Jesus, Enoch, Elijah, and Job’s Children

The same person who recently asked me about translation and resurrection drew my attention to this statement by William Lane Craig:

In an extra-canonical Jewish writing called The Testament of Job (40), the story is told of the translation of two children killed in the collapse of a house. The children are killed when the house collapses, but when the rescuers clear away the rubble their bodies are not to be found. Meanwhile, the mother sees a vision of the two children glorified in heaven, where they have been translated by God. It needs to be emphasized that for the Jew a translation is not the same as a resurrection. Translation is the bodily assumption of someone out of this world into heaven. Resurrection is the raising up of a dead man in the space-time universe.

Their question in response was this:

Where does he get his definitions, and how does he know the author and audience of this passage considered the event a “translation” and not a “resurrection”? Putting this passage aside, “translation” always referred to a person being bodily raised up to heaven BEFORE death (e.g. Enoch, Elijah, and Moses). I do not see how a person who has been bodily raised to heaven AFTER death could be seen as anything other than “raised from the dead” or “resurrected”. The PLACE where the resurrected person resides – heaven instead of earth – might not be the usual place that resurrection was associated with, but it seems to me that it is still a resurrection from the dead. As far as I am aware, there is nothing in the Jewish literature that defines different terms for a dead person who is raised and then exists on earth and a dead person who is raised and then exists in heaven.

This raises some excellent questions. It seems to me that some New Testament texts actually can be understood to mean precisely what the Testament of Job envisages – a vindication of Jesus after death which rescued his body from dishonor, but did not imply that the final resurrection was near at hand. That latter concept is to the forefront in Paul’s writings. But how widespread was it, and have we allowed his theological understanding of the implication of Jesus’ resurrection to color our interpretation of other New Testament texts?

Moreover, the distinction that Craig makes seems to me to poorly fit what Paul had to say, which is that Jesus entered a different kind of existence, a translated one, and did not merely return to life in the current age and order.

On a related note, see Brian LePort’s recent post about Jesus, Enoch, and Elijah. Also, there is a new edition of the Testament of Job which Bloomsbury has published, and which I hope to take a look at once it is released, by Maria Haralambakis: The Testament of Job: Text, Narrative and Reception History (Library of Second Temple Studies).

 

  • http://2theFather.blogspot.com/ iRoswell

    It appears to me that Lane is saying that the two were taken before death, as their bodies are not found.

    Deuteronomy 34:5 says that Moses died. Enoch and Elijah are the only two who were translated to heaven in the Bible.

  • Ali Hussain

    Hi James , i am a big fan of urs .You r one of my favorite Biblical scholars . Could it be that God had vindicated and saved Jesus from dying on the cross and the later appearances of Jesus taken by the disciples as a resurrected Jesus .One more question , what happened to the body of Jesus if he did not resurrect ?

    • beau_quilter

      Jesus’ body decomposed, like every other body that dies. Some apologists are fond of saying that, if Jesus had not resurrected, Christianity’s opponents could have proven it simply by producing his body. This is a silly assertion. Even if someone had thought to dig up Jesus’ body on the day of Pentecost, just 50 days after the crucifixion, by then it would have been an unrecognizable mass of decomposed flesh.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I understand that the Islamic view is that Jesus was saved from death and not crucified, but we do not have early sources that would support that view being historical.

      The question of what happened to Jesus’ body is pretty much impossible to answer other than speculatively, from a historian’s perspective.


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