The Bearing of New Philological Data on the Subjects of Resurrection and Immortality in the Old Testament -- By: Elmer B. Smick

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 31:1 (Nov 1968)
Article: The Bearing of New Philological Data on the Subjects of Resurrection and Immortality in the Old Testament
Author: Elmer B. Smick


The Bearing of New Philological Data on the Subjects of Resurrection and Immortality in the Old Testament

Elmer Smick

The consensus of critical opinion still insists that emergent belief in the resurrection of the dead was a thing unattested in the literature of preexilic Israel. John Bright, a conservative among critics, says, “The idea of a resurrection begins to appear sporadically and tentatively in later Biblical literature, and by the second century was a well-established belief.”1

H. H. Rowley admits resurrection may be in view in Job 19:26, 27 but only as “a momentary resurrection to witness his (Job’s) vindication.”2 Dan 12:2 is taken by many to be the only verse anywhere in the Old Testament which deals with the resurrection of the body and it is attributed to the second century. As for immortality Rowley sees “no uniform or sure faith in the afterlife that is meaningful, but there are…reachings out after such a faith”3 in certain Psalms.

But now with the publication of The Anchor Bible, Vol. 16, the Jesuit Michell Dahood with skillful use of the newer source materials, especially Ugaritic, proposes that the Psalms are full of expressions of hope for immortality and resurrection. Dahood studiously avoids references to the New Testament use of the Psalms. Some will lament this as a weakness but apparently one purpose of the author in so doing was to convince the reader that his conclusions are based solely on evidence from the world of the Old Testament.

Some of Dahood’s conclusions are interesting. For example,

with reference to the dating of the Psalms he maintains that the old methods (still being used) of alleged literary dependence and historical allusions can no longer be considered valid because the psalmists and prophets were indebted to an ancient literary tradition that went deep into the second millennium. An examination of the vocabulary of Psa 2 and 110, Dahood says, “reveals that virtually every word, image and parallelism are now reported in Bronze Age Canaanite texts.”4 He therefore tentatively dates them to the tenth century.

Here Dahood treats literary criticism in only a cursory fashion directing his attention to the interpretation of the Psalms wit...

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