Need information about Pharisaical beliefs about the soul.

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Ben C. Smith
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Need information about Pharisaical beliefs about the soul.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Nov 20, 2020 7:42 pm

I know that the Pharisees, in general, are held to have believed in the resurrection of the righteous dead, which Josephus explains on their behalf as the installation of the incorruptible soul (ψυχή) into a new body (σῶμα) in Wars 2.8.14 §163.

What I am less sure about is exactly how Pharisees, in particular, may have viewed the so called interim state. Acts 23.8 suggests they believed in angels and spirits, but that is not enough to tell me what they thought happened to the righteous soul immediately upon death. Did they think it went to be with God, as Paul seems to be saying in 2 Corinthians 5.8 and Philippians 1.23-24? Did they think something else happened to it? Are there passages which let us know for certain? (Rabbinical texts would be welcome, but I am looking for earlier ones, as well.)

Thanks.

Ben.

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DCHindley
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Re: Need information about Pharisaical beliefs about the soul.

Post by DCHindley » Sat Nov 21, 2020 8:23 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 20, 2020 7:42 pm
I know that the Pharisees, in general, are held to have believed in the resurrection of the righteous dead, which Josephus explains on their behalf as the installation of the incorruptible soul (ψυχή) into a new body (σῶμα) in Wars 2.8.14 §163.

What I am less sure about is exactly how Pharisees, in particular, may have viewed the so called interim state. Acts 23.8 suggests they believed in angels and spirits, but that is not enough to tell me what they thought happened to the righteous soul immediately upon death. Did they think it went to be with God, as Paul seems to be saying in 2 Corinthians 5.8 and Philippians 1.23-24? Did they think something else happened to it? Are there passages which let us know for certain? (Rabbinical texts would be welcome, but I am looking for earlier ones, as well.)

Thanks.
Takes me back to my high school days. Back then some private "amateur scholars" used to hand out tracts that talked of Hebrew "sheol." Supposedly, this is a state of the dead person's soul. The person is now just a memory, so the dead person is quite unconscious. Jehovah's Witnesses, I believe, talk of this as being "cut off." It's not a negative term for them, since almost everyone will one day die. Of course, they expect the soul of the righteous deceased to rise again to inhabit a renewed and super-fruitful "park-like earth" to inhabit forever. The notion of resurrection of people found in Daniel and possibly hinted at elsewhere in Hebrew scripture and apocalyptic books galore, is not that much different than that of JWs today.

Now that all assumes that technical terms that identify unique individual, which we translate as "soul," "spirit," & "life," had a meaning for them that largely corresponds with what our modern brains associate with these terms now. The problem I found was that there was a significant difference between them. I've only dabbled at identifying the Greek terms that describe unique individuals, tracing most of them to Plato. Off the top of my head, I would not want to offer my impressions. How a typical denizen of the Roman era towns understood these terms, well that is another matter.

DCH

mbuckley3
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Re: Need information about Pharisaical beliefs about the soul.

Post by mbuckley3 » Sun Nov 22, 2020 3:31 pm

Ben, this is surely the first time you have started a thread which cannot, by definition, lead anywhere.
Back to first principles. The only Pharisee whose writings we know we possess is Paul. Josephus is quite clear that he himself was only a fellow-traveller. Indeed, Paul's self-definition at Phil.3.5 can be read in a Josephan sense. After all, you can describe yourself as a liberal without even being a registered Democrat, let alone a member of the DNC.
Texts once identified as 'Pharisaic' (e.g. Psalms of Solomon) derived that identity from a previous era of scholarship which assumed that the rabbis were re-branded Pharisees, based on an uncritical reading of patristic texts (a hostile agenda) and the Talmuds (an archaizing agenda in a Christian world). Yet Gamaliel II was the only rabbi known to have a Pharisaic background (father and grandfather), and there is no key to identifying Pharisaic material in, say, the Mishnah. The 'minimalist ' school which stresses the discontinuities (S. Cohen, H. Lapin, S. Schwartz) at least has the intellectual merit of being honest about the extent of what we do not know when we try to understand what we have.
What the heck, let's have some rabbinica anyway. This passage is as on-topic as I can find, yet is bafflingly unclear as to the question you posed. It's Tosefta Hullin 10.16, (yes I know Tosefta : Mishnah is a Synoptic Problem of itself, but it is 'arguable' that this derives from C2 material) :

"R. Jacob says, 'There is no commandment in the Law which does not have its reward alongside it and the resurrection of the dead written in it. [Consider] that it is said (Deut.22.7), 'You shall surely let the mother go [if you find a mother bird sitting on a nest..that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.'] A man went up to the top of a tree [and found a nest and let the mother go] and fell and died, or to the top of a building and fell and died. Where is the good he was to receive and the length of his days ? Hence say, 'That it may be well with you,' in the good world, 'and that you may prolong your days ,' in the long world.' "

Tertullian's De Anima has a wonderfully clear picture of the two-tier subterranean Hades where all souls (except those of the martyrs) reside "in exile" pending the resurrection, millennial rule of the saints and final judgement. It would be great if there was a demonstrable documentary trail leading back to a C1 Pharisee who wasn't Paul. But I fear the trail has long gone cold...

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Need information about Pharisaical beliefs about the soul.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:43 pm

mbuckley3 wrote:
Sun Nov 22, 2020 3:31 pm
Ben, this is surely the first time you have started a thread which cannot, by definition, lead anywhere.
You are (A) probably right about this thread leading nowhere and (B) certainly wrong about this thread being my first of that nature. :D

Good points all around. Let me see if I can reframe the inquiry.

I think that there were Jews who believed that the ineffable part of a human could outlast death and join God afterward, and that the Preacher spoke against them, upholding the more ancient view that death is all there is:

Ecclesiastes 3.19-21: 19 For the fate of the sons of mankind and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath, and there is no advantage for mankind over animals, for all is futility. 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. 21 Who knows that the spirit of the sons of mankind ascends upward and the spirit of the animal descends downward to the earth?

This belief that the breath of humans may ascend after death was close enough to the Greek belief in the immortality of the soul that it could be mistaken for it (and there could be some common derivation for the Greek and the Jewish beliefs on this point, but the ultimate origin of the notion is not my purpose here and now).

I also think that there were eventually Jews who believed in a bodily resurrection. Call them Pharisees or whatever you wish, but the label does not matter. The metaphorical resurrection of Israel as a nation described by several of the prophets became a belief that those Israelites who had died before getting to experience the final reign of God would be literally resurrected so as not to miss out. Theodicy drove this belief.

What I am wondering is, setting aside the original view (traditionally attributed to the Sadducees), how the other two beliefs stack together. Was it possible for someone to believe in a physical resurrection without believing that the human breath ascended or, essentially, that the human soul or spirit was immortal? If so, what did such people think happened to the person after death but before resurrection? Or is it possible that there never was any belief in a physical resurrection without the assumption, already in place, that the breath, soul, or spirit would ascend to God immediately after death?

Another way to frame the issue is as follows. Is the so called interim state the result of two disparate ideas (physical resurrection and the immortality of the soul) coming together as one? Or is it the result of one idea (immortality of the soul) taking another idea (physical resurrection) on board? Or is there another option?

mbuckley3
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Re: Need information about Pharisaical beliefs about the soul.

Post by mbuckley3 » Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:18 pm

Thanks for your kind remarks, and the most elegant 'reframing' of the question, albeit in such a way as to make a compelling answer even more unlikely !

Nevertheless, here's a sketch of an argument for an hypothesis. So many of the texts we deal with contain speculations on the opening chapters of Genesis. While notions such as Adam originally being a creature of light grab our attention, a more physical, 'literalist' reading was available. As the Jewish 'world to come' was in some sense a 'new Creation ', Genesis is our guide.

Reverting to Tertullian, it is for Christological reasons that he insists on the indissoluable union of body and soul, and so for a physical resurrection. But if we were C19 German source critics, we would assert that his actual arguments for bodily resurrection are independent of any concept of the soul, and plausibly can be derived from a long tradition of Jewish exegesis. These arguments depend on Genesis.

So De Resurr.11 : "Surely He is most competent to re-create who created, in as much as it is a far greater work to have produced than to have reproduced..On this principle, you may be quite sure that the restoration of the flesh is easier than its first formation."

Illustrative examples are available elsewhere, so De Resurr.13 : "I refer to the bird which is peculiar to the East..its dying day is its birthday, for on it it departs and returns; once more a phoenix where just now there was none; once more himself [NB birds have no soul- ch.32], but just now out of existence; another yet the same. What can be more express or more significant for our subject?..God even in his own scripture says, 'The righteous man shall flourish like the phoenix [Ps.92.12 LXX]'; that is, shall flourish or revive, from death, from the grave...But must men die once for all, while birds in Arabia are sure of a resurrection ?"

So, yes, it is possible to demonstrate the arguments and proof-texts which could have been used to explain a physical resurrection without any concept of the soul. There is no interest in an interim period as this is simply 'dead time' before the new Creation. It is only when the independent immortality of the soul tradition gets grafted on, with its implication of surviving consciousness, that the interim period becomes an issue.

Whether this template has any validity would depend on it (better) explaining existing discrete texts rather than reverse-engineering Tertullian.

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Re: Need information about Pharisaical beliefs about the soul.

Post by StephenGoranson » Wed Nov 25, 2020 2:58 am

Ben, though it will not resolve your question, some more reference to Pharisees and endtimes may be available, if you (as I do) consider that some mentions of Ephraim in Qumran refer to them.

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