The Resurrection Wrangle

As Jesus taught in the Temple in Jerusalem, representatives from various religious sects came to hear Him. Their intent was to find fault with His responses to their questions. For one of these sects, the Sadducees, the only religious authority was the Five Books of Moses, known as Torah. The Sadducees accepted no other Hebrew Scriptures; viewed with contempt the oral traditions and interpretations of the rabbis; and placed no belief in a future life, final judgment, or resurrection.

On the other side of the spectrum were the Pharisees, mostly rabbis and learned individuals who believed all the Scriptures plus the traditions of the elders and rabbinic commentaries. They also believed in a resurrection. In fact, the doctrine of the resurrection comes from the Hebrew Scriptures and is even expressed in some Jewish prayers today.

Most Pharisees viewed the resurrection as a fundamental teaching. Based on Isaiah 26:19, they taught, “By means of the ‘dew of resurrection’ the dead will be aroused from their sleep” (Jerusalem Talmud Ber. v. 9b).

It was through their influence that belief in a resurrection was expressed in Jewish liturgy, especially during funeral services. Another example is the following section from an old morning prayer: “As long as it is within me I will give homage to Thee, O divine Master, Lord of all spirits, who givest back the soul to dead bodies” (Talmud Ber. 60b).

Yet the issue of the resurrection was contentious. While in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul stood before a hostile Sanhedrin council, noticing that half the people there were Sadducees and the other half, Pharisees (Acts 23:1–6). Suddenly he shouted, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” (v. 6). The outburst caused an angry dispute between the groups, and the whole assembly became divided into two factions over the matter.

Today Bible-believing Christians hold fast to what traditionally was the Jewish doctrine of the resurrection. It was Paul, from the tribe of Benjamin, who wrote, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). He continued:

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed––in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised….Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (vv. 51–52, 54; cf. Isa. 25:8).

Some may wrangle about the resurrection; but we rejoice because Christ, indeed, has been raised from the dead!

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