CHXII - XII. HUMAN DESTINY: Introduction: Death and After...

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XII. HUMAN DESTINY: Introduction: Death and After Life The OT conception of death and after-life is difficult to summarize or explain succinctly. 1 This is due, in part, to the emotional and theological challenges that are woven into the topic; human beings recoil at the thought of death, more especially at the reality of their own death. Human death is so painfully shocking that we often speak of it indirectly, using euphemisms that shield ourselves or others from the harsh reality of death: "she passed away," "he went to be with the Lord," we hear people say. We should not be surprised that the OT writers also speak euphemistically about death; their euphemisms are sometimes difficult for us to understand, however, because they are grounded in a vastly different culture and time than ours. Hence, is not surprising that the OT presents the reader with a variegated tapestry of impressions and declarations about death. This is an emotionally charged topic, and the OT text often theologizes about it in emotionally charged tones. Reading the secondary literature on this theme is no less bewildering. As Lloyd Bailey notes: "Secondary literature on this topic will present the reader with a bewildering and sometimes contradictory array of approaches, emphases, and conclusions." 2 Sometimes it is easier to say what is NOT taught in the OT than to say succinctly what is taught; this is, to a degree the case here. First, we should make it clear that the OT does NOT teach a theology of "the immortality of the soul" which was prominent in Greek and Hellenistic literature and was gradually imported into Christianity in the early, Patristic era. Vreizen states 1 The literature on this topic is quite exhaustive. Among the most useful treatments are: Llyod Bailey, Biblical Perspectives on Death (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979); W. Bruggemann, "Death, theology of," IDBS , 219-222; R.H. Charles, Eschat- ology (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1899), John Davis, "The Future Life in Hebrew Thought During the Pre-Persian Period," The Princeton Theological Review , Vol. VI, No. 2 (April 1908), 246-268; Eichrodt, Theology of the OT , 2, chs. 16, 19, 24; Jacob, Theology of the OT , 299-315; and E. Jacob, "Death," IDB , I, 802-04. Bailey, Bruggemann, and Jacob ( IDB ) offer useful bibliographies of additional sources. 2 Lloyd R. Bailey, Biblical Perspectives on Death (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), 25.
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the matter forcefully: "Nowhere in the Old Testament do we hear of the immortality of the soul, or of man being incorruptible after death." 3 Hence, Edmund Jacob concludes: "No biblical text authorizes the statement that the ‘soul’ is separated from the body at the moment of death." 4 So the first thing to be said about the OT theology of death is that it stands on the foundation of what we have already observed about the OT understanding of a unified, and integrated understanding of human beings. The popular "Christian theologies" that postulate an immortal soul, separation from the body, and an immediate appearance in the Divine presence upon death
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CHXII - XII. HUMAN DESTINY: Introduction: Death and After...

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