08 Apr Resurrection #3: How Did Old Testament Jews View the Afterlife?
Not even Judaism believed in the resurrection of an individual from death in the middle of history. Rather, their understanding was that their entire nation alone would rise from death together at the end of history. William Lane Craig’s lengthy studies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ culminated in the publishing of two scholarly books on the issue.26 Craig asserts:
“Jewish belief always concerned a resurrection at the end of the world, not a resurrection in the middle of history…The resurrection to glory and immortality did not occur until after God had terminated world history. This traditional Jewish conception was the prepossession of Jesus’ own disciples (Mark 9:9–13; John 11:24). The notion of a genuine resurrection occurring prior to God’s bringing about the world’s end would have been foreign to them…Jewish belief always concerned a general resurrection of the people, not the resurrection of an isolated individual.”27
So, amazingly, the idea of Jesus’ resurrection as a lone person in the middle of history was something that even God’s people were likely not expecting. Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was unique in every way in world history.
What difference does it make when people are suffering and dying to believe that Jesus conquered death and because of him so can other people?
26. Craig spent two years as a fellow of the Humboldt Foundation studying the resurrection of Jesus Christ at the University of Munich. See William Lane Craig, The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus During the Deist Controversy (Lewiston, ID: Edwin Mellen, 1985), and Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (Lewiston, ID: Edwin Mellen, 1989).
27. William Lane Craig, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” in Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus, ed. Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 160, emphases in original.