possible that the famous passage in Galatians 2:20 may throw light on St. Paul’s view of the resurrection of Christ. Taken along with other passages to be quoted later it appears certain that St. Paul, probably in common with the leaders of the primitive Church, had considered the resurrection of Christ not merely as an eschatological event, or as an article of belief, but as an event in the human experience of Christ intimately related to the experience of the believer. It is possible that we may see in such passages as Romans 1:3-4; Romans 6:4; Romans 6:10, 2 Corinthians 4:11-14; 2 Corinthians 13:4, and others, the evidence of such an attitude towards the Resurrection. Romans 1:3-4 is commonly interpreted to mean that St. Paul regarded the Resurrection as an evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus. But, while this may be implied, there appears to be much more implied as well. ‘Son of God’ is not used by St. Paul as a Messianic title but rather as a personal name, possibly implying moral likeness to God. Also ‘according to the spirit of holiness’ would seem to refer to the personal holiness of the human life of Jesus, so that the Resurrection marks out or distinguishes Jesus in virtue of His absolute holiness as Son of God, possessing that character. There was something in His life which made this special act of power possible in His case. In addition to this, another element in the experience is introduced, viz. faith. Not St. Paul only, as in 2 Corinthians 4:11-14, but the early Church in general, seems to have regarded the Resurrection as a result of Christ’s faith, and also as an act of necessary justice on God’s part, ‘by the glory of the Father.’

These factors in the interpretation of the Resurrection need to be considered in order to understand the extension of the principle to believers. Now, the passage in Galatians already cited suggests that St. Paul, in considering the death and resurrection of Christ from this point of view, had come to the conclusion that faith was the governing principle in Christ’s life, and that he himself as a believer lived by virtue of the faith which Christ had exercised and which had brought Him through resurrection into a spiritual state in which He could realize and make good the purpose of God in His death by dwelling in those who believed on Him.

This is the central idea in St. Paul’s view of the Resurrection-his belief in the present spiritual existence of the same Christ whose faith during His earthly life bad brought about the whole possibility of resurrection, a spiritual life, and the communication of it to believers. It is a mistake to think that St. Paul separated the earthly from the heavenly Christ; the heavenly Christ was the earthly Christ in a new state of existence, but the same in experience and personal identity. Hence, by His indwelling, the principles that had been proved in His own experience could be reproduced in those who believed on Him.

(c) This brings us to the third set of passages, viz. those in which St. Paul develops the consequences of the indwelling of Christ for the future state of believers. The most important are Romans 8:1-30 especially vv. 11, 30, 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 3-5, Philippians 3:10; Philippians 3:20-21. The clearest exposition of this view-point is found in 2 Corinthians 3-5, where St. Paul develops the ministry of the Spirit in its various consequences, identifying Christ with the Spirit, and reaching the climax in the passage 2 Corinthians 4:13 to 2 Corinthians 5:10. The dying of Jesus is at work in him, and by the same spirit of faith he is certain that God will raise him with Jesus and present him along with the other believers, clothed in a new and glorious habitation prepared by God and already existing in heaven.

In the same way, in Romans 8 the consequences of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, again identified with Christ, extend to the quickening of the mortal bodies of those who are thus dwelt in. In Philippians 3 the Apostle desires to be completely identified with the experiences of Christ, His death and His sufferings, in order to reach the goal of resurrection and attain to the resurrection from among the dead.

In 1 Corinthians 15 the general line of argument is: (1) the proof of the possibility of a resurrection from the resurrection of Christ accepted as a historical event; (2) the argument from analogy, based on the Rabbinical conception of ‘body,’ to prove the possibility of the existence of such a thing as a spiritual body; (3) the contrast between Christ and Adam as the respective sources of the incorruptible and the corruptible, the heavenly and the earthly. The Second Man, the Last Adam, is a quickening spirit; by this title St. Paul implies all that is developed at length in Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 3-5. Lastly, he describes the manner in which the change from the earthly to the heavenly body is effected. Hence the general line of St. Paul’s development of the doctrine is clear. As a Pharisee he held the continued existence of the soul after death; as part of his Palestinian eschatology he held the necessity of a resurrection to judgment of both righteous and wicked, and probably a first resurrection of righteous to participation in the Messianic kingdom.

Into this original stock of eschatological belief there broke the new conception of a Messiah who had died and risen. It is so clear from the Pauline correspondence that this new conception was based upon what St. Paul believed to be a trustworthy historical event, supported by contemporary evidence and confirmed for himself by his Damascus experience, that it is unnecessary to discuss the question of whether he owed this conception to one of the mystery-religions.

The effect of this new element was two-fold. On the one hand, it shifted the eschatological centre of interest, almost unconsciously, to the resurrection of Christ, as 1 Corinthians 15 shows. The resurrection of Christ assumes a catastrophic colouring, so to speak: it becomes the first act of Divine intervention in the introduction of the Kingdom, the first step of a process whose culmination also has a catastrophic character derived from the original scheme of eschatology. On the other hand, it introduced into the eschatological scheme the doctrine of the Spirit of Christ with its new ethical implications and a special theory of the way in which the presence of the Spirit operated to transform the whole personality of the believer into the likeness of the Glorified Christ.

The tendency of this double working of the interpretation of the death and resurrection of Christ was to disturb the outline of the old eschatology. We can see in 1 Thess. the stress laid on the first resurrection, that of believers to the likeness of Christ; then in 1 Cor. the outline of the eschatological scheme is adjusted to this new emphasis; first Christ’s resurrection, then the resurrection of those that are Christ’s at His Parousia-clearly the first resurrection-then the end, when the Kingdom is delivered to the Father. No mention is made of what happens in this third stage, whether another resurrection takes place or not.

Thus St. Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection, as far as it can be reconstructed from the Epistles, becomes limited to a resurrection of believers only, in the likeness of Christ; and further, this likeness is conceived of more and more as ethical and spiritual, and the whole ensuing state of blessing as a spiritual state rather than as a concrete kingdom on earth. But the latter never wholly disappeared from St. Paul’s thinking; it only fell into the background. It is difficult to believe that St. Paul ever reached the point of abandoning entirely the resurrection of the body, although his conception of the doctrine was extremely spiritual. But the difference between a mere life of the spirit after death, even in full communion with God, and St. Paul’s doctrine of a spiritual body is much more than a difference of words. It involves two fundamentally different views of redemption. The Oriental view, which influenced Alexandrian eschatology, regarded redemption as the separation of matter from spirit, the dissolution of an evil and unnatural union. The Pauline view, which was based on the Palestinian, and which ultimately passed into the distinctively Christian point of view, was the deliverance of the body from corruption, the corruptible and mortal element in it due to sin, and its true union with the spirit in an incorruptible form. No doubt metaphysical speculation may find practically no difference between a spirit preserving personal identity and a spiritual body, but it is more than doubtful whether St. Paul ever reached such a point of view.

Before leaving the subject of the Pauline doctrine of resurrection it may be of interest to add a note on the special doctrine of the spiritual body. The Kabbala reflects a theory which goes back to very early Jewish times, possibly earlier than R. Meir, that unfallen man in the garden of Eden was clothed in a garment of light, which after the Fall changed into a covering of skin (Zohar, ii. 229b). In the Bardesanian Hymn of the Soul, contained in the Syriac Acts of Judas Thomas, we have also a full and striking account of the Light-Form, or spiritual counterpart of man, which remains in heaven during man’s stay on earth, and is reunited to him when he casts off his earthly body and returns to his home in heaven. Likewise, in the recently discovered Odes of Solomon occur several references to the same belief, closely connected with the sacrament of baptism. Burkitt (Early Eastern Christianity, London, 1904, Lecture IV. p. 124 f.) has shown that in early Syriac Christianity the sacrament of baptism was believed to have a special efficacy in relation to complete physical resurrection, and was limited to celibates. Hence the Pauline doctrine of a spiritual body seems to have its roots in early Jewish metaphysical and cosmological speculation, although considerably modified by his views of the ethical and spiritual element in the resurrection of Christ.

There is also a remarkable resemblance between the theory of resurrection put forward in 2 Bar 49-51 and St. Paul’s doctrine of the spiritual body. According to Baruch, all who have died are first raised in precisely the same physical form in which they were buried (50:2); they are then transformed, the righteous into the likeness of angels, and the wicked into some worse or baser aspect (51:1-6). In St. Paul’s doctrine transformation holds good only of the living who remain until the Parousia; the dead are raised in their new and glorious form. Charles would also add that the believing dead receive their glorious form or state immediately after death, according to his view of 2 Corinthians 5. In St. Paul’s teaching there is no place for the resurrection of the wicked, or for any such change as is taught in 2 Bar 50:1. The only exception is Acts 23:6.

2 Timothy is the only one of the Pastorals that contributes anything of importance to our subject. ἀφθαρσία, ‘incorruptibility,’ is one of the elements of the Pauline gospel (2 Timothy 1:10-11). The elect are to obtain salvation with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10). Those who share the death will also share the life, those who suffer will reign (2 Timothy 2:11). There were some who taught that the resurrection had already happened (2 Timothy 2:18), but no answer to this heresy is deemed necessary by the author of the Epistle, showing that the belief in a future resurrection already formed a part of the orthodox faith. Christ is to judge both living and dead (2 Timothy 4:1). But there is little or nothing of the distinctively Pauline teaching on the resurrection.

3. The Catholic Epistles

(a) Hebrews is important for our inquiry. The resurrection of Christ is held firmly as a historical event. God brought Christ again from the dead (Hebrews 13:20). Yet the resurrection-state of Christ seems to be conceived of as purely spiritual, and the same term ‘perfected,’ τετελειωμένος, is used of Christ’s present condition (Hebrews 7:28) as is used for the present state of the righteous, ‘the spirits of just men made perfect’ (Hebrews 12:23). ‘A better resurrection’ is spoken of in Hebrews 11:35 as the object of the hope of the martyrs.

The general tendency of the Epistle seems to point to what Charles calls a spiritual resurrection, the belief which, as we have already seen, was characteristic of Alexandrian Judaism. But it is impossible to draw any conclusions from this Epistle as to the place of the resurrection in the general scheme of eschatology.

(b) The First Epistle of Peter supports the contention already put forward that the early Church regarded the faith of Christ as an important element in the historical fact of His resurrection. The Epistle draws a parallel between the ark as the means of salvation for Noah and his company from the judgment of his time and Christian baptism, which by the resurrection of Christ saves the believer from the eschatological judgment which is regarded as imminent. But the manner of the salvation is left quite vague. Believers are to share the ‘glory’ which is to be revealed at the Parousia, but in what state is left undefined. There is also a vague reference to the future state of the wicked (1 Peter 4:5), but it is impossible to draw the implication of the resurrection of the wicked from it.

4. The Synoptic Gospels.-One or two passages in the Synoptic Gospels fall to be considered here, although, owing to the difficulty of ascertaining the original form of Christ’s sayings, we can gather from them only the general nature of His attitude towards the resurrection-doctrine of His time.

In the passage containing the question raised by the Sadducees as to the resurrection (Mark 12:18-27 = Matthew 22:23-32), the Marean form of the Saying of Christ, closely followed by Matthew, appears to show two elements: (1) the acceptance of the current Pharisaic belief in a future resurrection, although the position of that resurrection in the eschatological scheme is not defined, and a too materialistic view of the resurrection-state is corrected; (2) an argument, more rabbinico, in which it is proved from Exodus 3:6 that the resurrection follows from the nature of the relation between God and the patriarchs. The line of argument appears to imply that the relation ‘God of the living’ is not fully satisfied by the present state of the patriarchs in Sheol or Paradise, but requires the resurrection of the persons concerned to give its full meaning and truth. The older doctrine of Sheol, as represented in many of the Psalms, teaching that in Sheol there was no relation between God and the soul, would give more point to the argument; but that doctrine can hardly have been current in the time of Christ, nor would it have been denied by the Sadducees. The Lucan form of the Saying (Luke 20:34-36) either has been considerably modified by Luke, or has its source in a different tradition. The phrase τῆς ἀναστάσεως τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν (Luke 20:35) is Pauline, as is also the thought of attaining to the resurrection (cf. Philippians 3:10).

The Pharisaic view of the resurrection is given in much fuller detail. The resurrection is definitely connected with the Messianic Age, τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου, but those who rise cannot die again; they enter on their eternal state, possibly as against the doctrine of the death of Messiah and His companions at the close of the Messianic Age, taught in 4 Ezra (see above). The implication that the resurrection is only for the righteous is made clearer: ‘sons of God’ is the equivalent of ‘sons of the resurrection.’ But in the second part of the argument an addition is made which implies a general resurrection-‘all live unto Him.’ This is not consistent with the older form of the Saying and its implication, and may possibly arise from the same point of view which led St. Luke to represent St. Paul as holding the doctrine of a general resurrection in Acts 23:6

Although the Synoptic Gospels are outside our field of inquiry, yet they illustrate the primitive background of the Christian resurrection-doctrine, the spiritualizing tendency at work having a partial source of support in our Lord’s teaching, and the possibilities of later modifications of an earlier tradition.

5. The Johannine literature

(a) The Apocalypse.-In the Apocalypse we have the only absolutely explicit teaching of more than one resurrection. Here also the question is complicated by source-theories. The principal passage with which we are concerned Revelation 20:4-6, Revelation 20:11-15. This passage, after the account of the binding of Satan in the Abyss during the 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-3), goes on to describe the resurrection of those who had been slain during the tribulation. They live and reign with Christ 1000 years (Revelation 20:4-6). Then at the close come the final assault of Gog and Magog, their defeat, the general judgment and resurrection of all the dead, or, strictly speaking, of the rest of the dead (Revelation 20:5), for judgment.

In considering this passage we have to take several points into account: (1) The possibility of different sources. E. de Faye (Les Apocalypses juives, Paris, 1892, p. 171 f.), following F. Spitta’s analysis (Die Offenbarung des Johannes untersucht, Strassburg, 1889), assigns Revelation 20:1-3; Revelation 20:7-15 to a Caligula-Apocalypse of Jewish authorship, while Revelation 20:4-6 is assigned to a Christian redactor of Trajan’s time. Hence the original Apocalypse would not have contained a pre-millennial resurrection. Modern critical opinion, however, has expressed itself strongly in favour of unity of authorship, and that authorship Christian. Thus we are sufficiently justified in regarding as held in the time of Domitian, in certain Christian circles, the view that there was a pre-millennial resurrection, possibly of martyrs only, followed by a postmillennial general resurrection for judgment.

(2) There is also the possibility that the author, who seems to distinguish the Church from the remnant of Israel and the slain martyrs of the tribulation, may have regarded the rapture and resurrection which St. Paul contemplates in 1 Thessalonians 4 as having already taken place. The difficulty of interpreting the symbolic representations comes in here, but it is possible that the elders already in heaven in ch. 5 represent the Church. In this case we have a scheme of three resurrections implied: (i.) the resurrection and rapture of the Church before the pre-Messianic woes commence; (ii.) the pre-millennial resurrection at the close of the tribulations, confined by Charles to the martyrs; and (iii.) the resurrection of the rest of the dead at the end of the millennium for the general Judgment. In support of this view there is the evidence of a somewhat ambiguously expressed belief that the Church would be saved from the final tribulation, possibly due to St. Paul’s teaching. Even if this be not accepted-and there are serious objections to it-it is impossible to think that the author could have confined the enjoyment of the millennial kingdom to the martyrs and survivors, shutting out all the righteous of early times, and those believers who had died, but not as martyrs, before the establishment of the kingdom. Those who have part in what the writer calls ‘the first resurrection’ are ‘blessed and holy.’ It hardly seems likely that he contemplated the omission of any who possessed this character from the first resurrection. The phrase ‘the first resurrection’ certainly militates against the view of three resurrections. But, as we have seen from St. Paul’s earlier scheme, possibly abandoned afterwards by him, the resurrection of Christ could be considered as the commencement of a resurrection which culminates with that of the dead believers-‘Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming’ (1 Corinthians 15:23). Possibly the author of the Apocalypse may have understood the first resurrection in such a sense, namely, as a process commencing with the resurrection of Christ, continuing with the rapture and resurrection of the Church before the tribulation, and closing with the resurrection of martyrs at the beginning of the Messianic kingdom on earth. But this is certainly a highly disputable point. [Note: Charles has offered a reconstruction of this passage in ExpT xxvi. [1914-15] 54, 119.]

(3) Lastly, we must note that the author’s scheme is clearly a combination of non-congruent elements. It combines at least two views of the resurrection, and possibly three, if we accept the influence of the Pauline teaching as suggested above. He has combined the early Judaic and Pharisaic view of an earthly temporal Messianic kingdom, to which the righteous are raised, with the later view, partly due to Alexandrian influence and also to the failure of Messianic hopes after the destruction of Jerusalem, of a general resurrection of righteous and wicked for judgment before the establishment of an eternal kingdom in a new heaven and earth.

It is obvious that the resurrection of all the righteous and holy before the Messianic kingdom, if we accept this as the writer’s intention, renders nugatory a discriminating judgment at the close of the kingdom, for none but the wicked are left to be raised. Yet the account of the final resurrection and judgment clearly implies a discriminating judgment.

Of the nature of the resurrection-condition we can gather nothing from the writer of the Apocalypse.

(b) The Fourth Gospel.-The Gospels lie outside the plan of this work. Yet the Fourth Gospel by its date belongs to our period, and a few words as to its teaching on resurrection are necessary to complete our account of the whole view of the resurrection during the Apostolic Age. See also articles Parousia and Immortality.

The principal point to be observed concerning the resurrection-doctrine of this Gospel is that it presents the completion of that process which we observed at work in the Pauline eschatology. The conception of Christ’s resurrection has completely transformed the traditional doctrine of resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is the demonstration of the nature of His spiritual life, the eternal life, pre-existent, and incapable of being touched by death. Hence Christ not only rises, but is in His own Person the Resurrection and the Life. The two ideas coalesce in Him. Hence the believer in Christ, possessing eternal life, possesses the resurrection-life already, and after death merely enters into its fuller enjoyment. Hence, in consistency, an eschatological scheme of resurrection has no place in this writer’s view. But such a scheme certainly had a place in Christ’s teaching, and the writer could not wholly remove it from his presentation and interpretation of that teaching; and even if we allow with Charles and other scholars that 5:28, 29 is an interpolation, we still have the repetition of the phrase ‘I will raise him up at the last day.’

Like all the NT writers, the author of the Fourth Gospel presents elements which are not entirely congruent, save by a forced and artificial process of exegesis. We have the furthest and highest spiritual development of the doctrine of life, transcending the current views of eschatological events, and we have also the survival, perhaps unconscious, perhaps a conscious accommodation to the reader’s point of view, of the older doctrine.

6. The Apostolic Fathers

(a) 1 Clement.-The author of 1 Clement in a curious passage (chs. 24-26) proves the doctrine of the future resurrection along the lines of St. Paul’s proof in 1 Corinthians 15. He uses the analogy of day and night, of the seed sown, and finally the myth of the phcenix, to illustrate his view. But, while a resurrection of the flesh is clearly implied, its time and nature are left undefined. The only other passage that bears on the subject is in ch. 50, where the resurrection and public manifestation of the righteous are placed at the ἐπισκοπῇ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ Θεοῦ apparently the coming of the Kingdom; but whether an earthly millennial kingdom is intended or an eternal heavenly one is not clear.

(b) 2 Clement.-In this little treatise we have a good deal more definite teaching on the resurrection. In ch. 8 the future state of the believer is contingent on purity of the flesh and on baptism. In ch. 9 the resurrection of the flesh is explicitly stated, ‘Let none of you say that this flesh is not judged nor rises again,’ ‘we shall receive the reward in this flesh.’ In ch. 14 we have an apparent similarity to the mystical teaching of Ignatius. The relation between flesh and spirit is conceived of as corresponding to the relation between the Church and Christ; the abuse of the one involves the loss of the other. Life and immortality are connected with the possession of the Spirit, which is identified with Christ. In chs. 16 and 17 a physical resurrection of both righteous and wicked at the Day of Judgment is implied. In ch. 19 those who do righteousness ‘gather the immortal fruit of the resurrection.’

(c) Ignatius.-The general trend of Ignatius’ attitude towards the resurrection closely resembles, and has possibly been formed by, that of the Fourth Gospel. Christ is his true life. He expects to rise again to God as the immediate consequence of his martyrdom. He lays stress, however, in the Pauline way, on the salvation of both flesh and spirit by the Passion of Christ, who Himself rose both in flesh and in spirit. The possession of life and immortality is also connected with the Eucharist, ‘the medicine of immortality’ (Eph. xx. 2). In Magn. 9 we have a reference to the raising of the righteous dead of the OT, by the descent of Christ into Hades, possibly reflected in Matthew 27:52-53; cf. also Hermas, Sim. ix. 16, and Gospel of Peter, 9. In Smyrn. 3 we have the assertion of the physical resurrection of Christ, in 7 those who have love are those who will rise again. In the Letter to Polycarp, 7, is the only clear reference to the resurrection as an eschatological event, ‘that I may be found your disciple at the resurrection.’

From the nature of the correspondence a clear statement of eschatological views is hardly to be expected, but it is fairly clear that the older scheme of eschatological expectation has no living place in the experience of Ignatius. ‘Christ our life’ has for him replaced the earlier form of Jewish Christian hope.

(d) Epistle of Polycarp.-This letter contains two references (chs. 2 and 5) to the resurrection as the subject of future hope, but nothing definite as to its time and nature.

(e) The Didache.-In the last chapter of the Didache we have a brief summary of the kind of eschatology which was characteristic of primitive Judaeo-Christian community represented by this treatise. There is the great tribulation preceded by a general apostasy, as in the little Apocalypse of Mark 13. Then come the signs of the Parousia, the third sign being the resurrection of the dead. Then the writer adds, ‘but not of all the dead,’ quoting Zechariah 14:5 in order to limit the resurrection to the righteous only.

This apparently will be the pre-millennial resurrection of Revelation 20:4-6. But no mention is made of a final judgment and resurrection.

(f) Barnabas teaches (v. 7) the general resurrection and judgment of both wicked and righteous, and also (xi. 8) lays stress on the importance of baptism in this respect (cf. also xxi. 1, 6).

(g) The Shepherd of Hermas.-In this strange medley we have what may represent the point of view of the poorer and uneducated class of Christians in Rome about the middle of the 2nd century. Much stress is laid on baptism for the salvation of flesh and spirit to the Kingdom of Christ (Vis. III. iii. 5). In Vis. IV. iii. 5 the world is to be destroyed by blood and fire, but the righteous pass through the final tribulation in safety. The elect will dwell in the world to come, without spot and pure. In Sim. IV. ‘the world to come is summer for the righteous, but winter for the wicked.” All are to be manifested in that world and to receive the reward of their deeds. In Sim. V. vii. 4 both flesh and spirit, kept pure, are to be preserved for the future life. In Sim. ix. 16 we have the fullest passage for the raising of the OT saints, but with considerable differences from the view that apparently became stereotyped in the Roman Creed. The apostles after their death preached to the OT saints and gave them the seal of baptism. It is remarkable that Hermas, speaking of the apostles, says, ‘they went down alive and came up alive,’ in contrast with the OT saints who ‘went down dead and came up alive.’

It is difficult to extract much coherency from the rambling visions and parables of Hermas, but apparently he conceives of the completion of the tower, the Church, as the moment when the world to come will be ushered in. There will be judgment of wicked and righteous, a great tribulation, a resurrection of flesh and spirit for the righteous, and apparently eternal death or annihilation for the wicked.

Hence, the survey of the Apostolic Fathers shows us in the main the same lines of cleavage, represented by Ignatius and the Didache respectively. We have too little remaining to us of the literature of the Church of this period to form a comprehensive judgment. C. H. Turner (Studies in Early Church History, Oxford, 1912, p. 1 ff.) has already entered a weighty protest against regarding the Didache as in any way representative of the general thought and practice of the Church at the beginning of the 2nd century. Nor can we infer that the type of eschatology which it represents largely outweighed the more spiritual form of hope characteristic of the Christian experience of Ignatius.

III. Conclusion.-In closing this examination of the doctrine of the resurrection as held in various circles of the early Church during the 1st cent. of Christianity the same general conclusions meet us as appeared at the close of the survey of the Parousia. There are, however, some important differences in the development of the two conceptions.

The Parousia-that is, the coming of Messiah with glory to inaugurate a time of bliss-had always formed a somewhat uncertain element in Jewish eschatology. It was not bound up with the future hope of Israel by any moral necessity; hence we find it absent from various forms of Jewish eschatology, and at various periods.

The resurrection of the righteous, on the other hand, was increasingly regarded by the best Jewish thought as morally bound up with the character and faithfulness of God, and hence appears in nearly every form of eschatological construction, whether strictly Messianic or not.

Thus, when we pass into NT eschatology, we find that the two factors of the belief in the historical resurrection of Christ as the Messiah, and the connexion of this resurrection with His own moral character and God’s response to it, operate much more cogently in the development of the resurrection-doctrine of the NT than in that of the Parousia, especially in St. Paul’s teaching. Hence we find two lines of thought of unequal strength at work in St. Paul’s treatment of the subject.

(1) On the one hand, he seeks to find a place for the resurrection of the believers in the general scheme of eschatology as he had inherited it, and to relate the resurrection of Christ and those who were vitally connected with Him to the whole scheme. The result was a disturbance of the main lines of the Palestinian eschatology and a gradual blurring of its determined sequence of events.

(2) On the other hand, St. Paul is far more interested in working out the nature of the resurrection of believers as a moral implication of the resurrection of Christ. The essential form of his resurrection-doctrine is principally determined by this factor, although his Judaeo-Hellenistic psychology, his Rabbinical metaphysics, and his Pharisaic eschatology have a subordinate influence on his modes of thinking. These three last factors contribute far less to the essence of St. Paul’s resurrection-doctrine than has been generally supposed.

The outstanding results of the development in those circles where the historical resurrection of Christ remained the fundamental fact in the Church’s belief were the gradual liberation of the belief in the resurrection of believers from any particular scheme of eschatology and an increasing spiritualization of the resurrection. The strength of the belief in the physical resurrection of Christ, however, caused the resurrection of the body or the flesh to become a fixed element in the belief of the Church as a whole, as witnessed by the early forms of creed.

The subsidiary results of development were a divergence of opinion between those circles in the Church which held to the Jewish expectation of an earthly kingdom and those which inclined to the Alexandrian view. In the former the millennial scheme prevailed, with a resurrection of the righteous preceding the Messianic kingdom, and a general resurrection and final judgment following it. This is represented in the Apocalypse and the Didache, and was perhaps most prevalent in the Palestinian churches and in the country districts of Asia Minor. In the latter circles the tendency was to regard the righteous as entering upon their glorified state after death, although even here the conception of a final resurrection as necessary for the full consummation was retained, and the belief in a final resurrection of both righteous and wicked for judgment kept its place.

It is not too much to say that the real inwardness, the essence, of both the Pauline and the Johannine doctrine of the resurrection failed to be apprehended by the Church as a whole, although individuals such as Ignatius show clear traces of its influence.

Literature.-See Literature of article Parousia, and, in addition, F. C. Burkitt, Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (Schweich Lectures for 1914), London, 1914; R. H. Charles, Studies in the Apocalypse, Edinburgh, 1913; W. O. E. Cesterley, The Books of the Apocrypha, London, 1914.

S. H. Hooke.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Resurrection'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse: