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Eschatology of the Old Testament


Contents (A) Scope of Article (B) Dr. Charles’ Work (C) Individual Religion in Israel


1. Idea of God 2. Idea of Man Body, Soul and Spirit 3. Sin and Death


Had Israel No Belief in a Future Life? 1. Reserve on This Subject: Hopes and Promises Largely Temporal 2. A Future State not Therefore Denied Belief Non-Mythological 3. Survival of Soul, or Conscious Part 4. The Hebrew Sheol


(a) Nature and Grace--Moral Distinctions (b) Religious Hope of Immortality 1. Sheol, Like Death, Connected with Sin 2. Religious Root of Hope of Immortality Not Necessarily Late 3. Hope of Resurrection (1) Not a Late or Foreign Doctrine (2) The Psalms (3) The Book of Job (4) The Prophets (5) Daniel--Resurrection of Wicked


Judgment a Present Reality 1. Day of Yahweh (1) Relation to Israel (2) To the Nations 2. Judgment beyond Death (1) Incompleteness of Moral Administration (2) Prosperity of Wicked (3) Suffering of Righteous with Wicked 3. Retribution beyond Death


1. Sources (1) Apocrypha (2) Apocalyptic Literature (3) Rabbinical Writings 2. Description of Views (1) Less Definite Conceptions (2) Ideas of Sheol (3) The Fallen Angels (4) Resurrection (5) Judgment The Messiah (6) The Messianic Age and the Gentiles (7) Rabbinical Ideas LITERATURE

Eschatology of the Old Testament (with Apocryphal and Apocalyptic Writings).

(A) Scope of Article:

By "eschatology," or doctrine of the last things, is meant the ideas entertained at any period on the future life, the end of the world (resurrection, judgment; in the New Testament, the Parousia), and the eternal destinies of mankind. In this article it is attempted to exhibit the beliefs on these matters contained in the Old Testament, with those in the Jewish apocryphal and apocalyptic writings that fill up the interval between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

(B) Dr. Charles’ Work:

The subject here treated has been dealt with by many writers (see "Literature" below); by none more learnedly or ably than by Dr. R. H. Charles in his work on Hebrew, Jewish and Christian eschatology (A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, in Judaism, and in Christianity). The present writer is, however, unable to follow Dr. Charles in many of his very radical critical positions, which affect so seriously the view taken of the literary evidence, and of the development of Israel’s religion; is unable, therefore, to follow him in his interpretation of the religion itself. The subject, accordingly, is discussed in these pages from a different point of view from his.

(C) Individual Religion in Israel.

One special point in which the writer is unable to follow Dr. Charles in his treatment, which may be noticed at the outset, is in his idea--now so generally favored--that till near the time of the Exile religion was not individual--that Yahweh was thought of as concerned with the well-being of the people as a whole, and not with that of its individual members. "The individual was not the religious unit, but the family or tribe" (op. cit., 58). How anyone can entertain this idea in face of the plain indications of the Old Testament itself to the contrary is to the present writer a mystery. There is, indeed, throughout the Old Testament, a solidarity of the individual with his family and tribe, but not at any period to the exclusion of a personal relation to Yahweh, or of individual moral and religious responsibility. The pictures of piety in the Book of Genesis are nearly all individual, and the narratives containing them are, even on the critical view, older than the 9th century. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, are all of them, to the writers of the history, individuals; Moses, Joshua, Caleb, are individuals; the deeds of individuals are counted to them for righteousness; the sins of others slay them. If there had been ten righteous persons in Sodom, it would have been spared (Ge 18:32). It was as an individual that David sinned; as an individual he repented and was forgiven. Kings are judged or condemned according to their individual character. It is necessary to lay stress on this at the beginning; otherwise the whole series of the Old Testament conceptions is distorted.

I. Fundamental Ideas.

The eschatology of the Old Testament, as Dr. Charles also recognizes, is dependent on, and molded by, certain fundamental ideas in regard to God, man, the soul and the state after death, in which lies the peculiarity of Israel’s religion. Only, these ideas are differently apprehended here from what they are in this writer’s learned work.

1. Idea of God:

2. Idea of Man:

According to Dr. Charles, the Old Testament has two contradictory representations of the constitution of man, and of the effects of death. The older or pre-prophetic view distinguishes between soul and body in man (pp. 37 ff, 45 ff), and regards the soul as surviving death (this is not easily reconcilable with the other proposition (p. 37) that the "soul or nephesh is identical with the blood"), and as retaining a certain self-consciousness, and the power of speech and movement in Sheol (pp. 39 ff). This view is in many respects identical with that of ancestor worship, which is held to be the primitive belief in Israel (p. 41). The other and later view, which is thought to follow logically from the account in Ge 2:7, supposes the soul to perish at death (pp. 41 ff). We read there that "Yahweh God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The "breath of life" (nishmath chayyim) is identified with the "spirit of life" (ruach chayyim) of Ge 6:17, and is taken to mean that the soul has no independent existence, but is "really a function of the material body when quickened by the (impersonal) spirit" (p. 42). "According to this view the annihilation of the soul ensues inevitably at death, that is, when the spirit is withdrawn" (p. 43). This view is held to be the parent of Sadduceeism, and is actually affirmed to be the view of Paul (pp. 43-44, 409)-- the apostle who repudiated Sadduceeism in this very article (Ac 23:6-9). Body, Soul and Spirit.

The above view of man’s nature is here rejected, and the consistency of the Old Testament doctrine affirmed. The Biblical view has nothing to do with ancestor worship (compare the writer’s Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament, 135-36). In Ge 1:26,27 man is created in God’s image, and in the more anthropomorphic narrative of Ge 2:7, he becomes "a living soul" through a unique act of Divine inbreathing. The soul (nephesh) in man originates in a Divine inspiration (compare Job 32:8; 33:4; Isa 42:5), and is at once the animating principle of the body (the blood being its vehicle, Le 17:11), with its appetites and desires, and the seat of the self-conscious personality, and source of rational and spiritual activities. It is these higher activities of the soul which, in the Old Testament, are specially called "spirit" (ruach). Dr. Charles expresses this correctly in what he says of the supposed earlier view ("the ruach had become the seat of the highest spiritual functions in man," p. 46; see more fully the writer’s God’s Image in Man, 47 ff). There is no ground for deducing "annihilation" from Ge 2:7. Everywhere in Ge man is regarded as formed for living fellowship with God, and capable of knowing, worshipping and serving Him.

See Soul; Spirit.

3. Sin and Death:

It follows from the above account that man is regarded in the Old Testament as a compound being, a union of body and soul (embracing spirit), both being elements in his one personality. His destiny was not to death, but to life--not life, however, in separation of the soul from the body (disembodied existence), but continued embodied life, with, perhaps, as its sequel, change and translation to higher existence (thus Enoch, Elijah; the saints at the Parousia). This is the true original idea of immortality for man (see Immortality). Death, accordingly, is not, as it appears in Dr. Charles, a natural event, but an abnormal event--a mutilation, separation of two sides of man’s being never intended to be separated--due, as the Scripture represents it, to the entrance of sin (Ge 2:17; 3:19,22; Ro 5:12; 1Co 15:21,22). It is objected that nothing further is said in the Old Testament of a "Fall," and a subjection of man to death as the result of sin. In truth, however, the whole picture of mankind in the Old Testament, as in the New Testament, is that of a world turned aside from God, and under His displeasure, and death and all natural evils are ever to be considered in relation to that fact (compare Dillmann, Alttest. Theol., 368, 376 ff; God’s Image in Man, 198 ff, 249 ff). This alone explains the light in which death is regarded by holy men; their longing for deliverance from it (see below); the hope of resurrection; the place which resurrection--"the redemption of our body" (Ro 8:23)--after the pattern of Christ’s resurrection (Php 3:21), has in the Christian conception of immortality.

II. Conceptions of the Future Life--Sheol.

Had Israel No Belief in a Future Life?:

It is usual to find it contended that the Israelites, in contrast with other peoples, had not the conception of a future life till near the time of the Exile; that then, through the teaching of the prophets and the discipline of experience, ideas of individual immortality and of judgment to come first arose. There is, however, a good deal of ambiguity of language, if not confusion of thought, in such statements. It is true there is development in the teaching on a future life; true also that in the Old Testament "life" and "immortality" are words of pregnant meaning, to which bare survival of the soul, and gloomy existence in Sheol, do not apply. But in the ordinary sense of the expression "future life," it is certain that the Israelites were no more without that notion than any of their neighbors, or than most of the peoples and races of the world to whom the belief is credited.

1. Reserve on This Subject: Hopes and Promises Largely Temporal:

2. A Future State not Therefore Denied:

All this, however, in no way implies that the Israelites had no conceptions of, or beliefs in, a state of being beyond death, or believed the death of the body to be the extinction of existence. This was very far from being the case. A hope of a future life it would be wrong to call it; for there was nothing to suggest hope, joy or life in the good sense, in the ideas they entertained of death or the hereafter. In this they resembled most peoples whose ideas are still primitive, but to whom it is not customary to deny belief in a future state. They stand as yet, though with differences to be afterward pointed out, on the general level of Semitic peoples in their conceptions of what the future state was. This is also the view taken by Dr. Charles. He recognizes that early Israelite thought attributed a "comparatively large measure of life, movement, knowledge and likewise power (?) to the departed in Sheol" (op. cit., 41). A people that does this is hardly destitute of all notions of a future state. This question of Sheol now demands more careful consideration. Here again our differences from Dr. Charles will reveal themselves.

Belief Non-Mythological.

It would, indeed, have been amazing had the Israelites, who dwelt so long in Egypt, where everything reminded of a future life, been wholly destitute of ideas on that subject. What is clear is that, as already observed, they did not adopt any of the Egyptian notions into their religion. The simplicity of their belief in the God of their fathers kept them then and ever after from the importation of mythological elements into their faith. The Egyptian Amenti may be said, indeed, to answer broadly to the Hebrew Sheol; but there is nothing in Israelite thought to correspond to Osiris and his assessors, the trial in the hall of judgment, and the adventures and perils of the soul thereafter. What, then, was the Hebrew idea of Sheol, and how did it stand related to beliefs elsewhere?

3. Survival of Soul, or Conscious Part:

That the soul, or some conscious part of man for which the name may be allowed to stand, does not perish at death, but passes into another state of existence, commonly conceived of as shadowy and inert, is a belief found, not only among the lower, so-called nature-peoples, but in all ancient religions, even the most highly developed. The Egyptian belief in Amenti, or abode of the dead, ruled over by Osiris, is alluded to above; the Babylonian Arallu (some find the word "Sualu" = she’ol), the land of death, from which there is no return; the Greek Hades, gloomy abode of the shades of the departed, are outstanding witnesses to this conception (the various ideas may be seen, among other works, in Salmond, Christian Doctrine of Immortality, I (ideas of lower races, Indian, Egyptian Babylonian, Persian and Greek beliefs); in Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, Religion of Ancient Babylonians, and Gifford Lectures, Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia; Dr. Charles, Eschatology, chapter iii, on Greek conceptions). The Hebrew conception of Sheol, the gathering-place of the dead, is not in essentials dissimilar. "The resemblance," says Dr. Salmond, "between the Hebrew Sheol, the Homeric Hades, and Babylonian Arallu is unmistakable" (op. cit., 3rd edition, 173). As to its origin, Dr. Charles would derive the belief from ancestor worship. He supposes that "in all probability Sheol was originally conceived as a combination of the graves of the clan or nation, and as thus its final abode" (op. cit., 33). It is far from proved, however, that ancestor worship had the role he assigns to it in early religion; and, in any case, the explanation inverts cause and effect. The survival of the soul or shade is already assumed before there can be worship of ancestors. Far simpler is the explanation that man is conscious from the first of a thinking, active principle within him which disappears when death ensues, and he naturally thinks of this as surviving somewhere else, if only in a ghost-like and weakened condition (compare Max Muller, Anthropological Religion, 195, 281, 337-38). Whatever the explanation, it is the case that, by a sure instinct, peoples of low and high culture alike all but universally think of the conscious part of their dead as surviving. On natural grounds, the Hebrews did the same. Only, in the Scriptural point of view, this form of survival is too poor to be dignified with the high name of "immortality."

4. The Hebrew Sheol:

III. The Religious Hope--Life and Resurrection.

(a) Nature and Grace--Moral Distinctions:

Such is Sheol, regarded from the standpoint of nature; a somewhat different aspect is presented when it is looked at from the point of view of grace. As yet no trace is discernible between righteous and wicked in Sheol; the element of retribution seems absent. Reward and punishment are in this world; not in the state beyond. Yet one must beware of drawing too sweeping conclusions even here. The state, indeed, of weakened consciousness and slumbrous inaction of Sheol does not admit of much distinction, and the thought of exchanging the joys of life for drear existence in that gloomy underworld may well have appalled the stoutest hearts, and provoked sore and bitter complainings. Even the Christian can bewail a life brought to a sudden and untimely close. But even on natural grounds it is hardly credible that the pious Israelite thought of the state of the godly gathered in peace to their people as quite the same as those who perished under the ban of God’s anger, and went down to Sheol bearing their iniquity. There is a pregnancy not to be overlooked in such expressions as, "The wicked shall be turned back unto Sheol" (Ps 9:17), a "lowest Sheol" unto which God’s anger burns (De 32:22), "uttermost parts of the pit" (Isa 14:15; Eze 32:23) to which the proud and haughty in this life are consigned. Dr. Charles goes so far as to find a "penal character of Sheol" in Psalms 49 and 73 (op. cit., 74). Consolation breathes in such utterances as, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for there is a happy end to the man of peace" (Ps 37:37), or (with reference to the being taken from the evil to come), "He entereth into peace; they rest in their beds, each one that walketh in his uprightness" (Isa 57:2; compare Isa 57:21 "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked"). Even Balaam’s fervent wish, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his" (Nu 23:10), seems weakened when interpreted only of the desire for a green and blessed old age. It is possible to read too much into Old Testament expressions; the tendency at the present time would seem to be to read a great deal too little

(P. Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture, I, 173 ff, 422 ff, may profitably be consulted).

(b) Religious Hope of Immortality:

To get at the true source and nature of the hope of immortality in the Old Testament, however, it is necessary to go much farther than the idea of any happier condition in Sheol. This dismal region is never there connected with ideas of "life" or "immortality" in any form. Writers who suppose that the hopes which find utterance in passages of Psalms and Prophets have any connection with existence in Sheol are on an altogether wrong track. It is not the expectation of a happier condition in Sheol, but the hope of deliverance from Sheol, and of restored life and fellowship with God, which occupies the mind. How much this implies deserves careful consideration.

1. Sheol, Like Death, Connected with Sin:

It has already been seen that, in the Old Testament, Sheol, like death, is not the natural fate of man. A connection with sin and judgment is implied in it. Whatever Sheol might be to the popular, unthinking mind, to the reflecting spirit, that really grasped the fundamental ideas of the religion of Yahweh, it was a state wholly contrary to man’s true destiny. It was, as seen, man’s dignity in distinction from the animal, that he was not created under the law of death. Disembodied existence, which is of necessity enfeebled, partial, imperfect existence, was no part of the Divine plan for man. His immortality was to be in the body, not out of it. Separation of soul and body, an after-existence of the soul in Sheol, belong to the doom of sin. Dr. Salmond fully recognizes this in his discussion of the subject. "The penal sense of death colors all that the Old Testament says of man’s end. It is in its thoughts where it is not in its words" (op. cit., 159; see the whole passage; compare also Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, I, 242 ff, English translation; A. B. Davidson, Theology of the Old Testament, 432 ff, 439 ff). The true type of immortality is therefore to be seen in cases like those of Enoch (Ge 5:24; compare Heb 11:5) and Elijah (2Ki 2:11); of a bare "immortality of the soul," Scripture has nothing to say.

It is on all hands conceded that, so far as the hope of immortality, in any full or real sense, is found in the Old Testament, it is connected with religious faith and hope. It has not a natural, but a religious, root. It springs from the believer’s trust and confidence in the living God; from his conviction that God--his God--who has bound him to Himself in the bonds of an unchanging covenant, whose everlasting arms are underneath him (De 33:27; compare Ps 90:1), will not desert him even in Sheol--will be with him there, and will give him victory over its terrors (compare A. B. Davidson, Commentary on Job, 293-95; Salmond, op. cit., 175).

2. Religious Root of Hope of Immortality:

Life is not bare existence; it consists in God’s favor and fellowship (Ps 16:11; 30:5; 63:3). The relevant passages in Psalms and Prophets will be considered after. Only, it is contended by the newer school, this hope of immortality belongs to a late stage of Israel’s religion--to a period when, through the development of the monotheistic idea, the growth of the sense of individuality, the acute feeling of the contradictions of life, this great "venture" of faith first became possible. One asks, however, Was it so? Was this hope so entirely a matter of "intuitous ventures, and forecasts of devout souls in moments of deepest experience or keenest conflict," as this way of considering the matter represents? Not Necessarily Late.

That the hope of immortality could only exist for strong faith is self-evident. But did strong faith come into existence only in the days of the prophets or the Exile? Exception has already been taken to the assumption that monotheism was a late growth, and that individual faith in God was not found in early times. It is not to be granted without demur that, as now commonly alleged, the Psalms and the Book of Job, which express this hope, are post-exilian products. If, however, faith in a covenant-keeping God is of earlier date--if it is present in patriarchal and Mosaic days--the question is not, Why should it not give rise to similar hopes? but rather, How should it be prevented from doing so? If a patriarch like Abraham truly walked with God, and received His promises, could he, any more than later saints, be wholly distrustful of God’s power to keep and deliver him in and from Sheol? It is hard to credit it. It is replied, there is no evidence of such hope. Certainly these ancient saints did not write psalms or speak with the tongues of prophets. But is there nothing in their quiet and trustful walk, in their tranquil deaths, in their sense of uncompleted promises, in their pervading confidence in God in all the vicissitudes of life, to suggest that they, too, were able to commit themselves into the hands of God in death, and to trust Him to see that it was, or would ultimately be, well with them in the future? Thus at least Jesus understood it (Mt 22:32); thus, New Testament writers believed (Heb 11:13,14). Faith might falter, but in principle, this hope must have been bound up with faith from the beginning.

3. Hope of Resurrection:

This raises now the crucial question, What shape did this hope of immortality assume? It was not, as already seen, an immortality enjoyed in Sheol; it could only then be a hope connected with deliverance from the power of Sheol--in essence, whether precisely formulated or not, a hope of resurrection. It is, we believe, because this has been overlooked, that writers on the subject have gone so often astray in their discussions on immortality in the Old Testament. They have thought of a blessedness in the future life of the soul (thus Charles, op. cit., 76-77); whereas the redemption the Bible speaks of invariably embraces the whole personality of man, body and soul together. Jesus, it may be remembered, thus interprets the words, "I am the God of Abraham," etc. (Mt 22:32), as a pledge not simply of continued existence, but of resurrection. This accords with what has been seen of the connection of death with sin and its abnormality in the case of man. The immortality man would have enjoyed, had he not sinned, would have been an immortality of his whole person. It will be seen immediately that this is borne out by all the passages in which the hope of immortality is expressed in the Old Testament. These never contemplate a mere immortality of the soul, but always imply resurrection.

(1) Not a Late or Foreign Doctrine.

If the above is correct, it follows that it is a mistake to place the belief in resurrection so late as is often done, still more to derive it from Zoroastrianism (thus, Cheyne, Origin of Psalter, lecture viii) or other foreign sources. It was a genuine corollary from the fundamental Israelite beliefs about God, man, the soul, sin, death and redemption. Professor Gunkel emphasizes "the immeasurable significance" of this doctrine, and speaks of it as "one of the greatest things found anywhere in the history of religion," but thinks "it cannot be derived from within Judaism itself, but must take its origin from a ruling belief in the Orient of the later time" (Zum religionsgeschichtlichen Verstandniss des New Testament, 32-33; for criticism of Gunkel’s positions see the writer’s Resurrection of Jesus, 255 ff). To make good his theory, however, he has to discount all the evidences for the belief furnished by the earlier Old Testament writings, and this, it is believed, cannot be done successfully. It was before noted that cases of resurrection appear in the historical books (1Ki 17:21 ff; 2Ki 4:34 ff). It is not impossible that the reverent care of the patriarchs for their dead was, as with the Egyptians, inspired by some hope of this kind (Ge 23; 50:5,25; Ex 13:19; compare Heb 11:22). In any case an impartial survey of the evidence proves that the thought of resurrection colors all the later expressions of the hope of immortality (see Immortality; compare also the writer’s appendix on the subject in Christian View of God, 2OO ff).

(2) The Psalms.

(3) The Book of Job.

Before looking at the prophets, a glance should be taken at the Book of Job, which, irrespective of date (it is quite unwarrantably made post-exilian), reflects patriarchal conditions. Ch 14 raises the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" (14:14), and it is to be remarked that the form in which it does it, is the possibility of bodily revival. The appearances hostile to man’s living again are enumerated (14:7-12), then faith, reasserting itself, flings itself on God to accomplish the apparently impossible: "Oh that thou wouldest hide me in Sheol, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time and remember me. .... Thou wouldest call and I would answer thee: thou wouldest have a desire to the work of thy hands" (14:13-15; margin reads "Thou shalt call," etc.). Dr. A. B. Davidson says, "To his mind this involves a complete return to life again of the whole man" (Cambridge Commentary on Job, in the place cited.). With this must be taken the splendid outburst in 19:25-27, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," etc., which, whatever doubts may attach to the precise rendering of certain clauses, undoubtedly expresses a hope not inferior in strength to that in the verse just quoted.

(4) The Prophets.

The presence of the idea of resurrection in the Prophets is not doubted, but the passages are put down to exilic or preexilic times, and are explained of "spiritual" or "national," not of individual, resurrection (compare Charles, op. cit., 128-29). It seems plain, however, that, before the figure of resurrection could be applied to the nation, the idea of resurrection must have been there; and it is by no means clear that in certain of the passages the resurrection of individuals is not included. Cheyne granted this regarding the passages in Isa (25:6-8; 26:19): "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, Yahweh" (op. cit., 402). There is no call for putting the remarkable passages in Hos--"After two days will he revive us: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before him" (6:2); "I will ransom them from the power of Sheol: I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction?" (13:14)--later than the time of that prophet. In them the idea of resurrection is already fully present; as truly as in the picture in Eze 37:1-10 of the valley of dry bones. The climax is, however, reached in Isa 25:6-8; 26:19, above referred to, from which the individual element cannot be excluded (compare Salmond, op. cit., 211-12: "The theme of this great passage, 26:19, therefore, is a personal, not a corporate resurrection").

(5) Daniel--Resurrection of Wicked.

Finally, in the Old Testament we have the striking statement in Da 12:2, "And many of them that sleep in the dust .... shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament," etc. The peculiarity of this passage is, that in it, for the first time, is announced a resurrection of the wicked as well as of the righteous (compare in the New Testament Joh 5:28,29; Ac 24:15; Re 20:12 ff). The word "many" is not to be understood in contrast with "all," though probably only Israel is in view. The event is connected with a "time of trouble" (Da 12:1) following upon the overthrow of Antiochus, here representative of Antichrist. The really difficult problem is, How did this conception of the resurrection of the wicked come about? The resurrection of the righteous, it has been seen, is a corollary from the covenant-faithfulness of Yahweh. But this does not apply to the wicked. Whence then does the idea come? It is given as a revelation, but even revelation connects itself with existing ideas and experiences. The resurrection of the wicked, certainly, does not arise, like that of the righteous, from the consciousness of an indissoluble union with God, but it may well arise from the opposite conviction of the judgment of God. As the sense of individuality grew strong--and it is granted that the teaching of the prophets did much to strengthen that feeling--and the certainty of moral retribution developed, it was inevitable that this should react on the conception of the future, in making it as certain that the wicked should be punished, as that the good should be rewarded, in the world to come. Naturally too, as the counterpart of the other belief, this shaped itself into the form of a resurrection to judgment. We are thus brought, as a last step, to consider the idea of judgment and its effects as found in the prophetic teaching.

IV. The Idea of Judgment--the Day of Yahweh.

Judgment a Present Reality:

It was seen that, under Mosaism, the promises and threatenings of God were mainly confined to the present life, and that the sense of distinctions in Sheol, though not absent, was vague and wavering. Through temporal dispensations men were trained to faith in the reality of moral retribution. Under the prophets, while the judgments of God on nations and individuals were still primarily viewed as pertaining to this life, there gradually shaped itself a further idea--that of an approaching consummation of history, or Day of Yahweh, when God’s enemies would be completely overthrown, His righteousness fully vindicated and His kingdom established in triumph throughout the earth. The developments of this idea may now briefly be exhibited. In this relation, it need only be stated that the writer does not follow the extraordinary mangling of the prophetic texts by certain critics, accepted, though with some misgiving, by Dr. Charles.

1. Day of Yahweh:

The "Day of Yahweh," in the prophetic writings, is conceived of, sometimes more generally, as denoting any great manifestation of God’s power in judgment or salvation (e.g. the locusts in Joe 2), sometimes more eschatologically, of the final crisis in the history of God’s kingdom, involving the overthrow of all opposition, and the complete triumph of righteousness (e.g. Isa 2:2-5; Joe 3; Am 9:11 ff; Zec 14, etc.). The two things are not unconnected; the one is the prelude, or anticipatory stage, of the other. That feature of prophetic vision sometimes spoken of as the absence of perspective is very conspicuous in the fact that chronology is largely disregarded, and the "Day of Yahweh" is seen looming up as the immediate background of every great crisis in which the nation may for the time be involved (Assyrian invasions; Babylonian captivity; Maccabean persecution). The one thing ever certain to the prophet’s mind is that the "Day" is surely coming--it is the one great, dread, yet for God’s people joyful, event of the future--but the steps by which the goal is to be reached are only gradually revealed in the actual march of God’s providence.

(1) Relation to Israel.

The "Day" is in its primary aspect a day of judgment (Isa 2:12); not, however, to be thought of as a day of vengeance only on the adversaries of Israel (Am 5:18 ff). Israel itself would be the first to experience the strokes of the Divine chastisement: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities" (Am 3:2). God’s judgments on Israel, while retributive, were also purifying and sifting; a "remnant" would remain, who would be the seed of a holier community (Isa 6:13; Am 9:9; Ze 3:13,10, etc.). The Book of Ho beautifully exhibits this aspect of the Divine dealings.

(2) To the Nations.

2. Judgment beyond Death:

The purview, in what is said of the "Day of Yahweh," is thus seen to be confined to earth, though the references to resurrection, and the passages in the close of Isa (65:17; 66:22) about "new heavens and a new earth" imply a further vista. The hope of immortality--of resurrection life--in the case of the righteous has already been considered. But what of judgment after death in the case of the wicked? Only dim premonitions of retribution, it was seen, are found in the earlier doctrine of Sheol. There are frequent references to "judgment" in the Psalms, sometimes on the world (e.g. 96:13; 98:9; compare 50), sometimes on individuals (e.g. 1:5), but it is doubtful if any of them look beyond earth. Yet many things combined to force this problem on the attention.

(1) Incompleteness of Moral Administration.

There was the sharpening of the sense of individual responsibility in the prophetic age (Jer 31:29,30; Eze 18:2 ff), and the obvious fact of the incompleteness of the Divine moral administration in the present life, as respects the individual. The working of moral laws could be discerned, but this fell far short of exact individual retribution. Life was full of moral anomalies and perplexities (compare JOB, BOOK OF).

(2) Prosperity of Wicked.

There was the special difficulty that the wicked did not always seem to meet with the punishment due to their misdeeds in time. On the contrary they often seemed to flourish, to have success in their schemes, to triumph over the godly, who were afflicted and oppressed. This was the enigma that so painfully exercised the minds of the psalmists (Pss 10; 17; 37; 49; 73, etc.). The solution they found was that the prosperity of the wicked did not endure. It came to a sudden end (Ps 37:35,36; 73:18-20), while the righteous had a sure compensation in the future (Ps 17:15; 49:15; 73:24, etc.). It was not, however, always the case that the wicked were thus visibly cut off. Besides, a sudden end hardly seemed an adequate punishment for a long career of triumphant iniquity, and, if the righteous were recompensed hereafter, the thought lay near that the wicked might be, and should be, also.

(3) Suffering of Righteous with Wicked.

There was the kindred fact that, in the calamities that overtook the wicked, the righteous were often the involuntary sharers. The wicked did not suffer by themselves; the godly were involved in the storm of judgment (war, captivity, plagues) that broke upon them. Here was something else calling for redress at the hands of a God of righteousness.

3. Retribution beyond Death:

From these causes the thought almost necessarily presented itself of the extension of retribution for the wicked into the state beyond death. Hence, as before seen, Sheol did come in the later age to assume something of a penal character for the unrighteous. There was a wrath of God that burned to the lowest Sheol (De 32:22; compare Charles, op. cit., 74). But this abode of the shades was not, for the evil any more than for the good, a fitting sphere for moral recompense. If, for the complete reward of the righteous, a resurrection-state was necessary, did not the same hold true for the wicked? It is questioned whether the very definite announcements of an individual judgment in Ec 11:9; 12:14 refer to the state beyond death--it is probable that they do (compare Salmond, op. cit., 216-17). The first clear intimation of a resurrection of the wicked, however, is found, as already said, in Da 12:2, which likewise implies judgment. Perhaps a hint of the same idea is given in Isa 66:24: "They shall go forth (the prophet is speaking of the times of the new heavens and the new earth, verse 22), and look upon the dead bodies of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." Dr. Charles connects this with the idea of Gehenna as "a place of punishment for rebellious and apostate Jews," which he thinks also to be implied in Isa 50:11 (op. cit., 158). It is the same word "abhorrence" (dera’on), found in the above passage, which is rendered in Da 12:2 "contempt," and the punishment "is conceived of as eternal" (pp. 158-59).

It is hardly possible to carry the subject farther within the limits of the Old Testament. Further developments belong to the later Judaism.

V. Later Jewish Conceptions--Apocryphal, Apocalyptic, Rabbinical.

1. Sources:

The sources of our knowledge of the eschatological conceptions among the Jews in the immediately pre-Christian period are:

(1) Apocrypha.

The books of the Old Testament Apocrypha (see Apocrypha), taken over, with the exception of 2 Esdras, from the Septuagint. 2 Esdras, better known as 4 Esdras, is more properly classed with the apocalyptic writings. The original work consists only of chapters 3-14, with a passage in chapter 7 not found in the ordinary version. The book is post-Christian (circa 80-96 AD).

(2) Apocalyptic Literature.

(See article under that head, II, i, 1; II, ii.) The remains of this litereature consist of the Sibylline Oracles (oldest parts, Book III, from 2nd century BC), the Book Enoch (see below), the Psalms of Solomon (70-40 BC), with the Apocrypha Baruch (50-100 AD), the Book of Jubilees, and Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (see below), the Assumption of Moses (early 1st century AD), and the Ascension of Isaiah (before 50 AD). A good deal turns on the dating of some of these books. Several (Apocrypha Baruch, Assumption of Moses, Ascension of Isaiah, with 4 Esdras) are post-Christian. The Book of Jubilees and Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs have also usually been regarded as such, but Dr. Charles argues for dates going back to the close of the 2nd century BC for both. Late Jewish and Christian additions are recognized in the latter. Formerly Dr. Charles dated Jubilees "before 10 AD." The chief dispute relates to (the "Similitudes") of the Book of Enoch chapters 37-70. These important sections are held by some (Dr. Stanton, etc.) to be post-Christian (end of 1st century AD)- -a view to which we incline; Dr. Charles and others place them in the 1st century BC. Most of the remaining portions of the book are assigned to dates in the 2nd century BC. To the above should be added the notices of Jewish opinions in Josephus

(3) Rabbinical Writings.

For rabbinical ideas, we are chiefly dependent on the Talmudic writings and the Targums--sources whose late character makes their witness often doubtful (see Talmud; Targum).

2. Description of Views:

It is only possible to summarize very briefly the varying and frequently conflicting conceptions on eschatological subjects to be gleaned from this extensive literature. The representations are often wildly imaginative, and, so far as they are not genuine developments from Old Testament ideas, have value only as they may be supposed to throw light on the teachings of the New Testament. With one or two exceptions, little is to be gathered from the apocryphal books, and it will be best to treat the subject under headings.

(1) Less Definite Conceptions.

In the apocryphal Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of the Son of Sirach) we remain still on the old ground of Sheol as a place in which there is no remembrance, thanksgiving or retribution (Sirach 17:27,28; 41:3,1, etc.; a somewhat different note is heard in 21:10). It is the same in Baruch (2:17) and Tobit (3:6). In 1 Macc we have simply the Old Testament phrases, "gathered to his fathers" (2:69), "gathered to his people" (14:30). In the Book of Wisdom, the influence of Greek ideas is seen in a doctrine of the immortality of the soul only (2:23; 3:1-4; 4:13,14; 15:3; not a resurrection), possibly of pre- existence (8:20). The wicked suffer punishment in Sheol (3:1-10; 5:1-14, etc.).

(2) Ideas of Sheol.

Generally, however, in the apocalyptic books, a marked change is seen in the ideas of Sheol. It is still the place of the dead, but is regarded more as a state intermediate between death and the resurrection for such as shall be raised; in which righteous and wicked are separated; in which the wicked suffer punishment. The Book of Enoch distinguishes four abodes for the departed--two for the righteous, and two for the wicked (21:1-13). One class of the wicked (those already punished in this life) remain there forever, while the others are raised, and pass to the torment of Gehenna (17:2). The righteous are in Paradise--"the garden of life" (61:12), "the garden of righteousness" (67:3). This character of Sheol as a place of punishment (intermediate or final) is met with frequently (Book of Jubilees 7:29; 22:22; 2 Macc 6:23; Psalter of Solomon 14:6; 15:11; 16:2, etc.). In certain places, Dr. Charles says, "Sheol has become an abode of fire, and therefore synonymous so far with Gehenna. .... In several passages in the Similitudes, and throughout Enoch 91-104, Sheol and Gehenna are practically identical" (op. cit., 237). Similar ideas are found in the Slavonic version of Enoch (ibid., 261 ff).

(3) The Fallen Angels.

Much prominence in the Book of Enoch is given to the fallen angels (those who sinned with women, Ge 6:2). They are consigned in the judgment to ever-burning fire (En 21:1-6; 90:20-25).

(4) Resurrection.

Ideas of the resurrection vary, In Enoch 22, the righteous and one class of the wicked are raised; elsewhere all the righteous are raised and none of the wicked (En 61:5; 90:33; Psalter of Solomon 3:16); sometimes there is to be a resurrection of all, just and unjust (En 51:1,2). 2 Macc dwells much on the resurrection, which seems to embrace all Israel (3:16; 13:9; 7:9,14,23, etc.). For the Gentiles there is no resurrection (7:14,36). In Enoch 90:38, the bodies of the righteous are described as "transformed" in the resurrection (compare in the "Similitudes," 39:7; 51:4; 62:15). The doctrine of the resurrection (universal) is taught in the Apocrypha Baruch 30:2-5; 50; 51, and in 4 Esdras 7:32-37. In Josephus the Pharisees are said to have believed in the resurrection of the righteous only (Ant., XVIII, i, 3). This does not coincide with Paul’s statement in Ac 24:15.

(5) Judgment.

The reality of a final judgment, supervening upon the intermediate judgment in Sheol, is strongly affirmed in most of the apocalyptic books. The Book of Enoch speaks much of this final judgment. It describes it as "the great day," "the righteous judgment," "the great day of judgment" "the last judgment," "the judgment of all eternity" (10:6,12; 16:1; 19:1; 22:4,11; 25:4; 90:26,27, etc.). Wicked angels and men are judged, and sentenced to Gehenna--a doom without end.

The Messiah:

An interesting point is the relation of the Messiah to this judgment. With the exception of 4 Esd, the apocryphal books are silent on the Messiah. In the apocalyptic books the Messiah does appear, but not always in the same light. In the Sibylline Oracles (3), Psalms of Solomon (17; 18), Apocrypha Baruch (39; 40) and in 4 Esdras (13:32 ff) the appearance of Messiah is associated with the overthrow and judgment of the ungodly worldly powers; in the older portions of Enoch (90:16-25) God Himself executes this judgment, and holds the great assize--the Messiah does not appear till after. In the section of Enoch, chapters 37-70, on the other hand, the Messiah appears definitely as the judge of the world, and titles resembling those in the New Testament, "the Righteous One" (38:2; 53:6), "the Elect One" (40:5; 45:3,4, etc.), above all, "the Son of Man" (46:2-4; 48:2, etc.), are given Him. It is these passages which suggest Christian influence, especially as the conception is not found elsewhere in pre-Christian Apocalypse, and the Book of Jubilees, which refers otherwise to Enoch, makes no mention of these passages. Yet another idea appears in later Apocalypse, that, namely, of a limited reign of Messiah, after which take place the resurrection and judgment. 4 Esdras has the extraordinary notion that, after a reign of 400 years, the Messiah dies (7:28,29). God in this case is the judge.

(6) The Messianic Age and the Gentiles.

The Messianic age, when conceived of as following the judgment (the older view), is unlimited in duration, has Jerusalem for its center, and includes in the scope of its blessing the converted Gentiles (Sibylline Oracles 3:698-726; Enoch 90:30,37; compare 48:5; 53:1; Psalms of Solomon 17:32-35). The righteous dead of Israel are raised to participate in the kingdom. Already in Enoch 90:28,29 is found the idea that the new Jerusalem is not the earthly city, but a city that comes down from heaven, where, as in 4 Esdras, the Messianic reign is limited, the blessed life after resurrection is transferred to heaven.

(7) Rabbinical Ideas.

Little is to be added from the rabbinical conceptions, which, besides being difficult to ascertain precisely, are exceedingly confused and contradictory. Most of the ideas above mentioned appear in rabbinical teaching. With the destruction of the hostile world-powers is connected in later rabbinism the appearance of "Armilus"--an Antichrist. The reign of Messiah is generally viewed as limited in duration--400 years (as in 4 Esdras), and 1,000 years being mentioned (compare Schurer, History of Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Div. II, Vol. II, 179, English translation). At its close takes place a renovation of the world, resurrection (for Israelites only, certain classes being excluded), judgment, and eternal heavenly happiness for the righteous. The punishments of the wicked appear mostly to be regarded as eternal, but the view is also met with of a limited duration of punishment (see authorities in Schurer, op. cit., 183; Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, appendix. XIX, and other works noted in "Literature" below).


R. H. Charles, D. D., A Crit. History of the Doctrine of a Future Life (1899); apocalyptic works translated and edited by same writer (Book of Enoch, Apocrypha Baruch, Book of Jubilees, Testament of the 12 Patriarchs, etc.); V. H. Stanton, The Jewish and the Christian Messiah (1886); S. D. F. Salmond, Christian Doct of Immortality (4th edition, 1901); A. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, edition 1906 (especially appendix. XIX); E. Schurer, History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (Div. II, Vol. II, English translation). Old Testament Theologies: Oehler, A. B. Davidson, etc.; articles in Dictionaries: Hastings, Encyclopedia Biblica, etc. For fuller lists, see Charles.

James Orr