The Resurrection of Jesus

As Easter Sunday approaches, I think it is important for Christians to be reminded of the importance of the resurrection and some of the historical evidences that can be used to booster and defend their faith. Thus, I thought it fitting this week to post an essay on the resurrection of Jesus. Blessings!


The Christian faith is a story about God’s relationship with humans culminating in the life, ministry and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the emphasis of the Christian faith is on knowing Jesus. The apostle Paul was such a man who, after his conversion to “the Way”[1] (Acts 9), devoted his life to knowing Jesus. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, who were boasting about possessing worldly wisdom, that he “decided to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2 CSB). Later, while in prison he writes to the church at Philippi, “My goal is to know him [Jesus] and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead” (Phil 3:10-11).

Paul fixed his eyes on Jesus and his resurrection and this is what compelled him to travel the known world preaching the good news of Jesus even while experiencing severe trials. He describes his hardships by writing,

Five times I received the forty lashes minus one from the Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, and dangers among false brothers; toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and without clothing. Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me (2 Cor 11:24-28).

In view of Paul’s faith and life, his statements concerning the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15 are that much more remarkable. He explains that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then he and others are “false witness of God,” and their faith is in “vain” and “worthless,” and they should be “pitied more than anyone” (1 Cor 15:14-19). Obviously, Paul was convinced that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and so Paul’s ἀπολογία (apologia) “defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15) centered on the resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the belief of this writer is that Christians should also be so convinced by the resurrection that it also transforms their lives. Such a confidence can be cultivated by exploring the pertinent historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

1 Corinthians 15:3-5

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Paul offers that which is viewed as a modified early Christian creed that he received from the first disciples of Jesus. Likely, Paul received this creed sometime as early as his instruction in Damascus and as late as his visit to Jerusalem in A.D. 36. Therefore, most scholars agree that this is an early tradition that formed within the first five years after the death of Jesus.[2] Paul writes,

For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me (1 Cor 15:3-5).

As is evident in Paul’s statement, the emphasis of the earliest Christian preaching and teaching was on the resurrection of Jesus. This is supported by the earliest sermons given by the apostles as described in the book of Acts. For example, while giving a sermon at Pentecost, Peter states, “God raised him [Jesus] up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death” (Acts 2:24).[3] NT Wright comments, “There is no evidence for a form of early Christianity in which the resurrection was not a central belief. Nor was this belief, as it were, bolted on to Christianity at the edge. It was the central driving force, informing the whole movement.”[4] In view of the resurrection as the central event contributing to the rise of Christian movement, this discussion turns to the evidence of the resurrection.

There are many historical evidences that can be given for the resurrection of Jesus, which are too numerous to discuss here, but using Paul’s creedal form, William Lane Craig presents a narrowed case for the historicity of the resurrection by identifying three solid evidential facts: “the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances and the origin of the Christian faith.”[5]

Death, Burial and the Empty Tomb

Paul’s creedal form states, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried. According to Douglas Groothuis, the crucifixion of Jesus and his subsequent death is an irrefutable fact of history. He explains that New Testament scholars of all stripes agree that there is no reason to question the historicity of Jesus’ death as described in the biblical and extrabiblical accounts.[6] In regard to Jesus being buried, there are multiple attestations from independent sources that claim that Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. The burial by Joseph appears independently in Mark’s gospel account, and it is considered part of the other source materials behind the accounts of Matthew, Luke, John and Acts. The burial account also appears in the noncanonical Gospel of Peter.[7] Furthermore, scholars argue that the burial account is authentic based on the mentioning of Joseph of Arimathea. “According to the late New Testament scholar Raymond Brown, Jesus’ burial by Joseph is “very probable”, since it is “almost inexplicable” why Christians would make up a story about a Jewish Sanhedrist who does what is right by Jesus.”[8]

Therefore, if the death and burial accounts of Jesus are historically reliable, then the location of Jesus’ tomb would have been known, and if the tomb was identifiable by both Jesus’ followers and the Jews, then this supports that Jesus’ tomb was found empty. Jesus’ followers would not have gone out and preached concerning an empty tomb, if they knew that Jesus’ body was still in the tomb, and the Jews, upon hearing about the preaching by Jesus’ followers, would not have believed if the body was still in the tomb. Also, the Jews would not have accused the apostles of stealing the body (Matt 28:11-15) if the tomb had not been found empty. Lastly, the empty tomb accounts portray women discovering the empty tomb which is significant considering that at the time women were not regarded as credible witness nor could they give legal testimony. This supports the historical credibility of the empty tomb because if the empty tomb account was a fabricated story, then one would expect that male followers would have been credited with discovering the empty tomb.[9]

The Resurrection Appearances

In view of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 concerning Jesus’ resurrection appearances, William Lane Craig writes, “this is a truly remarkable claim. We have an indisputably authentic letter of a man personally acquainted with the first disciples, and he reports that they actually saw Jesus alive after his death. More than that, he says that he himself also saw an appearance of Jesus.”[10] Beyond Paul’s mentioning of the resurrection appearances, the gospel accounts give multiple, independent testimonies concerning Jesus’ postmortem appearances.[11] These appearances are described as tangible and embodied visitations. They were not apparitions, visions or hallucinations, but rather they were real external world experiences.  Jesus occupied space, he was touched, he ate with his followers and he walked with and taught them.[12]

Paul writes that Jesus appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive. This certainly is an enticement by Paul for his readers to question the witnesses. Paul appeals to the appearance to James who was Jesus’ brother and who was a skeptic of Jesus. Scholars point to this resurrection appearance as the key element to James’ conversion, and vice versa, James’ conversion and expedient leadership role in the Jerusalem church is evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. Lastly, Paul mentions his own experience with the resurrected Jesus. An experience that is credited for his radical life change from that of a respected Jewish rabbi and pharisee who was responsible for the execution of Christians in order to attempt to stamp out the perceived heretical sect. In other words, Paul’s conversion and life alone are considered strong evidences for the resurrection of Jesus.[13]

The Origin of the Christian Faith

The rise and persistence of the Christian movement is difficult to explain without the resurrection of Jesus. The disciples of Jesus spent years follow their rabbi and had great hopes for a messianic reign. They experienced the power and the momentum of Jesus’ ministry, but this all came to a halt when Jesus was arrested and crucified. Jesus’ disciples must have slid into despair and confusion facing the reality that everything they had experienced the last few years was over. They were abruptly forced to move on, trying to make sense of Jesus and their own lives. Craig writes, “It is difficult to overemphasize what a disaster the crucifixion was for the disciples’ faith. Jesus’ death on the cross spelled the humiliating end for any hopes they had entertained that he was the Messiah.”[14] The Jesus movement appeared to be another crushed, false messianic movement.

However, the New Testament presents an amazing transformation of the disciples from devastated and hopeless to confident and joyful. Rather than sulking in misery, they became proclaimers of good news. Something amazing had happen, and the disciples were once again willing to forsake all and follow Jesus even to the point of persecution and martyrdom. Once again, the Jesus movement was alive and robust, and this was not a delusional revival by a few Jesus enthusiasts, but rather it was based on the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances. Christianity would not have spread with such fervor throughout the Roman empire without the resurrection. Commenting on the significance of the resurrection in the rise of Christianity, C.F.D. Moule writes, “the birth and the rapid rise of the Christian church therefore remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the church itself.”[15]

In conclusion, there is good evidence for the historicity of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, ascension and future return. This is something that Christians should enthusiastically proclaim in the Easter statement, “He has risen!…the Lord had risen indeed!” Also, this common liturgical statement, “Therefore, we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again!” As well as the statement within the Nicene Creed which states, “For our sake he [Jesus] was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” The resurrection is a vital part of the Christ faith, and so let us celebrate wholeheartedly on Easter Day.

[1] “the way” was an early designation for the Christian movement. See Acts 9:2. [2] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection.” [3] See also: Acts 3:15, 3:26, 5:30, 10:40, 13:34. [4] N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 133 quoted by Douglas R. Groothuis, Christian Apologetics : A Comprehensive Case for Biblical (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 529. [5] Craig, Reasonable, EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection.” [6] Groothuis, Christian, 540. [7] Craig, Reasonable, EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Fact of the Empty Tomb.” [8] Raymond E. Brown, The death of the Messiah, 2 vols. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1994), 2:1240-41 cited by Craig, Reasonable, EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Fact of the Empty Tomb.” [9] Craig, Reasonable, EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Fact of the Empty Tomb.” [10] Craig, Reasonable, EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Postmortem Appearances.” [11] Craig, Reasonable, EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Postmortem Appearances.” [12] Groothuis, Christian, 546. [13] Craig, Reasonable, EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Postmortem Appearances.” [14] Craig, Reasonable, EPUB edition, pt. 5, ch. 8, “The Fact of the Origin of the Christian Faith.”[15] C.F.D Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament (Naperville, IL: Alec R. Allenson, 1967), 13 quoted by Groothuis, Christian, 552.

Comparative Studies and Biblical Interpretation

There are those who argue that comparative studies leads to the admittance of historical information that can be misconstrued in such a way as to muddy the interpretative process. Critical scholars and postmodern deconstructionist use comparative evidence as a means to de-canonize or deconstruct the biblical text. Postmodern deconstructionist argue that historical texts are always interacting with one another and eventually they either undermine one another or one text is deconstructed by the other. For example, the flood stories in Gilgamesh Epic and in Genesis are put under the deconstructive lens, and the result is that they undermine themselves, and a worldwide flood becomes a mythical event. Deconstructionism touches the New Testament when the Gospel of Thomas and the traditional synoptic gospels are compared and the outcome, for the deconstructionist, results in a deconstructed Jesus that would be unnoticeable to his early followers. Thus, some confessional scholars resist the “slippery slope” of comparative studies. [1]

I agree with the assessment that comparative studies can often cause more problems than solutions when it comes to understanding the biblical text. Critical scholars may misrepresent historical evidence or present incomplete historical evidence. They may not acknowledge their presuppositions, and so the outcomes of their historical investigation will reflect their preunderstandings. However, we should not throw the comparative studies baby out with the bath water, but rather we need to change our approach.

We should recognize the limitations of modernism and the de-dramatizing of the Bible. The modern mindset emphasizes scientific investigation through the use of biblical criticism and historical methods, but this modern endeavor has failed at delivering on its promises of universal truth, reason and knowledge. Yet many biblical scholars continue to use the same modern approach and are surprised when comparative studies turns and bites them.

I argue that we should engage in comparative studies, but while doing so, we should move beyond the modern ethos and accept some of the tenets of postmodernism. We should embrace postmodernism’s focus on individual and community narratives, but with the perspective that, as Christians, our individual and community stories are contextualized in God’s metanarrative. Christians should argue for God’s metanarrative of salvation and redemption of humanity through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. God has ultimately revealed his good news story through language in the form of Holy writ, and so when we engage in comparative studies, we should proceed with a theo-drama perspective. The comparative data should not be used to scientifically or historically boost one’s position over another in order to arrive at objective knowledge, but rather it should be viewed as the theatrical background stuff that bolsters our understanding and our experience of the theo-drama.  

[1] John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 36.

Ancient Near East Comparative Studies

John Walton, in his book entitled Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, gives reasons for Bible readers to engage in Ancient Near East (ANE) comparative study. He explains that historical written documents are formed within a cultural context; therefore, language is developed, understood and practiced as a social construct, and so for interpreters to accurately understand any form of communication, they must recognize the sociocultural setting where the communicable act transpired.[1] When Bible readers engage in comparative studies, they will better understand the theatrical backdrop to God’s drama of redemption.

Adonai announced himself as the one, true and eternal God, and he made redemption promises to a particular people and entered into a covenant relationship with them. This all took place during a specific time and at a specific place in the history of the world. God set the historical and cultural stage and acted out his part of the drama. He spoke his script within the context of the Ancient Near East (ANE), and he used humans to speak and write his speech-act. These human theo-drama communicators and actors were surrounded by and entrenched in various ANE cultures, and so they adapted and shared ANE cultural norms and assumptions in the development of the script, but this all took place under the guidance of the divine playwright.

Therefore, if Bible readers want to understand, appreciate and partake in the drama of redemption, then it behooves them to study ANE history of which the drama is located. Comparative studies allows Bible readers to explore the events, lifestyles, literature and languages of the ANE[2] in order to bridge the ancient-contemporary gap of the theo-drama.  

In view of my positive assessment for engaging in Comparative studies, there are some challenging questions that need to be asked with regard to the doctrines of revelation and inspiration. The Judeo-Christian faith claims that the one, true, eternal, creator God has revealed himself in a unique way to his chosen people, but with the discovery of other similar ANE writings, ideas and experiences (i.e. creation stories, flood stories, etc.), some scholars question whether the Judeo-Christian faith is unique at all. Did God really reveal himself to the Hebrew people? Are the Hebrew scriptures merely human cultural or experiential accounts within the ANE contextual setting? Did the Hebrew people adapt stories from other ANE cultures?

These type of questions would need to be explored at a deeper level than what this post has set out to accomplish, but suffice it to say, regardless of the similarities with other ANE documents, the Hebrew scriptures present a unique account and experience of God’s relationship with the Hebrew people. The Hebrew scriptures present a strong argument for the relational God of the Hebrews being the one, true, eternal, creator God within the ANE religious pluralistic and polytheistic context. God’s redemptive promises and his relational covenants are what drives the narrative of the Hebrew scriptures, and his redemptive plan for humanity sets the faith of the Hebrews apart from the other ANE religions. The other ANE religions seem to be individualistic affairs with an impersonal god; whereas, the Hebrew faith is a community relationship with a loving God.

[1] John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 20-21. [2] Ibid., 28.

Old Testament Relevance For Christians

Paul writes to the church at Rome, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). Here Paul refers to the Old Testament scriptures and emphasizes their importance for Christian communities. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul is referring primarily to the Old Testament scriptures when he writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The apostle Paul is writing to Timothy, who is a leader in the early Christian church, instructing him concerning the relevance of the Old Testament scriptures to the life and ministry of the church. In Paul’s view, the Old Testament scriptures are the words of God and so does not cease in its relevance. This relevance extends to the present day; however, this is not to say that there are not temporal elements of the Old Testament. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart rightly point out that “all of the Old Testament law is still the Word of God for us even though it is not still the command of God to us.”[1] There are Old Testament laws, commands and covenant obligations that were important and vital for the Jews and are not to be applied to the Christian church, but this is not license to ignore the Old Testament because there are also universal and permanent elements that exist within its pages. Martin Davie writes,

The task of the Christian reader of the Old Testament is thus to discern how in any given part of the Old Testament the good that is willed by God for all people at all times and everywhere is revealed in and through what is contingent and to think how this universal good applies to us as Christians today in our own particular contingent historical situation.[2]

Moreover, God wants people to read and understand the Old Testament because he reveals himself through it. A robust doctrine of God is developed throughout the Old Testament revealing his attributes, character and relationship with humanity. This Old Testament theology is the foundation for the New Testament. Readers of the Old Testament encounter many theological themes that continue into the New Testament (i.e. holiness of God, sin of man, sacrifice, reconciliation, redemption, etc.). Thus, the Old Testament prepares readers for the New Testament. The New Testament was never meant to stand alone because the doctrines presented therein are supplemental and complementary to the doctrines in the Old Testament. “Christianity is incomprehensible without Judaism, and the authenticity of the Second Testament depends on its congruity with the First.”[3]

Another response addressing the relevance of the Old Testament for Christians is christological in nature. Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished” (Matt 5:17-18 NIV). Also, Jesus comments to the Jewish teachers of his day, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39 NIV). The Old Testament is a collection of writings that are filled with prophecies about a future messiah. From beginning to end (Gen 3:15 to Mal 4:1) the Old Testament points to the life and ministry of Christ. The early Christian church regularly set their focus on the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Christ in order to understand God’s salvation in light of Jesus’ life and ministry. They found that Jesus fulfilled all the unfilled messianic prophecies and satisfied all the unsatisfied longings for redemption.[4]

In order to have a proper Christology in the present day, individuals should heed the words of Jesus and follow the example of the early church and turn to the Old Testament. A better understanding of the messianic promises located in the Old Testament will help Christians better appreciate all that Jesus achieved in his life and ministry. The apostle Paul explains to the church at Corinth that the Israelites have a veil over their hearts concerning to the deeper truths of God within the Hebrew Scriptures, but for those who are in Christ the veil has been lifted and the Holy Spirit leads them into all truth, and they are set free being transformed into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:13-16). Therefore, Christians should take advantage of this removing of the veil from their hearts and explore the Old Testament to the glory of God.

[1 Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: a Guide to Understanding the Bible (G.K. Hall, 1993), 153. [2] Martin Davie, Our Inheritance of Faith: a Commentary on the Thirty Nine Articles (Gilead Books Publ., 2013), 278. [3] W. H. Griffith Thomas. The Principles of Theology: an Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles (Wipf and Stock, 2005), 141. [4] Ibid., 136.

Post-Exilic Literature

During the post-exilic period (or Second Temple Judaism), the common belief was that the the prophetic presence of God was absent, meaning that throughout the following years, God was silent and no other holy writings were added to the Hebrew scriptures. This was the period when several Jewish writings were produced, and these writings may have been developed from Jewish tradition of folklore with a desire to add revelatory material during the silent years.[1] The terms “apocrypha” and “pseudepigrapha” are used to define these writings.

The word apocrypha is derived from the greek word ἀπόκρυφος (apokryphos) which means “hidden.”[2] The verb form is ἀποκρύπτω (apokryptō) which means “to hide or conceal,” “hidden,” “kept secret.”[3]  This term was used widely in Greek and Hellenistic religions and philosophies and was often used to refer to esoteric knowledge or the secrecies and mysteries of the cults. In Gnostic philosophy, ἀπόκρυφος (apokryphos) becomes more of a “technical term for secret books or inscriptions.”[4] While it is unclear how the word ἀπόκρυφος (apokryphos) came to refer to the postexilic Jewish writings, early christians writers such as Irenaeus and Jerome were among the first to use the term in reference to these writings.[5] Over time protestants used the term Old Testament Apocrypha to refer to the collection of Jewish writings that were translated into greek and included in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) and the Latin Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Hebrew scriptures). While they were included in the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, they were never considered by ancient Judaism as holy scripture and part of the canon of Hebrew scripture. Thus, the terms “noncanonical” and “extracanonical” are used by many scholars when referring to these writings.[6]

The Old Testament Apocrypha from a protestant perspective generally consists of fifteen books and have often been grouped into four categories: Historical (1 Esdras, 1-2 Maccabees), Religious (Tobit, Judith, Susanna, Additions to Esther, Bel and the Dragon), Wisdom (Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, Prayer of Manasseh, Epistle of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah) and Apocalyptic (2 Esdras).[7]

The word pseudepigrapha is derived from the greek word ψευδεπίγραφος (pseudepigraphos) which is formed by two greek words ψευδής (pseudḗs) meaning “false” or “lying.”[8] and ἐπιγραφή (epigraphḗ) meaning “inscription” or “superscription.”[9] Thus, ψευδεπίγραφος (pseudepigraphos) means “false superscription or title.” The post-exilic Jewish writings referred to as the pseudepigrapha are writings that are falsely attributed to characters in the Hebrew scriptures and have been considered “spurious and inauthentic in their overall content.”[10] These books were never included in the canon of Hebrew scriptures and were rejected as canonical by a majority of scholars throughout the centuries. There is no specific list of pseudepigraphal writings, but some scholars have suggested a collection containing sixty-three books.[11]

In view of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings, Pate el al. organize and suggest four categories for some of these writings in order to demonstrate the importance of these writings to one’s historical and theological understanding. 1) Theocratic-writings emphasizing returning back to the Mosaic code in order to have God enthroned as king (1 Maccabees, Sirach, Baruch, Psalms of Solomon). 2) Apocalyptic-writings focusing on the age to come or the kingdom of God descending to earth from heaven (Testament of Moses, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch). 3) Apologetic-writings that provide a defense of Judaism in Hellenistic terms before gentile audiences (The Wisdom of Solomon, The Third Sibylline Oracle, The Letter of Aristeas, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, 4 Maccabees and Philo). 4) Sectarian Apocalyptic-writings that are apocalyptic in nature but are presented from the perspective of a certain separatist community (1 Enoch, Jubilees, Dead Sea Scrolls).[12]

Pate et al. further argue that within the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writings, the story of Israel (or the Deuteronomistic tradition) and the pattern of sin-exile-restoration is represented and pervasive throughout these writings.[13] Therefore, these writings provide important information concerning the history, religion and social dimensions of Judaism during the intertestamental period. They reveal the ongoing internal struggle of the Jewish people as well as their ongoing experiences of foreign invaders attempting to destroy them. Theologically, they portray a consistent view of God’s sovereignty over history, his judgment over those who have rebelled against him and his future righteous kingdom for those who love him.[14] Lastly, they show “how doctrines developed in relationship to the New Testament. Several concepts particularly developed and expanded are the Torah, the apocalyptic view of history, the kingdom of God, messianic expectations, the Son of man, this age versus the age to come, and sin and suffering versus righteousness and peace.”[15] 

[1] Paul D. Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: the Origin and Development of the Bible (Baker Academic, 2004), 119-120. [2] Walter Bauer et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 93. [3] Ibid., 93. [4] Gerhard Kittel and Gerald Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Abridged In One Volume by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 476. [5] Norman L.Geisler, and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible (Moody Press, 1983), 264. [6] Wegner, The Journey, 121.[7] Ibid., 121. [8] Bauer, A Greek-English, 899. [9] Ibid., 291. [10] Geisler and Nix, A General, 262. [11] Wegner, The Journey, 129. [12] Marvin C. Pate et al. The Story of Israel: a Biblical Theology (InterVarsity Press, 2004), 106-116. [13] Ibid., 107. [14] Wegner, The Journey, 129. [15] Ibid., 129.


The Remnant and Post-Exilic Challenges

While the Jews were in exile under the Babylonians, the Persians arrived on the scene and overthrew the Babylonians. As a result of the new ruling Persian regime led by Cyrus, the Jews faced less oppression. In fact, Cyrus issued a decree that the Jewish community was to be restored by their returning to Jerusalem and by their building of the temple. Ezra 1:2-3 states,

This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them.

Therefore, Cyrus commissioned Sheshbazzar to lead the temple building project in Jerusalem with the assumption that many of the Jews would return along with Sheshbazzar. However, not many Jews initially returned to Jerusalem. This may be due to the fact that Jerusalem was a long distance away and the journey would have been difficult and dangerous. There may have been other motivational factors that played a role in the low amount of Jews returning. While the temple endeavor was uncertain at best, the Persian empire was growing more powerful and secure, and so many Jews had become comfortable under the new Persian empire and were not enthusiastic about the ambiguous nature of moving to Jerusalem. Furthermore, they were able to participate in business within the Persian empire resulting in financial and material growth, and so they were unwilling to give up their status and position.[1]

Once in Jerusalem, the returning Jews quickly began to build the temple, but when faced with a lack of workers and resources, they began to experience frustration, disappointment and discouragement. Their morale hit a dangerously low point and remained apathetic for several years to the point where the construction of the temple came to a halt. As mission and hope surrendered to discouragement, the Jews began to slip into syncretism. The line between worship of God and pagan ritual began to blur.[2] Even after the temple was finally completed, the expected restoration was not experienced. In fact, God did not come and fill the temple which indicated that “this return to the land did not result in a return to the Deuteronomic blessings of life in the land promised in Deuteronomy. The old covenant arrangement was gone.”[3] A new covenant was needed and it was on the hopeful horizon.    

[1] John Bright, A History of Israel (Westminster J. Knox Press, 2000), 382.

[2] Ibid., 384-388.

[3] Marvin C. Pate et al., The Story of Israel: a Biblical Theology (InterVarsity Press, 2004), 100.