|Giving the best of human work to God in Malta|
© Godric Godricson
An Israelite belief in the afterlife is evident over time and amplified in II Maccabees and I Enoch. In effect, it could be argued that in the centuries immediately preceding Jesus, the idea of a bodily resurrection was well understood and would not have needed a detailed explanation. The association of death, religion and burial was already made and understood.
The question seems to be "What was it in the conceptualisation of the Resurrection of Jesus that unified earlier Jewish beliefs in a physical resurrection?" What was contained within post exilic and apocalyptic traditions which had the power to inspire gentiles with no knowledge of such religious traditions? It seems that a new facet gained prominence in Jewish beliefs surrounding resurrection as a concept and specifically in the Resurrection of Jesus. This new facet departed from the emphasis of the earlier Hebrew Bible and this new facet was the idea of ‘Hope’. The dark, vague and forbidding Sheol of the earlier Hebrew Bible was sometimes ameliorated by positive, or hopeful, images although the most optimistic post exilic and apocalyptic imagery surrounding resurrection did not contain such ideas of hope as made manifest in the Resurrection of Jesus. In this Christian death we see something better than life on earth and something to be desired,
The success of The Resurrection as an idea is that it unites ‘hope’ with ‘justice’ and ideas of theodicy. It may be that an early belief in God; without hope of reward is subsequently seasoned by ideas of ‘justice’. This development in theology evidences a change in the way that the relationship between mankind and God is perceived by humanity. We now have a positive carrot to encourage humanity and to balance the stick.