|« Prev||Appendix to Lecture V. The Old Testament Doctrine…||Next »|
APPENDIX TO LECTURE V.
THE OLD TESTAMENT DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY.
The views advanced in the Lecture have an important bearing on the much discussed question of the Old Testament doctrine of immortality. The statement is often made that the Old Testament, especially in the older books, has no distinct doctrine of Immortality. Many explanations have been offered of this difficulty, but I would humbly suggest that the real explanation may be that we have been looking for evidence of that doctrine in a wrong direction. We have been looking for a doctrine of “the immortality of the soul” in the sense of the schools, whereas the real hope of patriarchs and saints, so far as they had one, was, in accordance with the Biblical doctrine already explained, that of restored life in the body.417417The view defended in this Appendix will be found indicated in Hofmann’s Schriftbeweis, iii. pp. 461–477; and Dr. P. Fairbairn’s Typology of Scripture, 3rd ed. i. pp. 343–359.
The early Hebrews had no manner of doubt, any more than we have, that the soul, or spiritual part of man, survived the body.418418Cf. Max Müller, Anthropological Religion, on “Belief on Immortality in the Old Testament,” pp. 367, 377. It would be strange if they had, for every other ancient people is known to have had this belief. The Egyptians, e.g., taught that the dead descended to an under-world, where they were judged by Osiris and his forty-two assessors.419419Cf. Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 195, 196; Budge, Dwellers on the Nile (“By-Paths of Bible Knowledge” Series), chap. ix.; Vigoroux’s La Bible et les Decouvertes modernes, iii. pp. 133–141. The Babylonians and Assyrians conceived of the abode of the dead as a great city having seven encircling walls, and a river flowing round or through it.420420Cf. the Descent of Ishtar, in Sayce’s Hibbert Lectures, Lecture IV.; Budge’s Babylonian Life and History (“By-Paths of Bible Knowledge” Series), pp. 140–142; Vigoroux, La Bible et les Decouvertes modernes, ill. pp. 123–132. A name they gave to this city is believed 201by some to have been “Sheol,”421421Thus F. Delitzsch, and Boscawen in British Museum Lecture on Sheol, Death, the Grave, and Immortality. But the identification is held by others to be conjectural (Schrader, Keilinschriften, il. p. 80 [Eng. trans.]; Budge, Babylonian Life and History, p. 140, etc.; Vigouroux, iii. p. 125). The Assyrian gives the name as Aralu. the same word as the Hebrew Sheol, which is the name in the Old Testament for the place of departed spirits. It is one of the merits of the Revised Version that it has in many places (why not in all?) printed this word in the text, and tells the reader in the preface that “Sheol,” sometimes in the Old Version translated “grave,” sometimes “pit,” sometimes “hell,” means definitely “the abode of departed spirits, and corresponds to the Greek ‘Hades,’ or the under-world,” and does not signify “the place of burial.” But the thought of going to “Sheol” was no comfort to the good man. The gloomy associations of death hung over this abode; it was figured as a land of silence and forgetfulness; the warm and rich light of the upper-world was excluded from it;422422Thus also in the Babylonian and Greek conceptions. Cf. Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 364; Fairbairn, Studies, “The Belief in Immortality,” pp. 190, 191. no ray of gospel light had as yet been given to chase away its gloom. The idea of “Sheol” was thus not one which attracted, but one which repelled, the mind. Men shrank from it as we do from the breath and cool shades of the charnel-house. The saint, strong in his hope in God, might believe that God would not desert him even in “Sheol”; that His presence and fellowship would be given him even there; but it would only be in moments of strong faith he could thus triumph, and in hours of despondency the gloomiest thoughts were apt to come back on him. His real trust, so far as he was able to cherish one, was that God would not leave his soul in “Sheol,” but would redeem him from that state, and restore him to life in the body.423423See passages discussed below. His hope was for resurrection. To illustrate this state of feeling and belief, in regard to the state of the separate existence of the soul, it may be well to cite one or two passages bearing on the subject. An indication of a belief in a future state of the soul is found in an expression several times met with in Genesis—“gathered to his people”—where, in every instance, the gathering to the people (in “Sheol”) is definitely distinguished from the act of burial.424424Gen. xxv. 8, 9, xxxv. 29, xlix. 29, 31, 33.202
Other evidences are afforded by the belief in necromancy, the narratives of resurrection, etc. What kind of place “Sheol” was to the popular imagination is well represented in the words of Job—
“I go whence I shall not return,
Even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death,
A land of thick darkness, as darkness itself,
A land of the shadow of death, without any order,
There was not much cheer in looking forward to an abode like this, and it is therefore not surprising that even good men, in moments of despondency, when it seemed as if God’s presence and favour were taken from them, should moan, as David did—
“Return, O Lord, deliver my soul;
Save me for Thy loving kindness’ sake
For in death there is no remembrance of Thee,
or with Hezekiah—
“Sheol cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee:
They that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth.
It is not, therefore, in this direction that we are to look for the positive and cheering side of the Old Testament hope of immortality, but in quite another. It is said we have no doctrine of Immortality in the Old Testament. But I reply, we have immortality at the very commencement—for man, as he came from the hands of his Creator, was made for immortal life. Man in Eden was immortal. He was intended to live, not to die. Then came sin, and with it death. Adam called his son Seth, and Seth called his son Enoch, which means “frail, mortal man.” Seth himself died, his son died, his son’s son died, and so the line of death goes on. Then comes an interruption, the intervention, as it were, of a higher law, a new inbreaking of immortality into a line of death. “Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.”428428Gen. v. 24. Enoch did not die. Every other life in that record ends with the statement, “and he died”; but Enoch’s is given as an exception. He did not die, but God “took” him, i.e. without death. He 203simply “was not” on earth, but he “was” with God in another and invisible state of existence.429429So, later, Elijah. His case is thus in some respects the true type of all immortality, for it is an immortality of the true personality, in which the body has as real a share as the soul. It agrees with what I have advanced in the Lecture, that it is not an immortality of the soul only that the Bible speaks of that is left for the philosophers but an immortality of the whole person, body and soul together. Such is the Christian hope, and such, as I shall now try to show, was the Hebrew hope also.
It is a current view that the doctrine of the Resurrection of the dead was a very late doctrine among the Hebrews, borrowed, as many think, from the Persians, during, or subsequent to, the Babylonian exile. Dr. Cheyne sees in it an effect of Zoroastrian influence on the religion of Israel.430430Origin of Psalter, Lecture VIII.; and papers in The Expository Times (July and August 1891) on “Possible Zoroastrian Influences on the Religion of Israel.” My opinion, on the contrary, is that it is one of the very oldest doctrines in the Bible, the form, in fact, in which the hope of immortality was held, so far as it was held, from the days of the patriarchs downward.431431Thus also Hofmann: “Nothing can be more erroneous than the opinion that the resurrection from the dead is a late idea, first entering through human reflection, the earliest traces of which, if not first given by the Parsees to the Jews, are to be met with in Isaiah and Ezekiel.”—Schriftbeweis, ii. p. 461. Cf. on this theory of Parsic influence, Pusey’s Daniel, pp. 512–517. In any case, it was a doctrine of very remote antiquity. We find traces of it in many ancient religions outside the Hebrew, an instructive testimony to the truth of the idea on which it rested. The Egyptians believed, e.g., that the reanimation of the body was essential to perfected existence; and this, according to some, was the thought that underlay the practice of embalming.432432“There is a chapter with a vignette representing the soul uniting itself to the body, and the text promises that they shall never again be separated.”—Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, p. 188. “They believed,” says Budge, “that the soul would revisit the body after a number of years, and therefore it was absolutely necessary that the body should he preserved, if its owner wished to live for ever with the gods.”—Dwellers on the Nile, p. 156. The ancient Babylonians and Assyrians also had the idea of resurrection. One of their hymns to Merodach celebrates him as the
“Merciful one among the gods,
Merciful one, who restores the dead to life.”433433Cf. Boscawen, British Museum Lecture, pp. 23, 24; Sayce, pp. 98–100; Cheyne, Origin of Psalter, p. 392. There is no evidence, however, of a general hope of resurrection.
The belief was probably also held by the Persians, though it is still a disputed question whether it is found in the older portions of the Zend-Avesta. That question is not so easily settled as Dr. Cheyne thinks;434434Cf. Pusey, pp. 512–517; and Cheyne’s own citations from recent scholars, Origin of Psalter, pp. 425, 451. M. Montet formerly held that the germs of the doctrine came from Zoroastrianism, but “in 1890, in deference, it would seem, to M. Harlez, and in opposition not less to Spiegel than to Gelder, be pronounces the antiquity of the resurrection doctrine in Zoroastrianism as yet unproven.”—Cheyne, p. 451. Cf. Schultz, Alttest. Theol. p. 762. but in any case the older references are few and ambiguous, and are totally inadequate to explain the remarkable prominence which this doctrine assumed in the Old Testament.435435Anyone can satisfy himself on this head by consulting the passages for himself in the Zend-Avesta, in Sacred Books of the East. The indices to the three volumes give only one reference to the subject, and that to one of a few undated “Miscellaneous Fragments” at the end. Professor Cheyne himself can say no more than that “Mills even thinks that there is a trace of the doctrine of the Resurrection in the Gathas. . . . He (Zoroaster) may have had a vague conception of the revival of bodies, but not a theory.”—Origin of Psalter, p. 438. The Bible has a coherent and consistent doctrine of its own upon the subject, and is not dependent on doubtful allusions in Zoroastrian texts for its clear and bold statements of the final swallowing up of death in victory. Let me briefly review some of the lines of evidence. I have referred already to the case of Enoch in the beginning of the history, as illustrative of the Biblical idea of immortality. As respects the patriarchs, the references to their beliefs and hopes are necessarily few and inferential,—a fact which speaks strongly for the early date and genuineness of the tradition. The New Testament signalises them as men of “faith,” and certainly their conduct is that of men who, accounting themselves “strangers and pilgrims” on the earth, look for a future fulfilment of the promises as of something in which they have a personal interest.436436Heb. xi. 13. Not improbably it was some hope of resurrection which inspired (as with the Egyptians) their great care for their dead, and prompted the injunctions heft by Jacob and Joseph regarding the interment of their “bones” in the hand of promise.437437Gen. i. 5, 25; Ex. xlii. 19; Heb. xi. 22. It is significant that the Epistle to the Hebrews connects Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac with his faith in a resurrection. “By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac . . . accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead; 205from whence also he did in a parable receive him back.”438438Heb. xi. 17-19; cf. Hofmann, pp. 461, 462. The Rabbis drew a curious inference from God’s word to Abraham, “I will give to thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger.”439439Gen. xvii. 8. “But it appears,” they argued, “that Abraham and the other patriarchs did not possess that land; therefore it is of necessity that they should be raised up to enjoy the good promises, else the promises of God should be vain and false. So that here we have a proof, not only of the immortality of the soul, but also of the foundation of the law—namely, the resurrection of the dead.”440440Quoted in Fairbairn i. p. 353. If this be thought fanciful, I would refer to the teaching of a greater than the Rabbis. Reasoning with the Sadducees, Jesus quotes that saying of God to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” adding, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”441441Matt. xxii. 23. The point to be observed is that Jesus quotes this passage, not simply in proof of the continued subsistence of the patriarchs in some state of being, but in proof of the resurrection of the dead. And how does it prove that? Only on the ground, which Jesus assumes, that the relation of the believer to God carries with it a whole immortality, and this, as we have seen, implies life in the body. If God is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, this covenant relation pledges to these patriarchs not only continuance of existence, but Redemption from the power of death, i.e. resurrection.
It is, however, when we come to the hater books—the Book of Job, the Psalms, the Prophets—that we get clearer light on the form which the hope of immortality assumed in the minds of Old Testament believers; and it may be affirmed with considerable confidence that this light is all, or nearly all, in favour of the identification of this hope with the hope of resurrection. I take first the Book of Job, because, whenever written, it relates to patriarchal times, or at least moves in patriarchal conditions. The first remarkable passage in this book is in chapter xiv. This chapter raises the very question we are now dealing with, and it is noteworthy that the form in which it does so is the possibility of bodily revival. First, 206Job enumerates the appearances which seem hostile to man’s living again (vers. 7-12). Then faith, rising in her very extremity, reasserts herself against doubt and fear—
“Oh that Thou wouldest hide me in Sheol
That Thou wouldest keep me secret, till Thy wrath be past,
That Thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!
If a man die, shall he live again?
All the days of my warfare would I wait,
Till my release should come.
Thou shouldest call, and I would answer Thee,
Thou wouldest have a desire to the work of Thy hands.”442442Job xiv. 13-15 (R.V.). The margin translates as in A.V., “Thou shalt call,” etc. As remarked, the form in which the question is put in this passage is as significant as the answer to it. It implies that revived existence in the body is the only form in which the patriarch contemplated immortality. Life and even sensation in Sheol are presupposed in ver. 22.
There seems no reasonable room for question that what is before Job’s mind here is the thought of resurrection. Dr. A. B. Davidson explains: “On this side death he has no hope of a return to God’s favour. Hence, contemplating that he shall die under God’s anger, his thought is that he might remain in Sheol till God’s wrath be past, for He keepeth not His anger for ever; that God would appoint him a period to remain in death, and then remember him with returning mercy, and call him back again to His fellowship. But to his mind this involves a complete return to life again of the whole man (ver. 14), for in death there is no fellowship with God (Ps. vi. 5). Thus his solution, though it appears to his mind only as a momentary gleam of light, is broader than that of the Psalmist, and corresponds to that made known in subsequent revelation.”443443Com. on Job, in loc. (Cambridge Series). I can scarcely agree that Job’s solution is broader than that of the Psalmist’s. See below.
The second passage in Job is the well-known one in chapter xix., translated in the Revised Version thus—
“But I know that my Redeemer liveth,
And that He shall stand up at the last upon the earth (Heb. dust].
And after my skin bath been thus destroyed,
Yet from my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself,
I do not enter into the many difficulties of this passage, but 207refer only to the crucial line, “Yet from my flesh shall I see God.” The margin gives as another rendering, “without my flesh,” but this is arrived at only as an interpretation of the word “from,” which is literally the one used. The natural meaning would therefore seem to be, “Yet from (or out of) my flesh shall I see God,” which implies that he will be clothed with flesh.445445Cf. Pusey, p. 508, and Vigoroux, iii. pp. 172–180. Dr. Davidson allows the admissibility of this rendering, and says: “If therefore we understand the words ‘from my flesh’ in the sense of in my flesh, we must suppose that Job anticipated being clothed in a new body after death. Something may be said for this view. Undoubtedly, in chapter xiv. 13 seq., Job clearly conceived the idea of being delivered from Sheol and living again, and fervently prayed that such a thing might be. And what he there ventured to long for, he might here speak of as a thing of which he was assured. No violence would be done to the line of thought in the book by this supposition.” Yet he thinks “it is highly improbable that the great thought of the resurrection of the body could be referred to in a way so brief,” and so prefers the rendering “without.”446446Commentary on Job, Appendix on chap. xix. 23–27, p. 292. I think, however, this is hardly a sufficient reason to outweigh the tremendously strong fact that we have already this thought of resurrection conceded in chapter xiv., and, further, that the thought of living again in the body seemed the only way in which Job there could conceive the idea of immortality. If that is so, it may explain why more stress is not laid upon resurrection here. The hope which absorbs all Job’s thought is that of “seeing God,” and the fact that, if he does so at all, he must do it “in” or “from” the flesh, is taken for granted as a thing of course.447447Dr. Davidson’s remark, “On Old Testament ground, and in the situation of Job, such a matter-of-course kind of reference is almost inconceivable” (p. 292), involves the very point at issue.
The question of the testimony of the Psalms is greatly simplified by the large concessions which writers hike Dr. Cheyne are now ready to make, in the belief that in the references to resurrection doctrine they have a proof of “Zoroastrian influences.” The passages, however, are happily of an order that speak for themselves, and need no forcing to yield us their meaning. A conspicuous example is Ps. xvi. 8-11, 208cited in the New Testament as a prophecy of the resurrection of Christ—
“I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth;
My flesh also shall dwell in safety (or confidently,
For Thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol;
Neither wilt Thou suffer Thins Holy One to see corruption (or the pit).
Thou wilt show me the path of life:
In Thy presence is fulness of joy;
Another passage is in Psalm xvii. 15, where, after describing the apparent prosperity of the wicked, the Psalmist says—
“As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness:
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.”
The “awakening” here, as Delitzsch says, can only be that from the sleep of death.449449Com., in loc. Thus also Pusey, Perowne, Cheyne, Hofmann, etc. “The awakening,” says Cheyne, “probably means the passing of the soul into a resurrection body.”—Origin of Psalter, p. 406. Yet more distinct is Ps. xlix. 14, 15—
“They (the wicked) are appointed as a flock for Sheol;
Death shall he their shepherd;
And the upright shall have dominion over them in the moaning;
And their beauty shall be for Sheol to consume, that there he no habitation for it.
But God will redeem my soul from the power (hand) of Sheol;
For He shall receive me.
There is here again, it is believed, clear reference to the “morning” of the resurrection. The passage is the more significant that in the last words, as well as in Ps. lxxiii. 24, there is direct allusion to the case of Enoch. “God,” says the Psalmist, “shall redeem my soul from the hand of Hades, for He shall take me,” as He took Enoch, and as He took Elijah, to Himself.”450450Perowne, in loc. Thus also Pusey, Delitzsch, Cheyne, etc. “The ‘dawn,’” says Cheyne, “is that of the resurrection day.”—Expository Times, B. p. 249; cf. Origin of Psalter, pp. 382, 406, 407. Delitzsch, in note on Ps. xvi. 8-11, says: “Nor is the awakening in xlix. 15 some morning or other that will very soon follow upon the night, hut the final morning, which brings deliverance to the upright, and enables them to obtain dominion.” Ps. lxxiii. 24 reads thus—
“Nevertheless I am continually with Thee;
Thou hast holden my right hand.
Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but Thee?
And there is none on the earth that I desire beside Thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”
These, and a few others, are the passages usually cited in favour of the doctrine of Immortality in the Book of Psalms, and it will be seen that in all of them this hope is clothed in a form which implies a resurrection.451451Or if not resurrection, then immortality in the body without tasting of death, as Enoch. But this is a hope the Old Testament believer could hardly have cherished for himself. The view of deliverance from death seems therefore the more probable in Ps. xlix. 15, etc. A very different view is taken by Schultz in his Alttestamentliche Theologie, pp. 753–758. Schultz not only sees no proof of the resurrection in the passages we have quoted, but will not even allow that they have any reference to a future life. So extreme a view surely refutes itself. It is at least certain that if these passages teach a future life, it is a life in connection with the body.
I need not delay on the passages in the prophetic books, for here it is usually granted that the idea of resurrection is familiar. Not only is the restoration of the Jewish people frequently presented under this figure, but a time is coming when, for the Church as a whole, including the individuals in it, death shall be swallowed up in victory. We have a passage already in Hosea, which is beyond suspicion of Zoroastrian influence—
“After two days will He revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live before Him.”
“I will ransom them from the power of Sheol;
I will redeem them from death;
O death, where are thy plagues?
The climax of this class of passages is reached in Isa. xxv. 6-8, xxvi. 19. Cf. also Ezek. xxxvii. 1-10, the vision of the dry bones.453453On the passages in Isaiah, Cheyne remarks: “Instead of swallowing up, Sheol in the Messianic period shall itself be swallowed up. And this prospect concerns not merely the church-nation, but all of its believing members, and indeed all, whether Jews or not, who submit to the true King, Jehovah.”—Origin of Psalter, p. 402, Cf. Expository Times, ii. p. 226. In Ezekiel, the subject is national resurrection, but “that the power of God can, against all human thought and hops, reanimate the dead, is the general idea of the passage, from which consequently the hope of a literal resurrection of the dead may naturally be inferred.”—Oehler Theology of Old Testament, ii. p. 395 (Eng. trans.). Oehler does more justice to these passages than Schultz. 210The last Old Testament passage I will quote is an undisputed one, and has the special feature of interest that in it for the first time mention is made of the resurrection of the wicked as well as of the just. It is that in Dan. xii. 2—“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This needs no comment.
From the whole survey I think it will be evident that I was entitled to say that from the first the manner in which the hope of immortality was conceived by holy men in Israel was that of a resurrection. Yet, when all is said, we cannot but feel that it was but a hope—not resting on express revelation, but springing out of the consciousness of the indissoluble relation between God and the believing soul, and the conviction that God’s Redemption will be a complete one. Life and immortality were not yet brought to light as they are now by Christ in His gospel.4544542 Tim. i. 10. The matter is unexceptionably stated by Dr. A. B. Davidson in the following words, with which I conclude; “The human spirit is conscious of fellowship with God; and this fellowship, from the nature of God, is a thing imperishable, and, in spite of obscurations, it must yet be fully manifested by God. This principle, grasped with convulsive earnestness in the prospect of death, became the Hebrew doctrine of Immortality. This doctrine was but the necessary corollary of religion. In this life the true relations of men to God were felt to be realised; and the Hebrew faith of immortality—never a belief in the mere existence of the soul after death, for the lowest superstition assumed this—was a faith that the dark and mysterious event of death would not interrupt the life of the person with God, enjoyed in this world. . . . The doctrine of Immortality in the Book (of Job) is the same as that of other parts of the Old Testament. Immortality is the corollary of religion. If there be religion—that is, if God be—there is immortality, not of the soul, but of the whole personal being of man (Ps. xvi. 9). This teaching of the whole Old Testament is expressed by our Lord with a surprising incisiveness in two 211sentences—‘I am the God of Abraham. God is not the God of the dead but of the living.’”455455Commentary on Job, Appendix, pp. 293–295.
Note to Third Edition.—Believing that the tendency at present is to find too little rather than too much in the Old Testament, I leave this Appendix as it is. The recent work of Professor S. D. F. Salmond on Immortality—which for long will be the classic work on this subject—does not go so far in finding a doctrine of Resurrection in the Psalms as is done here, but it may be said at least that it lays down the premisses in its doctrines of God, and of man’s origin, constitution, and destiny, which justify such an interpretation, and might easily have gone farther without inconsistency, or violation of sound exegesis. Accepting it as the Old Testament doctrine that man was created for immortality in body and soul in fellowship with God, that death is a penalty of sin, that fellowship with God contains the pledge of preservation from Sheol, or of rescue from it, which hopes are allowed to find expression in at least certain of the Psalms and in Job, and to take definite shape in the doctrine of Resurrection in the prophets, Professor Salmond’s position does not differ very widely in principle from that indicated above. Enoch and Elijah are viewed as the type of immortality in Ps. xlix. and lxxiii., etc. It is difficult to see in what way this “postulate of faith” could shape itself, however vaguely, if not as a faith in a revived life in the body. If the Psalms came after the prophets, according to the modern theory, it is still more difficult to see how this hope should have shaped itself in the prophetic books, and not have exercised any influence upon the Psalms. Even the writer of the 16th Psalm can hardly have anticipated permanent exemption from death; his confidence, therefore, that in fellowship with God “soul and flesh, himself in his entire living being, shall continue secure” everlastingly, becomes unintelligible if his hope did not stretch. beyond death, and carry in it the assurance of a resurrection. Cf. specially pp. 193–197, 217–220, 238–255, 258 ff.
|« Prev||Appendix to Lecture V. The Old Testament Doctrine…||Next »|