November 7th, 2006


Personal: Hanging with the Nieces

Well, I've been back about a week now from babysitting Grace and Haley, but it took me that long, it seems, to recover from my cuteness overdose....

On a related note, yesterday was the first birthday of my other goddaughter, Miss Sophia Grace Fleming, of the Jackson Hole Flemings....
I See You!

Theological Notebook: A Peter Steinfels Article on a New Book on Resurrection in Judaism

I've noticed as well in teaching that resurrection is an idea that even the historicity of which (as an idea) is something a number of students have trouble wrapping their heads around. They keep wanting to morph it into the Greek "immortality of the soul" and frequently think that that is what Christianity teaches. Despite repeated clarifications, I just corrected it in a student assignment last night, where a student had corrected Paul of Tarsus on that point, because he couldn't be saying what he appeared to be saying in 1 Corinthians 15....

The Case for What ‘Comes as a Shock to Most Jews and Christians Alike’

Published: September 30, 2006

Correction Appended

In classical Judaism, resurrection of the dead was a central belief, essential to defining oneself as a Jew. “Today,” writes Jon D. Levenson, professor of Jewish studies at Harvard, that fact “comes as a shock to most Jews and Christians alike.”

Apart from the Orthodox minority, most Jews, including those who acknowledge belief in the resurrection as a part of Judaism’s historical legacy, seem to rush by the idea as quickly as possible, rendering it perhaps as a metaphor for how one’s good works live on, but in any case ushering it to the margins of their tradition, a minor and dispensable theme in a Judaism that focuses on life.

Resurrection of the dead, it is argued, is a Johnny-come-lately notion, not found in the ancient texts of the Hebrew Bible, which treated mortality matter-of-factly. Instead, the doctrine was an innovation of the Maccabean period, found in the Book of Daniel, written between 167 and 164 B.C.E, when faithful Jews were being persecuted by the Hellenistic monarch Antiochus IV. With ideas borrowed from Zoroastrianism and other foreign sources, resurrection solved the puzzle of understanding divine justice when fidelity to the Law brought about not prosperity and length of years but martyrdom.

Professor Levenson’s new book, “Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life” (Yale University Press), is a frontal challenge to this account. But the reasons that it has become a staple of modern Jewish apologetics, he allows, “are not hard to find.”

On the one hand, the rejection or marginalization of resurrection offered a clear distinction between Judaism and a Christianity that celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus as the ground for human hope. On the other hand, it simultaneously aligned Judaism with the naturalistic and scientific outlook of modernity “of the sort that dismisses resurrection as an embarrassing relic of the childhood of humanity.”

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