Resurrection of a Body of Flesh?
Does Job 19:25 prediction a yet future resurrection of our bodies in the flesh? In the on-going controversy between the true preterist view and that of futurism, Job 19:25 often becomes one of the key texts of discussion. Futurists tell us that man must be raised in a body of flesh and they sometimes appeal to the creedal statements that affirmed: “We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess.” (13th Century, Council of Lyons, cited in the Second Edition of the Catholic Church (1017).
But, of course, for true Bible students, the creeds are not the determinative authority, nor should they be. And the claim that Job anticipated the raising of his biological body of flesh out of the ground is not only debatable, but, dubious at the very best, and almost certainly false.
Job and the Resurrection– Before Chapter 19
One of the sad realities of claims about Job 19:25 is that most Bible students pay little attention to what came before it. But when we read Job’s own words about what he believed– or wondered about– it becomes increasingly difficult to ascribe a belief in resurrection to Job in chapter 19.
Notice Job 7:9-10: “As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, So he who goes down to the grave does not come up. 10 He shall never return to his house, Nor shall his place know him anymore.”
One could hardly get the idea that Job had any kind of firm “resurrection hope” based on these statements– and patently not a concept of a resurrection of a body of flesh. In the just completed Preterist Pilgrim Weekend, Jerel Kratt, one of speakers, did a good job of showing the complete uncertainty about a firm doctrine of resurrection in job. DVDs and MP3s of that conference will be available soon, we hope.
Notice Job’s comments in chapter 10:18-22: ‘Why then have You brought me out of the womb? Oh, that I had perished and no eye had seen me! I would have been as though I had not been. I would have been carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Cease! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort, Before I go to the place from which I shall not return, To the land of darkness and the shadow of death, A land as dark as darkness itself, As the shadow of death, without any order, Where even the light is like darkness.’”
Notice Job’s reference to dying and not returning. (Compare Jeremiah 51:39, 57, as well). The emphasis is on not “returning.” Again, there is no thought of a resurrection of a body of flesh to be found here.
Likewise, notice chapter 14:7-16:
“For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And that its tender shoots will not cease. 8 Though its root may grow old in the earth, And its stump may die in the ground, 9 Yet at the scent of water it will bud And bring forth branches like a plant. But man dies and is laid away; Indeed he breathes his last And where is he? As water disappears from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dries up, So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, They will not awake Nor be roused from their sleep. “Oh, that You would hide me in the grave, That You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, That You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands. For now You number my steps, But do not watch over my sin.”
There has always been tremendous controversy over these verses. There is clearly no overt doctrine of resurrection– and absolutely nothing to support the idea of the resurrection of a fleshly body– to be found here. In fact, one could justifiably say that Job contrasts man with the plant world. If a tree seems to die, you can water it and it comes back. But, that is in contrast to man that “disappears” and does not come back! Job certainly poses the famous question: “If a man dies, will he live again?” but, he gives no definitive, or substantive answer. In fact, Wright says that the expected answer to the question, given the context is: “No!” (N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of Man, (Minneapolis, Fortress, 2003)97).
But, does Job anticipate the return of man “when the mountains are no more”? Or, is that a Hebraism, since the Hebrews viewed the earth as essentially eternal, unmovable? Now, they knew that erosion took place, but, the earth itself abode. Verse 19 seems to add a note of additional futility– or at the best– uncertainty: “As water wears away stones, And as torrents wash away the soil of the earth; So You destroy the hope of man.” This is a contrast between his earlier statement that dead trees are revived by water. Unlike the trees, man is not revived!
Resurrection or Life After Death
All that one can say is that Job said he would wait on YHVH “till my change comes.” And yet, we are given no insight into what he meant by that change, or, when he anticipated it. There is simply no detail given. In fact, in chapter 16:22 he seems convinced that there is no return from death!
Job 16:21-22: “Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, As a man pleads for his neighbor!
For when a few years are finished, I shall go the way of no return.” Once again we see the idea of “no return.” There is no resurrection of the flesh to be found anywhere!
We are told however, that when we come to Job 19 that Job has a change of heart and mind, and that in these verses we have a change of “theology.” Wright comments on this: “The passage in Job (i.e. 19:25f, DKP) thought to be an exception to this rule (of no return, DKP) is almost certainly not.” (2003, 98).
From this brief survey of Job, it should be more than apparent that at least up to chapter 19:25, there is no doctrine of resurrection. There is instead that idea that when one dies there is no return. (This is not the same as saying that there is no life after death, but, at the very most one could say that Job pondered this question).
There is absolutely no support for a doctrine of the resurrection of a fleshly body in Job. So, does Job change his mind in chapter 19? Does the Lord give him some additional insight here to cure his “pessimism” in the earlier chapters? We will examine Job 19:25 in the next installment, to investigate this question about the resurrection of a body of flesh.
Be sure to get a copy of my book We Shall Meet Him In the Air, The Wedding of the King of kings, for a major study of the doctrine of the resurrection.
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