As described in the previous articles the next tenant of Paul's doctrine of salvation as recorded in the New Testament is that of the promise of resurrection and immortality to devotees of the savior.
The belief in the 'resurrection of the dead' (kbiyat hametim) had been part of Judaism for at least two centuries before the time of Yeshua. The belief is plainly stated in the biblical book of Daniel, and is found in much of the intertestamental literature. The New Testament itself attests it as a Pharisee belief which was denied by the small sect of the Sadducees. Since, as Josephus points out, the mass of the people supported the Pharisees, this belief was in fact the norm.
The Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead, however, was poles apart from the doctrine now put forward by Paul. The Jewish belief did not make resurrection dependent on the sacrificial death of a divine visitant, or on 'faith' in the efficacy of such a sacrifice. In the Jewish belief, all human beings, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, who had led righteous lives would be brought back to life in the body in the Last Days, in order to share in the peace, prosperity and justice of the kingdom of God, conceived not as a bodiless spiritual realm but as the fulfillment of human hopes on earth. The resurrection of the dead must be distinguished sharply from the survival of the soul after death, which was also a Jewish doctrine, but one which received far less emphasis and was not regarded as an essential article of faith. The Jewish doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was thus imbued with characteristic Jewish humanism. All human history was striving towards a messianic kingdom of human fulfillment, and all those individuals who had striven during their lifetime to this end would be given the opportunity to share in the final success. Demythologized, the doctrine expresses the vital thought that in the final kingdom, all whose lives have contributed towards it will in some sense be there.
Paul's doctrine, on the contrary, is essentially anti-humanist. He is totally unconcerned with the notion of a kingdom of God on earth, which was the centre of the teaching of Yeshua himself.
In Paul's doctrine, resurrection implies an escape from earthly living into a different dimension, where the human problem is not solved but jettisoned. While Paul retains the idea of a bodily resurrection, the humanist implications of this idea are nullified by his specification of the new body as comprising a complete transformation of the human condition into something angelic or even super-angelic (I Cor. 15.50-54).
Not the slightest mention is made by Paul of the establishment of a just society on earth as an eschatological aim, though this was the chief concern of the Hebrew prophets and of the intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature.
Such an aim is abandoned by Paul as impossible of realization for corrupted mankind. He has no vision of a perfected human society; salvation is for him entirely for the individual, as in the Orphic and Gnostic religious schemes, and this salvation consists in the raising of the individual to superhuman status.
This anti-humanist and apolitical conception of resurrection arises directly from Paul's central and un-Jewish doctrine of the saving power of Yeshua's death on the cross. It is the death of the divine visitor that saves, not any exercise of human energies towards a just society. Consequently, individual resurrection has no societal aspect, and indeed involves the abolition of society. All those who have endeavoured to show continuity between Paul's conception of resurrection and that of Judaism are ignoring an unbridgeable gulf. When Paul himself aligned himself with the Pharisee doctrine of resurrection (Acts 23.6-9), it is clear that this was merely a device and he did not really believe that his doctrine was the same as that of the Pharisees. This is another instance of 'judaization', the clothing of un-Jewish ideas with a Jewish vocabulary, which is characteristic of Paul in his endeavour to link his version of mystery religion with the Jewish tradition.
Answer for yourself: If Paul's ideas on the resurrection cannot be found in the Old Testament and Biblical Judaism, where must we look to see the origin of the concepts as taught by Paul?
Since in Paul's thought, the idea of resurrection is connected so inextricably to a religious aim of divinization or achieving superhuman immortal status, we must surely ask where else in the ancient world this connection occurs. The answer is clearly in Gnosticism and mystery religion; but it is only in the latter that this aim is dependent on the death of a human-divine figure, whose death and resurrection are shared symbolically and mystically by the believer. A good example is the initiation of Pythagoras in Crete, as recounted by Porphyry:
. . . he lay from dawn outstretched face-foremost by the sea and by night lay near a river covered with fillets from the fleece of a black lamb, and he went down into the Idaean cave holding black wool and spent there the accustomed thrice nine hallowed days and beheld the seat bedecked every year for Zeus, and he engraved an inscription about the tomb with the title 'Pythagoras to Zeus' of which the beginning is: 'Here in death lies Zan, whom they call Zeus' . . .
We do not usually think of Zeus as a dying-and-rising god, and the rites of the Idaean cave are usually associated with Dionysus. But God the Son, who suffers death, is ultimately identical with God the Father, whose impassibility is normally preserved. It is clear that the death and rebirth undergone by Pythagoras is associated with a divine death and resurrection. The fact that this testimony comes from a work of the third century CE does not invalidate it, since the information given is clearly traditional.
It is clear too that the immortality promised in Egyptian religion through the procedure of mummification was guaranteed by the death and rebirth of Osiris; that in Mithraic religion, the death and diffused life (rather than individual rebirth) of the divine bull brings rebirth to the initiate, after a symbolic death; and that a similar divine death and survival in the religion of Attis is the basis of initiation into the cult. Orpheus is a more complicated figure; he is himself initiated, by death and rebirth, into the mystery of the death and rebirth of Dionysus, but as the leading exemplar of the initiate, he becomes, in some areas, a dying and rising god himself.
Since the notion of achieving immortality through the death and resurrection of a divine figure was so widespread in Paul's time, it is inappropriate to look for the origin of the Pauline doctrine in a Jewish concept of resurrection that is totally different in its thrust and emphasis.
The difference may be summarized as follows:
Jewish resurrection was the recovery of human life, while both Pauline and pagan resurrection are the achievement of supernatural status, i.e. divinization. To be resurrected, in Jewish eyes, was a miracle, but was not essentially different from the resurrections which had occurred in earlier times through the agency of Elijah and Elisha, or the raising of Lazarus by Yeshua. Those resurrected did not become immortals, though they were promised prolonged health into good old age by the prophecy of Isaiah 65.20-22. Even those who believed in the immortality of the resurrected conceived this as an earthly immortality, such as Adam might have had if he had not sinned.
Divinization through a dying and rising deity involves other ideas which are also not to be found in Judaism, but which are characteristic of Paul. One of these is the Pauline concept of 'faith'. It is through 'faith' in Christ that a person shares in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and thus shares in his divinization. It is through 'faith' too that a person becomes 'in' Christ, sharing in the life and personality of Christ, and thereby achieving mystical fellowship with all those who are similarly 'in' Christ, since they all form one supernatural personality together with Christ and are no longer mere individuals. This is the Pauline theory of the church, which through the 'faith' of its members transcends their human limitations and binds them into a super personality which is continuous with Christ himself and constitutes his 'body'.
All these ideas are alien to Judaism, which has an entirely different theory of fellowship. 'Faith' in Judaism (emunah) means loyalty to the Covenant made between God and Israel; and this covenant was made between two partners each of whom retains his original status, one divine, the other human, without intermingling of their natures. It is true that there is a strong sense of fellowship in Judaism, but this does not arise from any mystical transcendence of the bounds of human personality, and does not involve any theory of divinization. It is the fellowship of human beings embarked on a common enterprise and having a common tradition which stresses the value of human status as a God-given condition which it is not the business of religion to transcend: 'The secret things are for the Lord our God, and the revealed things are for us and for our children for ever, to perform the words of this Torah' (Deut. 29:28). W. D. Davies argues that there is a Jewish background for Paul's theory of community 'in Christ' in the Jewish concept of the unity of Israel as shown, for example, in the injunction that 'in every generation, everyone should regard himself as having personally taken part in the Exodus from Egypt'. But this concept of community is at the opposite pole to Paul's. It means an attachment to an enterprise spanning many generations but firmly rooted in an historical event of liberation giving rise to an earthly project of communal living as outlined in the Torah. This is the kind of loyalty by which, for example, Frenchmen make vivid to themselves the ideals of the Revolution, or Americans immerse themselves in the liberating events which created their project of human development. It is not a program of divinization but a dedication to a human aim inspiring enough to transcend normal selfish concerns, and to create a sense of comradeship with all those engaged in the same enterprise, whether of previous or coming generations.
Paul's project, on the other hand, is directed towards individual salvation and transformation into a supernatural state of being which is indeed shared with others but has nothing to do with the establishment of a just society on earth. The aim, on the contrary, is to transcend the need for justice to others by breaking down the barriers which divide one human personality from another, so that all form part of one supernatural entity...called "the body of Christ". Paul is not entirely unconcerned with morality and justice, but he regards these as interim matters affecting the transition-period of waiting for the time when all will be transformed and only Christ will exist. W. D. Davies attempts to show a Jewish background for even these conceptions by pointing to Paul's use of the Exodus theme as symbolically foreshadowing the Pauline scheme of salvation. But the use of Jewish expressions is not evidence of a genuine link with Jewish religion. Radical reinterpretations of Jewish material were the main method by which Gnostics reversed the meaning of Judaism. Paul too by regarding the crossing of the Red Sea, for example, as a symbol of Christian baptism (I Cor. 10.2), is reversing the meaning of Judaism, turning it into a scheme of individual, rather than communal or political, salvation. The depoliticization of the Exodus story robs it of its Jewish meaning, while at the same time, of course, aiming at the annexation of Jewish authority for an alien message.
The true source of ideas of merging of human personality with the divine is in Hellenistic mystery religion, mysticism and philosophy. In Orphism, in particular, the aim of the initiate is to achieve divine status by merging with the divinity of Dionysus. In Gnosticism, itself much influenced by mystery religion, the achievement of gnosis brings with it a supernatural status higher than that of the angels associated with the Demiurge. Thus the obvious place to look for the origins of Paul's notions of 'faith' and its supernaturalizing effects is in the Hellenistic religious environment, while all attempts to find these notions in Judaism are tortuous and unconvincing, since they conflict with Judaism's essential humanism.
Even more important, however, is the fact that the divine sacrifice which, in Paulinism, brings about the divinizing effects which are nowhere to be found in Judaism. As has been noted, the violent death of the divine figure is just as necessary to the divinizing effect as to that of atonement. There has been some tendency recently to argue that the atoning effect of the cross is not very important in Paul; but even if this is so, the pattern of a divine sacrifice is not any less strong. A 'participationist' interpretation of Paul does nothing to lessen the important in his thought of the violent divine death, and this, in the last resort, is what divides him utterly from Judaism and what Yeshua taught on the resurrection and Eternal life.
All that I have done in this article, as well as this series, is to contrast for you the teachings of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings with what is recorded as the teachings of Paul as contained in the New Testament.
One last though if I might.
Mal 3:6 6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
If you like I believe the above verse and trust its validity then our God does not change. Well if you read these articles you can see that Paul's teachings are often a complete contradiction and in opposition to what was given through Holy men of Old as recorded in the Old Testament. Something sure changed. Coupled with that is the evidence I presented as to the origin for Paul's "changes" as taken from Gnosticism and Pagan Mystery Religions the conclusion is inescapable. If you consider yourself a thinking believer then you easily see that what is recorded in the New Testament and in the Pauline corpus of writings are "changes" from God Word as collected in the Jewish Scriptures. This God which changes not gave us these truths through the Jewish nation and are the backbone for which the church is to founded upon. This God says He changes not. That means His Word does not change as well. Well something did. You now have the facts and can make an intelligent decision on this matter. It is time to return to the faith once given to the saints...Biblical Judaism where the non-Jew is grafted into Israel and not as its "replacement".
This completes this series. Shalom.
For further study into how sun-worship was incorporated into the Mystery Religions and the Pauline synthesis of it please refer to: http://paganizingfaithofyeshua.netfirms.com