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Life After Death in the Prophetic Promise

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Chapter Summary

"In ancient Israel", says Harper's Bible Dictionary, "there was no belief in a life after death". The idea of an afterlife or eternal life came late in postexilic times and is attributed to Jewish contact with Perisan doctrines". This chapter offers a fresh reading of the biblical evidence in the light of recent research and gives a new account of beliefs in life after death. It discusses three themes: ancestor worship in the ritual universe of the ancient Semites; the emergence of the Sadducean view as a consequence of the exclusive worship of Israel's God; and the emergence of resurrection belief in Ezekiel and related prophetic sources. In the eighth century the political pressure on Israel, exercised by the powerful Assyrian empire, became more and more intolerable. As small vassal kingdoms, both Israelite states, northern Israel and southern Judah, had to pay heavy tribute and were under military supervision.

Keywords: ancient Semites; Assyrian empire; Harper's Bible Dictionary; Israel's God; Israelite states; prophetic sources; Sadducean view



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