The Afterlife Views and the Use of the TaNaKh in Support of the Resurrection Concept in the Literature of Second Temple Period Judaism: The Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Religion, Old Testament Studies PhD

First Advisor

Jacques B. Doukhan

Second Advisor

Richard M. Davidson

Third Advisor

Robert M. Johnston


The literature of Second Temple Period Judaism indicates there was an increased interest in and speculation about the fate of the righteous and the wicked following their physical death. This period saw the birth of multiple Jewish sects and also multiple views of the afterlife. This study will outline the numerous afterlife views and will analyse the resurrection passages appearing in the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha to gain a comprehensive overview of the texts used from the TaNaKh in support of these various resurrection beliefs. This study also provides a better understanding of how the TaNaKh was read by differing communities during this important period and the role the TaNaKh played in the development of the resurrection belief – a central article of faith in both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.

Appendix A of this study provides a comprehensive list of resurrection passages from Second Temple period literature, compiled from the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha which are categorized and analyzed. Anthologies of the listed passages are also provided to show the larger context of each resurrection statement. Appendix B lists resurrection passages also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament, and Early Rabbinic material.

In addition to outlining the numerous afterlife views, this study provides comprehensive examinations of the resurrection passages that either refer or allude to texts from the TaNaKh in support of a resurrection belief. This gives a better understanding of the role the TaNaKh played in the development of the resurrection belief and reveals which TaNaKh passages were considered a resurrection passage by authors and/or communities who produced these Second Temple period compositions. Primary findings, their implications and some general observations are also discussed.

This study identifies eighteen distinct views regarding “life-after-death” with varying degrees of complexity, suggesting great diversity in resurrection beliefs during this period. There is also no progress from a basic to a more complex death and resurrection view, as differing levels of complexity are represented throughout the period. Thus, there is no linear development of the resurrection belief, but rather, multiple views co-existed, although an eschatological bodily resurrection belief became the central tenet for both Rabbinic Judaism and the Early Christian Church. There seems to be no evidence in this literature in support of a shift in focus from a bodily resurrection towards the immortality of the soul, as the fate of both the body and soul seem to be of great interest to the authors and the communities to which they belonged. Several influencing factors are identified as causing the many resurrection perspectives, such as, human anthropology, the nature of the soul, scope of the resurrection, number and function of the Judgments, and the final destination of the righteous and the wicked.

A careful reading of these resurrection passages in the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha reveals that most of the distinct views on “life-after-death,” regardless of their complexity, are often supported by several key passages from the TaNaKh or shared motifs with the TaNaKh. It is suggested that future analysis of these key passages from the TaNaKh may shed further light on how literary works from this period interpreted, understood, used, and reused the TaNaKh. It may even determine if the resurrection belief is indeed present in these texts (based on good exegesis) or if this belief was read into these texts by Second Temple Period authors (an example of eisegesis). Based on preliminary observations, some of these resurrection concepts seem to derive naturally from the TaNaKh, while others seem to be based on an interpretation or a more elaborate exegesis. Yet, other usages seems a bit more forced, and in those cases the TaNaKh appears to be considered a source of proof-texts, seemingly often disregarding the larger context of the text quoted or alluded to. Early Second Temple period resurrection texts seem to be supported by a creative use of the TaNaKh while late Second Temple Period, early Christian, and Rabbinic texts seems to utilize more proof-texting – some of which were used by several literary works in support of their unique perspective on the afterlife.

An awareness of Second Temple period literature is helpful for gaining a better understanding of the death and afterlife views presented in the New Testament and in Early Rabbinic literature, as it shows they are a part of the larger discussion taking place during this critical period. Table 45 provides a list of the TaNaKh passages which were either referred or alluded to in the context of the resurrection statements surveyed from the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha. Table 46 centers on the 18 distinct afterlife views and indicates which views are supported by the TaNaKh. These two tables give an indication of the number of TaNaKh texts which were perceived as resurrection texts and the texts which were most often referred or alluded to.

Subject Area

Future life, Resurrection (Jewish theology), Death in rabbinical literature, Apocryphal books (Old Testament)

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