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RESURRECTION . The term resurrection is so intricately bound up with Christian ideas that it is extremely difficult to decide when it should be used for similar ideas in other religions. Obviously, the term should not be used to refer to the belief that there is an immortal element in humans (often called "soul" or "spirit") that lives on after the destruction of the body, or to the belief in some kind of continued existence in a shadowy realm of the dead. Also excluded is the idea of reincarnation, which implies that the soul is repeatedly reborn into a new body. If resurrection is defined as the revival of the body, or rather of the person as a whole, after a period of death, one finds phenomena that fit this definition only in Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with doubtful analogies in Chinese Taoism and ancient Indian and Egyptian religions. Belief in resurrection presupposes either a monistic view of humans, which implies that humanity as a whole disappears in death and is then revived to a new existence; or a dualistic view, according to which the body dies whereas the soul or spirit lives on and is later united with the body into a renewed being. Another phenomenon that should be discussed here is the idea of dying and rising gods, which is found in several religions, some with and some without a belief in resurrection.


In Chinese Daoism there is frequent mention of prolonging life and strengthening the vital force, but there is no uniform doctrine on this subject. The background is the idea that humans, like the universe, consist of several elements, some light, pure, and heavenly, others heavy, impure, and earthly; they are held together by the vital principle, or breath. One early report had it that a certain Bo You managed to strengthen his life to the extent that he actually returned to life after being dead for some time. Most cases, however, told of various practicesmeditation, use of alcoholic beverages, magical ritesthrough which the lower and mortal elements in humans can be replaced by higher and immortal ones and the vital principle can be strengthened so as not to be separated from the body. In this way humans can achieve immortality and ascend to the heavenly world. But this is hardly resurrection in the strict sense of the word.


The Vedic religion of ancient India offers a rich variety of beliefs concerning the dead and the life in the hereafter. There is the idea of the dead haunting the living as ghosts; there is the idea of the heavenly world of Yama, the first human, where the ancestors live; and there are hints of a dark world or a kind of hell. The dead were either buried or burned, the latter practice becoming predominant.

The Vedic language possesses several words that have been thought to denote the "soul" as an immortal spiritual substance in humans: manas ("thought, thinking"), asu ("life"), ātman ("breath"), tanu ("body, self"). But the equation of any of these words with "soul" is hardly correct. That which appears as a ghost or exists in heaven or hell is not a bodiless spirit but the dead person himself with some kind of body. Any existence without a body is inconceivable. It might seem that the fire in which the corpse is burned would consume it, but in reality the corpse is supposed to be transformed into a heavenly body. In the gveda there are hints that at death the various parts of the body merge with natural phenomena of a similar kind: The flesh goes to the earth, the blood to the water, the breath to the wind, the eye to the sun, the mind (manas ) to the moon, and so on. These natural phenomena then give the elements of the body back to the deceased as he ascends to heaven in the burning fire. Thus the individual is recreated in the other world as a kind of shadow that looks like his former self but that cannot be touched or embraced. Although this belief differs considerably from the Christian idea of resurrection, it may perhaps be described by this term.

In the Upaniads, the term ātman ("breath") came to denote the imperishable spiritual element in humans, identical with the "spirit" of the universe, called brahman. This correlation opened the way to the idea of mystical union between humanity's spirit and the divine element in the cosmos, and also to the idea that the soul can be reborn into a new body (reincarnation). Thus the idea of resurrection was lost.


The ancient Egyptian ideas of the hereafter are very complicated, partly beause they contain elements of differing origins and belonging to different stages of development. The Egyptian view of humanity presupposes two incorporeal elements, neither corresponding to any modern concept of the soul. The ba, usually translated as "soul," is often depicted as a bird; it can mean power or external manifestation, and it represents the ability to "take any form it likes." When a person dies, his or her ba leaves the body but hovers near the corpse. The ka combines the ideas of vital force, nourishment, double, and genius. The British Egyptologist Alan Gardiner suggests such translations as "personality, soul, individuality, temperament, fortune, or position." Ba and ka cannot exist without a bodily substrate. Therefore the body is embalmed to secure their existence. In addition, the funerary rites transform the deceased into an akh, a "shining" or "transformed" sprit. In this capacity the deceased lives on in the realm of Osiris, the god of the netherworld, who once died but was revived again as the ruler of the dead.

Other beliefs include the judgment in the hall of Osiris of the deeds of the deceased; the latter's taking part in the journey of the sun god, Re, in his bark; the warding off of monsters and other dangers in the netherworld by means of magical formulas; the happy life of the deceased in the Field of Rushes; and so on. One common idea seems to be that of absorption into the great rhythm of the universe. Osiris was, among other things, a symbol of grain; thus, when the dead join Osiris they participate in the renewal of life in the growing grain. Similarly, when the dead join the sun god they partake of the life of the sun that is renewed every morning. It is difficult to decide whether these are beliefs in resurrection or whether they should be given another name.


The earliest documents of Zoroastrian religion do not mention the resurrection of the body but rather the soul's ascent to paradise. But in the later parts of the Avesta there is at least one reference to resurrection: "When the dead rise, the Living Incorruptible One will come and life will be transfigured" (Yashts 19.11). The Living One is the savior, Saoshyant (Pahl., Sōshans), who is to come at the end of the present era. Another passage (Yashts 13.11), which speaks of joining together bones, hairs, flesh, bowels, feet, and genitals, refers not to resurrection, as has been maintained, but to birth.

In the cosmological treatise the Bundahishn (ninth century ce), a doctrine is set forth in detail. Chapter 30 describes what happens at the death of a man. His soul remains near the head of his body for three nights and is then carried away. If the man has been righteous the soul meets a fragrant wind, a sleek cow, and a beautiful young girl and is brought across the Chinvat Bridge to Paradise. If he has been evil the soul meets a foul wind, a gaunt cow, and a hideous girl and is thrown from the bridge into Hell. This description should be read against the background of the ideas set forth in the Avestan fragment Hadhōkht Nask, which relates that after the three nights the soul meets its daēnā, which, according to his works, appears either as a beautiful girl or as an ugly hag. It becomes apparent that the daēnā is the heavenly counterpart or double of the soul, whose character is dependent on the person's deeds in this life. As the two join together, the spritual part of the person is complete and can enter eternal life.

Chapter 33 of the Bundahishn describes the course of the world as it evolves in subsequent periods toward the end, when evil is defeated and the world perfected. Chapter 34 deals with resurrection. At the arrival of the third and last savior, Saoshyant, the dead will be roused, first the primeval man, Gaya-maretan, (Pahl., Gayōmard), then the first human pair, Mashyē and Mashyānē, and finally all humankind. Then the great gathering will take place at which everyone's good and evil deeds are revealed. The sinners will be punished and the righteous will enter the bliss of Paradise. A stream of molten metal will spread over the earth, and all people will have to pass through it: The evil will be burned (and purified), the righteous will experience it like lukewarm milk. At the end, all will be saved, and creation will be renewed.

Similar ideas are set forth in chapter 34 of the Selections of Zatspram (approximately contemporary with the Bundahishn ). Here it is asked how creatures who have passed away can receive their bodies back and rise again. The first answer is that it is easier to assemble parts already existing than to create from nothing. If Ahura Mazdā was able to create them, he is also able to assemble the scattered parts again. There are five "storekeepers" that receive the bodily substance of those who have died: The earth keeps flesh and bone; the water, the blood; the plants preserve the head and the hair; the light of the firmament receives the fire; and the wind, the spirit. At the time of the rehabilitation (Frashōkereti; Pahl., Frashkart), Ahura Mazdā will assemble all these elements again then create new human beings. This account is very close to the belief expressed in the Indian gveda. Obviously, these later expositions present a combination of at least two ideas of different origin and character, the idea of the soul joining its counterpart in the other world and the idea of bodily resurrection. Lack of sources prevents scholars from following the process of amalgamation of these ideas.


The Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) as a whole have no doctrine of resurrection. When it is said, "I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal" (Dt. 32:39), or "The Lord kills and brings to life, he brings down to Sheʾol [the realm of death] and raises up" (1 Sm. 2:7), the stress is on God as the origin and cause of everything rather than on resurrection. Usually the scriptures assert that "if a man dies, he will not live again" (Jb. 14:14) or that "he who goes down to Sheʾol does not come up" (7:9). In the Book of Psalms there is the general conviction that Yahveh is stronger than death and can rescue from Sheʾol: "You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears. I walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (116:89); "I shall not die, but I shall live he has not given me over to death" (118:1718); "God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheʾol" (49:15). It is never stated how this deliverance takes place; it is enough for the psalmist to know that God will not give him up to death or Sheʾol. It is probable that for an explanation of the mechanism of deliverance one must look to the metaphorical language referring to healing of illness or rescue from some deadly danger. Illness or calamity is potential death, and it means being in the grip of Sheʾol; consequently, rescue from illness or danger is rescue from death. It is interesting to recall that when a Babylonian god is said to be "a reviver of the dead," it clearly means that he cures illness.

Ezekiel 37 reports the prophet's vision of a heap of dry bones in a valley that is revived through "the spirit." At an early stage of Judaism this text was understood as referring to resurrection (e.g., in the paintings of the synagogue at Dura-Europos), but the context indicates that the bones symbolize the Jewish nation, and the message of the vision is that just as it seems impossible for the dead bones to be revived, it also seems impossible for the nation to be restored; however, the impossible is made possible through a divine miracle.

Isaiah 26:19 reads, "Your dead shall live, their bodies shall rise." This passage evidently points back to verse 14, "The dead will not live, the shades will not rise," a reference to the enemies of Israel. It may be, therefore, that verse 19 should be interpreted along the same lines as Ezekiel 38: Israel is in a better position than her enemies, therefore Israel shall "live." The next line, however, reads: "Wake up and rejoice, you who sleep in the dust." This may be an early, though vague, reference to the resurrection of the dead. But the chapter belongs to the latest part of the Book of Isaiah, the so-called Isaiah apocalypse, and it probably dates from the third century bce.

The only clear reference to resurrection is found in the Book of Daniel (c. 165 bce). It reads: "Many of those who sleep in the dust will awake, some to eternal life, others to eternal shame" (12:2). There can be no doubt: the dead are described as sleeping, and they are going to wake up from their sleep; consequently they will live again. It is not explicitly said that all the dead shall rise, although "many" (rabbīm ) often has that connotation. Yet not only the righteous will be resurrected; others will awaken also, but to eternal shame.

It has been suggested that the idea of resurrection in Israel has its roots in Canaanite religion. There, the dying and rising of the god Baal plays a significant part in symbolizing the annual death and renewal of vegetation. But the conclusion that such a resurrection might apply to humanity in general is never drawn, as far as the available evidence goes. It should be noted, however, that Isaiah 26:19 combines the revival of the dead with the falling of the dew of light, and that dew plays an important part in Canaanite mythology. It is also very probable that Hosea 6:2, "He will revive us after two days, on the third day he will raise us up," goes back to a Canaanite formula quoted by repenting people. The prophet, however, rejects the conversion of the people and does not accept their hope of revival. Thus, there may be Canaanite ideas in the background, but the final development of the idea of resurrection probably did not take place without Zoroastrian influence. The Judaism of the period of the Second Temple develops the idea further, without, however, reaching any consensus regarding the details. Above all, the testimonies differ as to whether resurrection means a reunion of body and soul or a renewal of the person as a totality.

One of the earliest references to resurrection is found in the Second Book of the Maccabees (first century bce). It shows that the idea of resurrection is bound up with belief in just retribution, especially in the case of martyrdom. Seven young brothers are tortured and killed by King Antiochus, and one young man after another confesses his belief in resurrection: "The king of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life" (7:9). "We cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him, but for you there will be no resurrection to life" (7:14). Finally, their mother addresses her sons: "God will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again" (7:23). The reason for this hope is that the sons are giving their life "for God's laws," and it is repeatedly stated, especially in 7:36, that the king will receive just punishment for his arrogance. No statement is made about the how of the resurrection, but the mother, addressing her last son, expresses her hope "to get him back again with his brothers" (7:29), which seems to imply some kind of family life in the other world.

According to Josephus Flavius (37/8c. 100), the Essenes believed in the immortality of the soul (Antiquities 17.18), whereas Hippolytus (Against Heresies 9.27) says that they believed in the resurrection of the body. So far no words to this effect have been found in the Qumran writings.

The clearest statements about resurrection appear in documents from the end of the first century ce; they were probably inspired by reaction to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 ce. Though several passages in 1 Enoch (22, 90:33, 91:10, 92:3) mention the resurrection, it is only in the so-called Similitudes (chapters 3771, which are absent from the Qumran manuscripts and probably of later origin) that the idea is clearly set forth: "And in those days shall the earth give back that which has been entrusted to it, and Sheʾol also shall give back that which it has received, and Hell shall give back that which it owes"(1 En. 51:1). It is clear from other passages (46:6, 49:910) that the sinners do not take part in this resurrection, which is not the joining of body and soul but the renewal of humanity as a whole to live on a new earth (51:5).

Similar statements are found in other documents from approximately the same periods. The passage 4 Ezra 7:32 reads: "The earth shall give up those who sleep in it, and the dust those who rest there in silence, and the storehouses shall give back the souls entrusted to them." The mention of the souls seems to indicate that death is the separation of body and soul (cf. 7:78) and that resurrection means they are reunited. Similarly, the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch speaks of the opening of the treasuries in which souls are preserved (30:2). The dust is told to give back what is not its own and to let everything arise that it has preserved (42:7); it is said further that the earth shall restore the dead without changing their form (50:2). This last text clearly teaches the resurrection of the body, but the context shows that the righteous will then be transformed into an angelic state. The word soul here seems to refer, as in the Old Testament, to humanity as a whole. Finally, the Liber antiquitatum biblicarum, falsely ascribed to Philo, says that God will "revive the dead and raise up from the earth those who sleep" (3:10); after that, judgment will be held and everybody will receive according to his work.

These texts use more or less the same formulaic language, but their view of humans is not uniform. Some use soul to refer to the human being as a whole, others distinguish between body and soul. Resurrection always implies the restoration of the body and usually its transfiguration. According to Josephus and the New Testament, the Pharisees accepted the resurrection of the righteous, whereas the Sadducees denied it altogether (Acts 23:8, Mt. 22:23).

The victory of Pharisaism after the fall of Jerusalem led to general acceptance of the belief in resurrection in rabbinic Judaism. Thus in the Mishnah tractate Sanhedrin, chapter 10 begins with the statement that the one who denies the resurrection of the dead has no part in the world to come, and the rest of the chapter is devoted to a discussion of who is not going to rise (qūm ).

Liturgical texts, such as the ʿAmidah, assert that God "makes the dead alive and keeps faith to those who sleep in the dust" (cf. Dn. 12:2), and that he "kills and makes alive and causes salvation to sprout forth" (cf. 1 Sm. 2:6). It is interesting that on some occasions a reference to God as giving wind and rain is inserted into the prayer, which uses the verb "to sprout forth," in its literal sense referring to the growing of plants. This indicates a parallel between the life of nature and the life of humans. The parallel is also suggested by Talmudic comments comparing resurrection with the growing of a grain of wheat (B.T., San. 90b; cf., in the New Testament, 1 Cor. 15:36ff.) and stating that the dead "sprout forth" from the earth (B.T., Ket. lllb). Does this language contain a reminiscence of ancient roots in the fertility cult? One rabbinic statement explains resurrection as the reunion of body and soul: "Blessed art thou, who bringest the souls back to the dead bodies" (B.T., Ber. 60b). Other passages defend the possibility of resurrection by assuming that a certain part of man, the lowest vertebra or a spoonful of rotten mass, escapes corruption and serves as material for the new body.


In primitive Christianity the resurrection of Christ was the fundamental fact; belief in it was even regarded as a prerequisite of salvation. The earliest statements, which are found in the letters of Paul, are very simple and state the fact in a credal form: "God raised Jesus from the dead" (Rom. 10:9); "Jesus died and rose again" (1 Thes. 4:14). Sometimes the significance of Jesus' resurrection is defined: "He was designated the son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4); "He was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (4:25). The choice of words and the context indicate (1) that he was dead; (2) that it was God who raised him; and (3) that his resurrection was not merely a return to normal life on earth but a transfer into an existence of a higher kind. The question of body and soul is not discussed.

Jesus' death and resurrection are mentioned together also in his predictions of suffering in the Gospels (Mk. 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, and parallels), and in the proclamation of the apostles in Acts of the Apostles (2:2324, 10:3940, 17:3). It is difficult to tell whether the expression "on the third day" derives from an interpretation based on Hosea 6:2 (see above) or is based on actual experience.

The Gospels give no detail of the resurrection itself. What they have is the report on the empty tomb (Mk. 16:1ff. and parallels), to which Matthew has given an apologetic touch by adding the story of the guard being bribed by the chief priests to report that the disciples stole the body (Mt. 28:1113). There are, however, several reports of appearances of Jesus, some taking place in Jerusalem, others in Galilee. It is a matter of dispute whether these different geographical locations rest on independent traditions and, if not, how they are related. According to Luke the last appearance is connected with Jesus' ascension to heaven; according to Matthew it is associated with his sending the apostles to preach to all nations.

The New Testament seems to have taken over the general idea of resurrection from contemporary Judaism. Matthew 12:41 mentions it explicitly ("will arise at the last judgment"), and it is presupposed in many other passages (e.g., Mt. 7:22, 8:11, 11:22, 12:4142). In his answer to the Sadducees, who deny the resurrection, Jesus adopts the idea of an angelic existence of the resurrected (Mk. 12:1827 and parallels).

The first Christians expected the second coming of Christ (the Parousia) to happen in their lifetime. But as several Christians died without having experienced the Parousia, questions arose as to the reliability of the Christian hope. Paul answers such questions in 1 Thessalonians 4:1318, asserting that just as Christ died and rose again, the fellowship with him cannot be broken by death: First those who have died in Christ will rise when "the archangel calls and the trumpet sounds," then those who are still alive will be taken away to heaven to Christ. This idea of a two-step process is taken further in the Book of Revelation, according to which the righteous will rise at the beginning of the millennium ("the first resurrection," 20:6), the rest at its end (20:1213). The same idea seems to be present in 1 Corinthians 15:2223, where one learns that "all shall be made alive in Christ first at his coming those who belong to Christ; then comes the end," when all evil powers are defeated and everything is laid under his feet. Elsewhere, there is only reference to resurrection in general as one event, which is clearly presupposed in the parable of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25.

The question of how the resurrection is going to take place is dealt with by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. The body that rises is not the old body but a new one, just as a new plant comes out of a seed. Nothing is said here of an immortal soul. Humanity as a whole is perishable; a human being as a whole is recreated as a "spiritual body." Other New Testament passages seem to imply some kind of existence between death and resurrection, for example, "to be with Christ" (Phil. 1:23), "to be in Abraham's bosom" (Lk. 16:22), and "to be with Christ in paradise" (23:43). A different approach is represented by the Gospel of John. He who believes in Christ receives eternal life here and now (3:36, 5:24). However, other statements in the same gospel, which many exegetes ascribe to a later editor, retain the idea of a resurrection at the end of time (5:28).

Under Greek influence the early church developed the idea of an immortal soul that continues to exist after death and is reunited with the body at the resurrection. This remained the commonly accepted belief of the Christian church into the twentieth century. Modern theology now often tries to view the human being as a unity that is totally dissolved in death, whereas resurrection implies a total recreation of the whole being.


Islam shares with Christianity the belief in a general resurrection followed by a judgment. The stress is rather on the latter. In the Qurʾān the last day is referred to as "the day of resurrection" (yawm al-qiyāmah ), but also as "the day of judgment" (yawm ad-dīn ), "the day of reckoning" (yawm al-hisāb ), or "the day of awakening" (yawm al-baʿth ). In the Qurʾān there are several very graphic descriptions of the day of resurrection, focusing on the natural phenomena that accompany it and on the outcome of the judgmentthe believers entering paradise and the unbelievers being thrown into the fire of hell. It is a day "when the trumpet is blown" (cf. Mt. 24:31, 1 Thes. 4:16) and men "shall come in troops, and heaven is opened and the mountains are set in motion" (surah 78:1820; cf. 18:99), a day "when heaven is rent asunder when earth is stretched out and casts forth what is in it" (84:14; cf. 99:12). After these events the dead "shall come forth from their graves unto their Lord; they shall say: Alas for us! Who roused us from our bed?" (36:5152).

There is no reference in the Qurʾān to an immortal soul, nor is resurrection defined as the reunion of body and soul. Sūrah 81:7 states that "the souls shall be coupled"; some Muslim commentators take this to mean that the souls are to be joined to their bodies, whereas others think that they are to be coupled with their equals (good or evil) or that they will be divided into two groups.

When the unbelievers express doubt in the resurrection, the Qurʾān refers to God's omnipotence as the creator: "Does man think we shall not gather his bones? Indeed, we are able to shape again his fingers" (75:34); "Man says: Who shall quicken the bones when they are decayed? Say: He shall quicken them who originated them the first time. He knows all creation" (36:7879; cf. 17:53, 19:68). Again, "O men, if you are in doubt as to the uprising, surely we created you of dust, then of a sperm-drop, then of a blood clot and we establish in the womb what we wish, till a stated term, then we deliver you as infants. And you see the earth blackened, then we send down water upon it, it quivers and swells and puts forth herbs of every joyous kind. This is because Godhe is the Truthbrings the dead to life and is powerful over everything" (22:56). Thus God forms the child in the womb, he renews the life of vegetation, so he is also able to raise the dead. Only on one occasion is there a hint that the resurrected body will be different from the present one: "We have decreed among you death that we may exchange the likes of you and make you to grow again in a fashion you do not know" (56:6061). But the wording is not very specific here.

Later Muslim tradition has developed these ideas in several directions. A great number of signs foretelling the day of resurrection are mentioned; the blast of the trumpet has become three blasts: the blast of consternation, the blast of examination, and the blast of resurrection. There is also the idea that at the resurrection the body will be raised and united to its soul, and that the lower part of the spine is preserved as a basis for the future body (as in the rabbinic idea discussed above). In addition there are speculations about a "punishment in the grave" (ʿadhāb al-qabr ): immediately after burial the deceased is questioned by the two angels, Munkar and Nakir, and if the deceased is not able to answer the questions concerning God and the Prophet, punishment is inflicted.

Several speculations are based on an interpretation of the obscure word barzakh in the Qurʾān (23:100), taken by commentators to denote a bar or obstacle preventing return to the world after death. The word is now defined as the interval or space between this world and the next, or between death and resurrection, a kind of intermediary state. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah (d. 1350), who wrote a book about the spirit, presents various theories about what happens to the spirit between death and resurrection: The spirits are in or near the grave; the spirits of the believers only are in Paradise, or at the gates of Paradise, or in the sacred well Zamzam, or on the right-hand side of Adam; the unbelievers are in the fire of Hell, or in the well Barhut.

A Possible Precursor

The belief in dying and reviving gods has sometimes been taken as one of the roots of the idea of resurrection. The English anthropologist James G. Frazer (18541941) devoted one volume of The Golden Bough to "the dying god," interpreting the myth as a symbol of the death and renewal of vegetation. However, the clearest example of a dying god, the Canaanite Aliyan Baal, was not known when the book was written, because the Ugaritic texts were only discovered in 1929. Baal is the god of thunder, rain, and fertility. He is killed by his enemy Mot (whose name means "death" and who represents the dry season), and vegetation withers away. However, Baal's sister Anat defeats Mot, and Baal returns to life, which also implies the renewal of vegetation. The myth probably served as the scenario of a ritual drama, whose aim was to secure the new life of vegetation and promote fertility in general. However, there is no trace of any belief in the resurrection of humans based on the god's return to life.

Another example is the Sumerian god Dumuzi (the Akkadian Tammuz). According to the Sumerian myths, Dumuzi, the god of the flocks and the grain, was killed by demons and had to descend into the netherworld. There are no clear texts referring to his resurrection, but there are hints that it was decided that he spend part of the year in the netherworld and the other part on earth. This would indicate that his death and return to life represent the seasonal cycle. Here too, evidence for a belief in resurrection is lacking.

Elements from these two myths (of Baal and Dumuzi) are clearly recognized in what Greek sources report on the Phoenician-Syrian god Adonis (Phoen., ʾādōn, "lord"). He was loved by the goddess Aphrodite and by the lady of the netherworld, Persephone; Zeus finally decided that Adonis should stay one half of the year with Aphrodite and the other half with Persephone. (It is also told that Adonis was killed by a boar and was bitterly mourned by Aphrodite.) In the case of the Egyptian god Osiris, the facts are somewhat more favorable to the theory of belief in resurrection growing out of the myth of the dying god. The myth of Osiris was known in several versions, but their essence is as follows. Osiris was a good king who was killed and dismembered by his brother Seth. His wife, Isis, mourned him, found the body, reassembled its parts, and restored it to life through a magical formula. Isis then was made pregnant and bore a son, Horus, who was recognized as the lawful successor of his father, while Osiris was made ruler of the netherworld. As a god, Osiris had clear connections with the inundation of the Nile and with grain. These connections are manifest in several rites of the Osiris "mysteries," including the burial of an effigy of Osiris made of earth and grain. Growing grain symbolizes the god's return to life. Here, for once, is a clear connection with beliefs concerning human life in the hereafter. Every person who is properly buried becomes an Osiris in the other world and shares the life of the god.

Clearly, there are considerable differences between these dying gods, and it is doubtful whether all of them represent the same specific type of god. Great caution should be exercised in seeking to draw conclusions concerning the role played by these myths in the development of the belief in resurrection.

See Also

Dying and Rising Gods.


There is no monograph on resurrection in general. Volume 5 (1965) of the journal Kairos has a series of articles on resurrection in different religions, supplemented by two articles on Jewish ideas in volumes 14 (1972) and 15 (1973).

Discussion of Chinese ideas can be found in Henri Maspero's Mélanges posthumes sur les religions et l'histoire de la Chine, 3 vols. (Paris, 1950) by consulting the index entries under immortalité. Indian ideas are dealt with by Helmuth von Glasenapp in Unsterblichkeit und Erlösung in den indischen Religionen (Halle, 1938). For Egyptian ideas, see Alan H. Gardiner's The Attitude of the Ancient Egyptians to Death and the Dead (Cambridge, 1935); Herman Kees's Totenglauben und Jenseitsvorstellungen der alten Ägypter, 2d ed. (Berlin, 1956), a classic but difficult work; and, for certain aspects, Louis V. Zabkar's A Study of the Ba Concept in Ancient Egyptian Texts (Chicago, 1968) and Gertie Englund's Akh: Une notion religieuse dans l'Egypte pharaonique (Uppsala, 1978). The only comprehensive study of Iranian conceptions is Nathan Söderblom's La vie future d'après le Mazdéisme (Paris 1901). It is now somewhat out of date, but is still useful, as is J. D. C. Pavry's The Zoroastrian Doctrine of a Future Life (New York, 1926).

Old Testament ideas have been dealt with by Edmund F. Sutcliffe in The Old Testament and the Future Life (Westminster, Md., 1947) and by Robert Martin-Achard in De la mort à la résurrection dans l'Ancien Testament (Neuchâtel, 1956). For further discussion, see Harris Birkeland's "The Belief in the Resurrection of the Dead in the Old Testament," Studia Theologica 3 (1950): 6078, and my book Israelite Religion (Philadelphia, 1975), pp. 239247. Among studies dealing with later Jewish and Christian ideas, see R. H. Charles's A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, in Judaism, and in Christianity (1899; reprint, New York, 1979) and Pierre Grelot's De la mort à la vie éternelle (Paris, 1971). For Judaism, see also H. C. C. Cavallin's Life after Death, vol. 1, part 1, An Inquiry into the Jewish Background (Lund, 1974), a comprehensive study of all relevant texts, and George W. E. Nickelsburg's Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in InterTestamental Judaism (Cambridge, Mass., 1972).

Of the literature on the New Testament only a few books can be mentioned: Murdoch E. Dahl's The Resurrection of the Body: A Study of 1 Corinthians 15 (London, 1962); Immortality and Resurrection, 2d ed., edited by Pierre Benoït and Roland E. Murphy (New York, 1970); Robert C. Tennenhill's Dying and Rising with Christ (Berlin, 1967); and Geerhardus Vos's The Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1961). Works in German are Oscar Cullman's Unsterblichkeit der Seele und Auferstehung der Toten (Stuttgart, 1963), Paul Hoffmann's Die Toten in Christus: Ein religionsgeschichtliche und exegetische Untersuchung zur paulinischen Eschatologie (Münster, 1978), and Günter Kegel's Auferstehung Jesu, Auferstehung der Toten (Gütersloh, 1970).

On resurrection in Christian theology, see Paul Althaus's Die letzten Dinge (1922; Gütersloh, 1956), Walter Künneth's Theologie der Auferstehung (1934; Giessen, 1982), and Klaus Kienzler's Logik der Auferstehung (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1976), a study of the theologians Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard Ebeling, and Wolfhart Pannenberg.

For a broad discussion of dying and rising gods, see James G. Frazer's The Golden Bough, 3d. ed., rev. & enl., vol. 4, The Dying God (1912; London, 1955). On Dumuzi, see Thorkild Jacobsen's The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (New Haven, 1976), pp. 2573. On Baal, See Arvid S. Kapelrud's Baʾal in the Ras Shamra Texts (Copenhagen, 1952); Werner H. Schmidt's "Baals Tod und Auferstehung," Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 15 (1963): 113; and Michael David Coogan's Stories from Ancient Canaan (Philadelphia, 1978). On Osiris, E. A. Wallis Budge's Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, 2 vols. (1911; New York, 1973), and J. Gwyn Griffith's The Origin of Osiris and His Cult, 2d ed., rev. & enl. (Leiden, 1980), may be profitably consulted.

New Sources

Bynum, Caroline Walker. The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 2001336. New York, 1995. A survey of the views of the soul's relationship to the body throughout early and medieval Christianity in a novel perspective.

Casadio, Giovanni. Vie gnostiche all'immortalità. Brescia, Italy, 1997. Types of resurrection in Judaism, Zoroastrianism, New Testament and Gnosticism are discussed with attention to the relevant bibliography.

Hornung, Erik and Schabert, Tilo, eds. Auferstehung und Unsterblichkeit. Munich, 1993. A volume of the new Eranos series, including cross-cultural studies by historians of religions (Michael von Brück, Giovanni Casadio, Reinhold Merkelbach), philosophers (A. Hilary Armstrong, Rémi Brague), anthropologists (Jean Servier), and psychologists (James Hillman).

Mainville, Odette, and Daniel Marguerat, eds. Résurrection. L'après mort dans le monde ancien et le Nouveau Testament. Geneva, 2001. Resurrection in New Testament and ancient world in theological perspective.

Helmer Ringgren (1987)

Revised Bibliography


views updated May 29 2018


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).

[Moshe Greenberg]

Rabbinic Period

In the rabbinic period the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is considered one of the central doctrines of Judaism. The tenth chapter of Mishnah Sanhedrin begins, "All of Israel has a portion in the world to come, as it is said (Isa. 60:21) 'And Thy people are all righteous, at the End they shall inherit the land…' and the following have no portion in the world to come: one who says, 'There is no resurrection of the dead….'" George Foot Moore in Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era (2 (1950), 323) asserts "It must be further observed that, except on the single article of the revivification of the dead, there was no dogma and no canon of orthodoxy in this whole field [eschatology]." This dogma was one of the important points of dispute between the Sadducees and Pharisees (see Jos., Wars, 2:163; Ant., 18:16; arn1 5, 14). The rabbis included belief in the resurrection in the canonical liturgy – especially in the second of the 18 benedictions of the Amidah.

The doctrine of the resurrection seems to embody two significant areas: (1) the idea of retribution and reward for the Jewish nation as a whole and not merely for individuals; and (2) the idea that body and soul are a single indivisible unit, both essential and equal in the constitution of a human being. These two ideas may have developed, or achieved prominence, at different stages in the development of the doctrine (see below).

As to the first point, in the Israelite worldview the ultimate redemption was always a redemption of the whole people. The prophets predicted a future time when there will be peace, justice, and righteousness in the world. This reward would seem to come, then, only to those living at the time of the redemption. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead enables righteous souls throughout history to have a share in the world to come (olam ha-ba). As Moore points out (ibid., 311–12) the Greek religion was individualistic and needed a doctrine of immortality for the soul, in which the individual was rewarded or punished, but Jewish religion posited a reconstituted nation as the arena of retribution.

The second point is somewhat more sophisticated. A rabbinic parable, however, makes it crystal clear (Sanh. 91a–b):

Antoninus said to Rabbi, "The body and soul could exonerate themselves from judgment. How is this so? The body says, 'The soul sinned, for from the day that it separated from me, lo, I am like a silent stone in the grave!' And the soul says, 'The body is the sinner, for from the day that I separated from it, lo, I fly in the air like a bird.'" He answered him, "I will tell you a parable. To what is the matter likened? To a king of flesh and blood who had a beautiful orchard and there were in it lovely ripe fruit, and he placed two guardians over it, one a cripple and the other blind. Said the cripple to the blind man, 'I see beautiful ripe fruit in the orchard. Come and carry me and we will bring and eat them.' The cripple rode on the back of the blind man and they brought and ate them. After a while the owner of the orchard came and said to them, 'Where is my lovely fruit?' The cripple answered, 'Do I have legs to go?' Answered the blind man, 'Do I have eyes to see?' What did he do? He placed the cripple on the back of the blind man and judged them as one – so also the Holy Blessed One brings the soul and throws it into the body and judges them as one."

Neither body nor soul alone can sin or be righteous, so only the two together can be judged and punished or rewarded. Again the comparison with the Greek idea, in which the soul is the whole personality and the body merely its house, is instructive.

The idea of resurrection, then, for the rabbis was clearly and literally corporeal. Among the questions concerning resurrection discussed in rabbinic literature are whether or not the resurrected will have the same imperfect bodies as in this life or perfect ones, how the bodies will travel to the Land of Israel from the Diaspora, whether they will be clothed or naked, and the like (tj, Kil. 9:4, 32c; tj, Ket. 12:3, 35b; Ket. 11a; Sanh. 90b; Eccl. R. 1:4). In the talmudic period and on into modern times this idea has been taken so seriously and literally that pious Jews are often concerned about the clothes they are buried in, the complete interment of all organs, and being buried in Israel.

However, there is a serious problem in rabbinic literature with regard to the historical, or rather meta-historical, position of the resurrection. Some sources seem to imply that it is the final goal and thus last step in the eschaton, identical with the world to come, while other sources seem to refer to a resurrection which precedes the final redemption, the world to come. There even seem to be some sources which place the world to come as a stage before the resurrection. Furthermore, there are contradictions with regard to the question of who is to be resurrected, some sources suggesting clearly that only the righteous will be revived, others, that resurrection is the lot of everyone.

Moore resolves these contradictions by suggesting a process of historical development from one set of ideas about the resurrection and world to come to another, although he warns that the periodization and use of terminology is not always exact and consistent (Moore, Judaism, 2 (1946), 378ff.). In an earlier stage the "days of the Messiah," "the world to come," and the "coming future" all refer to the same period – the final stage in the development of history. Thus, the righteous dead (at this stage probably only of Israel) are revived to enjoy the benefits of a golden age in the Land of Israel. He states that rabbinic homilies which assign to the world to come such wordly, albeit exquisite, pleasures as eating the flesh of Leviathan and Behemoth, and cultivating infinitely fertile land clearly belong to this earlier idea (which, indeed, persisted alongside the latter; see references there).

In the second, later, stage of the development of the idea it becomes only a preliminary moment in the eschaton.

Now the various terminologies are separated out and assigned to different periods. There are the "Days of the Messiah," the golden age for the Jewish people, but this is now only a preliminary stage. There follows a general resurrection of all souls, which are then brought before the heavenly court. Now comes the period of the world to come, in which the righteous are blessed and sinners in some fashion damned.

Moore further states that in rabbinic literature when the phrase, "the revivification of the dead," is used without any special qualification, it refers to the latter concept, to the resurrection before the "grand assize" (ibid., 380). The additional confusion, by which occasionally the phrase "world to come" refers to a state which completely precedes the resurrection (as in neither of the above systems) is explained by Moore by the fact that occasionally the transition period between death and redemption, which the souls of the righteous spend in heaven and the wicked in hell (cf. Gehinnom), is called the world to come. However, this, according to him, is merely a terminological and not an ideological difference (ibid., 391).

Louis Finkelstein (Mavo le-Massekhtot Avot ve-Avot de-Rabbi Natan) reconstructs the development of these ideas somewhat differently. In his view, the crucial distinction is precisely in this last point of the "intermediate stage" between death and resurrection. He maintains that from early times there were two schools of thought on this matter. According to one (ibid., xxxii), the soul upon dying goes into Sheol, "the Pit," i.e., grave, and there inactively awaits the resurrection. According to the other school, souls arise to be judged by God immediately after death. In the first view the world to come refers to the resurrection, and in the second it refers to the existence in between death and resurrection. Finkelstein further remarks that the term "world to come" is often used in rabbinic and later Jewish literature in a purposely ambiguous sense so as not to decide between these two opposing views (ibid., xxxv).

Finkelstein maintains that this is an ancient controversy that continued in the controversies between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel (ibid., 217). Bet Shammai held that the dead souls are either in the grave itself or in a special "treasury" until the redemption, when the righteous are rewarded with resurrection (Moore's "older attitude"), while Bet Hillel held that the souls are immediately punished or rewarded after death in heaven or hell, and at the end of time all are resurrected for a final judgment, a review of the verdict or parole hearing, as it were.

A clear example of the nature of this disagreement (not necessarily between Shammai and Hillel at this point) is shown by comparing two texts (ibid., 220). An early Sabbath prayer (Hertz, Prayer Book, p. 28) reads: "There is none of Your value, Lord, our God, in this world, and none beside You in the world to come. Nothing but You, our Redeemer in the days of the Messiah, and none like You for the resurrection of the dead." Clearly according to this text, the world to come is separate from the resurrection and precedes it. However, a passage in Sifrei Devarim (ed. by L. Finkelstein (19692), 62) reads: " 'In your going he will lead you' refers to this world, and 'in your lying down he will watch over you' refers to the hour of death, and 'in waking up' refers to the days of the Messiah, 'it will make you speak' refers to the world to come." Here clearly "world to come" is after the resurrection.

Medieval Jewish Philosophy

Among the medieval Jewish philosophers there were many differences of opinion with regard to the resurrection. These controversies depend for the most part on the fact that it was not clear, or certainly not explicit, that there had been controversy in the talmudic period. Consequently some thinkers accepted one of the talmudic opinions, and others contested their views, without realizing that they were simply following different sides of an old argument.

Saadiah Gaon (The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, 6:7) maintains that the dead souls remain in a treasury until the resurrection, when the righteous are resurrected. This constitutes the world to come. He follows, therefore, Finkelstein's "Shammaite" view or Moore's "earlier" view.

It was Maimonides, however, who made the most controversial statements in the Middle Ages regarding the resurrection. In his commentary on the first Mishnah of Sanhedrin 10, he makes the seemingly self-contradictory statement that:

The resurrection is one of the foundations of the religion of our teacher, Moses; there is no religion and no connection with the Jewish nation for whoever does not believe in it, but it is for the righteous… but know that man will definitely die and be separated into that of which he is composed.

Furthermore in the Mishneh Torah (Yad, Teshuvah, 8:2) he maintains that, "in the world to come there is no body, rather the souls of the righteous alone without a body like the ministering angels…" It is easy to see how readers of Maimonides became confused as to his true opinion, and indeed his main critic Abraham b. David of Posquières takes him severely to task: "The words of this man seem to us to be close to one who says that there is no resurrection for bodies, but only for souls, and by my life this was not the opinion of our sages on this for behold they said [Ket. 11b] in the future the righteous will arise in their clothes… and so they would command their sons, 'do not bury me in white clothes or not in black'…" (Yad, Teshuvah, 8:2). Maimonides, however, in a later work, Ma'amar Teḥiyyat ha-Metim, "The Essay on Resurrection" (ed. with an introduction by J. Finkel, in: paajr, 9 (1939), 61–105 and Heb. section), clarified his opinion further, stating that of course there will be a resurrection, but that the resurrection will not be permanent, that it follows upon a period in which the souls of the righteous are rewarded in the world to come, and is followed again by the death of the resurrected and the return of the righteous once more to the world to come, which is their true reward. One of the classic commentators on Maimonides, in the Leḥem Mishneh, remarks that Maimonides is consistent in his view in that he holds that the world to come and the resurrection are two distinct entities, and therefore he wrote that in the world to come there is no body, it being the fate of man immediately after death. He goes on to say, "The Ravad (Abraham ben David) his memory be blessed, believes that our teacher (Maimonides) holds that the world to come is identical with the resurrection and therefore attacked him… because he (ben David) holds that the world to come is the world of resurrection…." This perceptive remark makes it quite clear that once again, with some variations, the same controversy that was found in the talmudic period is operative. Modern interpreters of Maimonides (as some of their medieval predecessors) have raised a question concerning his true attitude. Did he, as his words imply, believe literally in the resurrection of the body, or did he, like some Muslim Aristotelians, consider this belief merely a concession to the understanding of the masses, while his true view is that the afterlife consists only of the incorporeal intelligences of those who have acquired theoretical knowledge in this life.

Naḥmanides in Torat ha-Adam (at the end of the chapter Sha'ar ha-Gemul), discusses Maimonides' view. He contends that, in the opinion of the rabbis, the resurrection is the world to come, but does not deny the existence of the souls of the dead in heaven before the resurrection. He merely maintains, in opposition to Maimonides, that this is not what is meant by "world to come." Moreover, Naḥmanides himself dismisses this difference as merely a matter of terminology and says that the important difference between his view and that of his predecessor is that while Maimonides "decrees death for the Messiah and his generation," Naḥmanides allows them to live forever. However, in answer to Maimonides' contention that there would be no purpose for the body in the world to come, its only functions being mundane, he states that there will be a mysteriously refined body, its functions being mystical and having to do with the fact that the body is a microcosm of the structure of the universe. Naḥmanides, it would seem, if Finkelstein's view is correct, has created a synthesis between the two rabbinic opinions.

Ḥasdai Crescas seems to have been the first medieval philosopher to realize clearly that there was a major difference of opinion among the rabbis of the Talmud. He states, with his characteristic clarity, that there are four questions with regard to the resurrection: "the first, will the resurrection be complete or partial, and if partial, which part? the second, the time of the resurrection? the third… if they will die after their rising or not? the fourth, if there will be in that time the day of judgment, which our sages believe in?" He states, particularly with regard to the second of these questions, that there is controversy among the rabbis themselves, pointing to the view of *Samuel that there is no difference between this world and the days of the Messiah except that Israel will be free. This, he says, necessitates the corollary that the resurrection will take place after the days of the Messiah. He does not hold (or rather does not realize, if Moore or Finkelstein is correct) that the other questions depend to a greater or lesser degree on the answer to this one, and therefore answers them definitely, holding that there will be a resurrection of all but the greatest sinners, that there will be then a court of judgment, and that the righteous will live forever in their refined bodies, in accord with the view of Naḥmanides.

The common denominator of all the views so far discussed, except, perhaps, that of Maimonides, is that they all stress the indivisibility of the body-soul unit for purposes of the accountability of the human personality for its actions, both good and bad. Whether it is understood that all people are resurrected for judgment, body and soul together, or whether only the bodies of the righteous are resurrected to enjoy the redemption, the central stress is the same. The human being is one essence, a unit, not merely a soul housed in a body which itself is of no worth. The parable above of the two guardians of the orchard is perhaps the best possible illustration of this idea.

Modern Period

In the modernistic versions of Judaism, the belief in resurrection was denied in favor of the seemingly more acceptable doctrine of immortality. In the Pittsburgh Platform it was expressly stated that the Reform movement rejects "as ideas not rooted in Judaism the beliefs both in bodily resurrection and Gehinnom." This idea was reflected in American Reform prayer books and in the prayer book of the Reconstructionist movement, where the statement affirming resurrection is removed. In the European reform movements, the tendency was to retain the traditional formula contained in the liturgy, but to formulate the translation in such a way that it would mean immortality and not resurrection (see J.J. Petuchowski, Prayerbook Reform in Europe (1968), 215ff.).

There has been some sentiment in more traditional circles to retain the belief in resurrection, but rather than taking it literally, to understand it as a symbol affirming that the ultimate salvation of the individual is dependent on God and that what is fulfilled is the entire person – both body and soul – not just the spiritual essence.

[Daniel Boyarin /

Seymour Siegel]


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.


views updated Jun 08 2018

resurrection from the Latin resurgo (‘I rise’), refers to the belief that the dead will ultimately be raised and have their bodies restored to them. While this belief is found in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Christian belief in the resurrection and saving of the dead is shaped specifically by the resurrection of Christ who, according to the New Testament, on the third day after his death and burial rose again and appeared to his followers.

Several scriptural accounts of the resurrected Jesus stress the materiality of Jesus' body. For example, in Luke's gospel Jesus told his disciples to touch him, asking whether a ghost has hands and feet, as he has, and then proceeded to eat a fish in front of them. In John's gospel ‘doubting’ Thomas was invited by Jesus to put his finger on Jesus' hand where the nails had been, and put his hand in Jesus' side which had been pierced. In Matthew, Jesus met his disciples and they touched his feet. And yet, despite this stress on the material body of Jesus as ‘proof’ of his resurrected identity, on several occasions — on the beach at daybreak and on the Emmaus Road, for example — the men and women disciples did not recognize him; and in the account of the resurrected Jesus' appearance to Mary Magdalene, in John's Gospel, Jesus instructed Mary not to hold onto him because he had not yet ascended to the Father. This represents a tension, in the New Testament accounts, between the materiality and ‘spiritual’ nature of the resurrected Jesus.

From early on, Jesus' resurrection was an important part of Christian teaching as indicated in Acts and Paul's epistles. In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote of Jesus being raised from the dead and appearing to Cephas, the twelve, some five hundred brothers and sisters, James and the rest of the Apostles, and finally to Paul himself. Thus Paul concluded that if Christ was resurrected, as his evidence attests, then the resurrection of the dead could not be denied. Paul expressed a variety of views about what that resurrection meant. Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul held that the resurrected body would be ‘new’ and spiritual, of a new order and raised above the limitations of the earthly body. In 2 Corinthians he suggested that the body will be discarded when we come to reside in heaven. But in Romans he expressed the notion that resurrection begins with baptism, suggesting, perhaps, that resurrection is the rebirth of the embodied person.

The Christian idea of the resurrection of the dead is found in the notion that at the Parousia or Second Coming of Christ, the dead will have their bodies restored to them and the saved will enter into heaven in this bodily form. Despite Paul's primary emphasis on the resurrected, ‘spiritual’ body, early Christian writers increasingly came to understand the resurrection of the dead as meaning the full reassemblage of bodily parts (and thus material continuity), as indicated by patristic debates about resurrection, from the second to fifth centuries. The apologist Justin Martyr defended the material continuity of the fleshly body at the resurrection against the criticism of pagan critics, such as Celsus, who asked why anyone would want to recover the body, given that corpses were revolting. Tertullian believed in the reassamblage of bodily bits, seeing all reality as corporeal and arguing that the whole person would be rewarded or punished, because the whole person — soul and body — had sinned or behaved virtuously. Such ideas were developed in the context of Gnosticism (which saw the resurrection as spiritual and an escape from the body) and Docetism (which saw Christ's body not as real but as metaphorical), and as Christians asked questions about what happened to the bodies of martyrs. Literal, physical resurrection was seen as victory over death after martyrdom, for those Christians who had died voluntarily and sacrificially.

This idea of the resurrection of the literal body was continued into the Middle Ages, for example in the formulation of doctrines and creeds, in sermons, and in popular stories of miracles. Eschatology was seen in material terms, and there existed a strong sense of a self whose physical nature was linked to emotions, intellect, sensations, and reason, and thus to notions of salvation. Aquinas challenged these ideas, asserting that the soul accounts for a person's identity and therefore maintaining that the continuity of the fleshly stuff of the body was unnecessary. He encountered considerable opposition to his ideas, especially between the 1270s and 1300, but the condemnations of his views were removed in 1325. This might be seen as a benchmark moment — when the idea that the soul was primary in the resurrection of the dead began to take precedence. Modern debate about bodily resurrection has tended to focus on the scientific plausibility of such a notion, although Stanley Spencer's painting, The Resurrection, Cookham (1927) is a modern rendering of the idea of bodily resurrection, as the fully embodied inhabitants of Cookham climb out of their tombs to enjoy eternal life.

In Judaism, belief in the resurrection of the body is found in some passages of the later Hebrew scriptures, and gradually became a central, if debated, tenet of Judaism, as found in parts of the Mishnah. It is the idea that body and soul are indivisible and will be resurrected together which is important in Judaism. In Islam, it is on the day of resurrection, Yaum al-Oyama, that all will die on the first blast of the trumpet, and, after an interval, and on the second blast of the trumpet, will be bodily resurrected to stand before Allah for judgment and division between heaven and hell. Hinduism has many notions of the return, reassemblage, and revival of the body — especially after it has been eaten or digested — if not any specific doctrine of resurrection.

Jane Shaw


Bynum, C. W. (1995). The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christendom. Columbia University Press, New York.

See also Christianity and the body; death.


views updated Jun 27 2018

558. Resurrection

  1. Adonis vegetation god, reborn each spring. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 10]
  2. Alcestis after dying in place of her husband, she is brought back from the dead by Heracles. [Gk. Drama: Alcestis ]
  3. Amys and Amyloun sacrificed children are restored to life. [Medieval Legend: Benét, 31]
  4. Bran god whose cauldron restored the dead to life. [Welsh Myth.: Jobes, 241]
  5. Dorcas raised from the dead by St. Peter. [N.T.: Acts 9:3642]
  6. Drusiana restored to life by John the Evangelist. [Christian Hagiog.: Golden Legend ]
  7. Dumuzi god of regeneration and resurrection. [Sumerian Myth.: Jobes, 476]
  8. egg symbol of Christs resurrection. [Art: Hall, 110]
  9. Elijah breathes life back into child. [O.T.: I Kings 17:18]
  10. Fisher King old, maimed king whose restoration symbolizes the return of spring vegetation. [Medieval Legend: T. S. Eliot The Waste Land in Norton Literature ]
  11. Jairus daughter Christ raises her from the dead. [N.T.: Mat-thew 9:1819; Mark 5:2124; Luke 8:4042]
  12. Jesus Christ arose from the dead three days after His crucifix-ion. [N.T.: Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20]
  13. Lazarus Jesus calls him back to life from the tomb. [N.T.: John 11:4344]
  14. McGee, Sam Tennessee native freezes to death in Alaska but is brought back to life in the cremation furnace. [Am. Poetry: Service The Cremation of Sam McGee]
  15. phoenix fabled bird, rises from its ashes. [Gk. Legend: Brewer Dictionary, 829; Christian Symbolism: Appleton, 76]
  16. pomegranate bursting with seed, it symbolizes open tomb. [Christian Symbolism: Appleton, 77]
  17. scarab symbol for Ra, sun-god; reborn each day. [Animal Symbolism: Mercatante, 180]
  18. Thammuz god died annually and rose each spring. [Babyl. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 1071]
  19. widows son of Nain touched by mothers grief, Christ brings him back to life. [N.T.: Luke 7:1117]

Resurrection of Christ

views updated May 18 2018

Resurrection of Christ. Fundamental tenet of Christianity, that Jesus was raised from the dead by God ‘on the third day’ after his crucifixion. It was part of the earliest Christian preaching (the kerygma). All four gospels record that Jesusʾ tomb was found empty on Easter Sunday morning, but no one would have come to believe that he had been raised from the dead on that basis alone. According to Paul and the gospel writers (except Mark?) the cause of the belief was Jesusʾ appearances to his followers (beginning with Peter: Luke 24. 34). Scholars who discount the appearances of Jesus as the cause of the Easter belief usually hold a ‘theological theory’ instead: the disciples, reflecting on Jesusʾ death, believed that it could not have been the end, and came to faith that God had raised him up; but in the Jewish context, and in the context of the fact of the crucifixion, there is no serious possibility that theological theories of this kind are correct.

Already in the New Testament the theological significance of the resurrection is variously expressed: as God's vindicating Jesus and raising him to his right hand in heaven (Acts 2. 34–6); as an anticipation of the general resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4. 14); as Christ's victory over death (1 Corinthians 15. 57); and as the basis of the new life of Christians (Romans 4. 24).

Muslims deny the resurrection of Christ, believing that he did not die on the cross at all; and the Aḥmadīyya maintain that he went on to preach in India, and believe that they can identify his tomb.


views updated May 17 2018

Resurrection (Lat., resurgo, ‘I arise’). The destiny of the dead in the restoration to them of bodies through which their continuing identity can be expressed. The belief occurs especially in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, the belief that people will ultimately be raised from the dead is not found in the Hebrew scriptures until the end of the biblical period. However, by the rabbinic period, the doctrine had become a central tenet of the Jewish religion. In rabbinic thought the doctrine involved reward and punishment for the whole nation, and a belief that body and soul are indivisible and both will be resurrected. Later Jewish philosophers continued to disagree on the details. In general, Progressive Judaism has abandoned the doctrine of the resurrection of the body in favour of belief in the immortality of the soul, but it remains a basic tenet of Orthodoxy.

In Christianity, the belief in resurrection rests partly in the teaching attributed to Jesus and in the debates in the Jewish context of the time, but much more in the resurrection of Christ. This produced the traditional teaching that at the parousia of Christ departed souls will be restored to a bodily life, and the saved will enter in this renewed form upon the life of heaven.

For Resurrection in Islam (Arab., baʿth, nushūr), see YAUM AL-QIYĀMA; YAUM AL-DIN.


views updated May 14 2018


The central claim of Christianity, that the pre-existent Son of God was incarnated in the man Jesus, that Jesus was the Christ (or Anointed One), and that Jesus died an agonizing death and three days later came back to life in the flesh. Underlying Christianity is a belief in the goodness of material creation and the necessity of a body for a human individual to be a complete person. Future existence will be in a "spiritual body," though there is some disagreement as to what the Apostle Paul means by that term (I Cor. 15:44). Jesus in his resurrected body, as recorded in the gospel accounts and the books of Acts, had what appeared to be a physical body. He ate food and invited Thomas to touch his body. Again, he did extraordinary things such as suddenly appear in a closed room.

Many Spiritualists' and Christians' acceptance of Spiritualist claims have argued for "resurrection" in what might be termed an astral or light body, a non-corporeal body suitable for life in an existence analogous to earthly life but quite distinct from the material world.

As the theory of reincarnation has become the dominant belief within the New Age community, there has been an attempt to confuse the two terms both out of ignorance of Christian belief and in an attempt to lessen the tension in a society in which the majority believe in "resurrection" in a Christian sense.


views updated May 21 2018

res·ur·rec·tion / ˌrezəˈrekshən/ • n. the action or fact of resurrecting or being resurrected: the story of the resurrection of Osiris. ∎  (the Resurrection) (in Christian belief) Christ's rising from the dead. ∎  (the Resurrection) (in Christian belief) the rising of the dead at the Last Judgment. ∎  the revitalization or revival of something: the resurrection of the country under a charismatic leader | resurrections of long-forgotten scandals.


views updated May 29 2018

resurrection Rising of the dead to new life, either in heaven or on Earth. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all hold that at the end of the world there will come a Day of Judgement on which those worthy of eternal joy will be allowed to draw near to God, while those unworthy will be cast out into darkness. The term also applies to the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.


views updated May 14 2018

resurrection rising again of Jesus Christ from the dead or of all men at the Last Day. XIII. — (O)F. résurrection — late L. resurrēctiō, -ōn-, f. pp. stem of L. resurgere; see prec. and -TION.
Hence, by back-formation, resurrect vb. XVIII.