Eternal Hope – Part 29

Eternal Hope – Part 29

Eternal Hope
Part 29


When Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East in the fourth century B.C., Greek thought began to influence Judaism. Because of the late development of a doctrine of the resurrection and an eternal hope, what role, if any, did the Greeks play in influencing it? The Greeks held two views of the afterlife, sometimes at the same time, although they were conflicting if not incompatible.

As depicted in epics like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, hope in an afterlife was reserved for those chosen few who were physically related to the gods. Belief in the gods provided no hope for human immortality as such, although most believed that some form of the person continued to exist after death.

Concurrent with this belief in the gods, the Greeks believed in the transmigration of the soul. They viewed the soul as having an eternal existence, but not apart from the body. Through a series of reincarnations they hoped that the individual would eventually blend mystically into an oneness with God – monism. The Greeks are indebted to the Hindus for this worldview.

Both views conceived of the body as a prison from which the soul sought deliverance. Biblically, the soul does not exist prior to birth, and history is linear rather than cyclical. In the Old Testament, even before the development of an eternal hope, the soul, once separated from the body at death, did not migrate back in a different life form.

Greek thought did, however, influence Judaism. After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire divided in four factions, the Seleucids of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt having the greatest influence on Israel. Because the Greeks were the conquerors and considered their culture superior to all others, a natural trend toward embracing Greek thought developed in the conquered territories. The strongest opposition came principally from two groups: The Pharisees, who were the scribist legal party, emphasized the Law and its importance in Hebrew life. The Chasidim, and later the Essenes, retired from the affairs of this life and as mystics tended toward visions, dreams, and feelings.

A third sect, the Sadducees, sought to adapt to Greek thought by harmonizing their belief in Yahweh with the philosophical ideas of men like Plato and Aristotle. Because Greeks saw the body as the soul’s prison, the Sadducees argued against the resurrection of the body. They confronted Jesus on this point, asking Him which husband a woman would have in the resurrection if she had been widowed and remarried.[1] Again, when the Apostle Paul defended himself before the Sanhedrin, he divided the Pharisees and Sadducees by saying he believed in the resurrection.[2] Some scholars conclude that the Sadducees denied the immortality of the soul, although on this point I am dubious. In all probability, like the Greeks, they believed in the immortality of the soul.

The Sadducees differed from the writers of the Pseudepigrapha in that the former denied the existence of much that the latter promoted: the Pseudepigrapha emphasized a Messianic hope, angelic beings, immortality with rewards and punishments – all of which the Sadducees denied. For this reason, it seems best to conclude that the Sadducees did not contribute to the apocalyptic literature.

The Essenes, as already noted, gave themselves to fantastic practices such as visions and dreams. This fits perfectly with the apocalyptic genre. With the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., both the Sadducees and Essenes faded from the stage of history, and Judaism was primarily defined by Pharisaism. The Pharisees excluded the apocalyptic literature from both the canon and their commentaries on the Law, while including the apocryphal books. We can deduce from this that Pharisees probably did not contribute to the apocalyptic literature. The Rabbis majored on the first five books of the Bible, the Torah.

Rabbinic literature has few traces of Messianic belief, and as far as I can tell, the Mishna was not committed to writing until the end of the second century. By this time a sharp difference existed between the beliefs of the synagogue and church with the Rabbis accentuating the differences by rejecting the apocalyptic contributions of the Essenes.

Reflections on The Book of Jubilees

This book may be (along with Enoch) the most important of the pseudepigrapha writings, although I could not find much dealing with eschatology. It advocates the absolute supremacy of the law along with a glorification of the Levitical priesthood. Written in the Maccabean period (c. 153 BC), the author sees the law as everlasting; it preceded time. Thus, it will continue throughout eternity. The author seeks to chronicle the history of the Bible with the objective of defending Judaism against the attacks of Greek thought. We will look at the Targum[3] later in our study, but note that the author of Julilees’ “work constitutes an enlarged Targum on Genesis and Exodus, in which difficulties in the biblical narrative are solved, gaps supplied, dogmatically offensive elements removed, and the genuine spirit of later Judaism infused into the primitive history of the world.”[4] Both the Patriarchs and the descendents of King David consistently followed the Law. Because the Law was supreme, prophecy could not in any way modify it. For this reason, as already observed, the Intertestamental “prophets” had to write under the guise of pseudonymity.

The author makes reference to the end times, probably the millennium as evidenced by his use of “one thousand years:” “And in those days the children shall begin to study the laws, and to seek the commandments, and to return to the path of righteousness. And the days shall begin to grow many and increase amongst those children of men till their days draw nigh to one thousand years. And to a greater number of years than (before) was the number of the days. And there shall be no old man nor one who is satisfied with his days, for all shall be (as) children and youths. And all their days they shall complete and live in peace and in joy, and there shall be no Satan nor any evil destroyer; for all their days shall be days of blessing and healing. And at that time the Lord will heal His servants, and they shall rise up and see great peace, and drive out their adversaries. And the righteous shall see and be thankful, and rejoice with joy for ever and ever, and shall see all their judgments and all their curses on their enemies. And their bones shall rest in the earth, and their spirits shall have much joy, and they shall know that it is the Lord who executes judgment, and shows mercy to hundreds and thousands and to all that love Him.”[5] Messiah rules over this kingdom, having descended from the tribe of Judah, rather than Levi as some in the priesthood argued. Although the author believes in the immortality of the just, he makes no mention of the resurrection of the body.
Reflections on The Assumption of Moses

This book probably consists of two separate documents: The Assumption of Moses and the Testament of Moses. Written during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (between AD 7 and 29), parts of it appear in II Baruch, Acts 7:36, Jude 9, 16, 18, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. “The book was written by a Pharisaic Quietist and was designed by its author as a protest against the growing secularization of the Pharisaic party through its fusion with political ideals and popular Messianic beliefs… for he looked for the return of the Ten Tribes, the establishment of the theocratic kingdom, the triumph of Israel over its foes … The duty of the faithful was not to resort to arms, but simply to keep the law, and prepare, through repentance, for the personal intervention of God in their behalf.”[6]

The author discusses the “Heavenly One” (Messiah?), and His coming: “And then His kingdom shall appear throughout all His creation, and then Satan shall be no more, and sorrow shall depart with him. Then the hands of the angel shall be filled who has been appointed chief, and he shall forthwith avenge them of their enemies. For the Heavenly One will arise from His royal throne, and He will go forth from His holy habitation with indignation and wrath on account of His sons. And the earth shall tremble: to its confines shall it be shaken: And the high mountains shall be made low and the hills shall be shaken and fall. And the horns of the sun shall be broken and he shall be turned into darkness; And the moon shall not give her light, and be turned wholly into blood. And the circle of the stars shall be disturbed. And the sea shall retire into the abyss, and the fountains of waters shall fail, and the rivers shall dry up. For the Most High will arise, the Eternal God alone, and He will appear to punish the Gentiles, and He will destroy all their idols. Then you, O Israel, shall be happy, and you shall mount upon the necks and wings of the eagle, and they shall be ended. And God will exalt you, and He will cause you to approach to the heaven of the stars, in the place of their habitation. And you will look from on high and see your enemies in Ge(henna) and you shall recognize them and rejoice, and you shall give thanks and confess thy Creator.”[7]

Reflections on The Book of the Secrets of Enoch

One of the passages of the Slavonic Enoch dramatizes eternity. Whether it influenced the writings of other authors, or was influenced by others, the author proposes that the world was made in six days, so its history would be accomplished in 6,000 years, and this would be followed by 1,000 years of rest, when the balance of conflicting moral forces has been struck and human life has reached the ideal state. Revelation 20:1-6 teaches that the anticipated 1,000 years of rest is what many Christians call the Millennium.

Heaven or hell awaits each person living: “And I swear to you, yea, yea, that there has been no man in his mother’s womb, but that already before, even to each one there is a place prepared for the repose of that soul, and a measure fixed how much it is intended that a man be tried in this world. Yea, children, deceive not yourselves, for there has been previously prepared a place for every soul of man.”[8] “Stretch out your hands to the poor according to your strength. Hide not your silver in the earth. Help the faithful man in affliction, and affliction will not find you in the time of your trouble. And every grievous and cruel yoke that come upon you bear all for the sake of the Lord, and thus you will find your reward in the day of judgment.”[9]

Those who live righteously will not only escape judgment, they shall inherit everlasting life: “When all creation visible and invisible, as the Lord created it, shall end, then every man goes to the great judgment, and then all time shall perish, and the years, and thenceforward there will be neither months nor days nor hours, they will be adhered together and will not be counted. There will be one aeon, and all the righteous who shall escape the Lord’s great judgment, shall be collected in the great aeon, for the righteous the great aeon will begin, and they will live eternally, and then too there will be amongst them neither labour, nor sickness, nor humiliation, nor anxiety, nor need, nor brutality, nor night, nor darkness, but great light. And they shall have a great indestructible wall, and a paradise bright and incorruptible, for all corruptible things shall pass away, and there will be eternal life.”[10]

The sinner will go to hell, his eternal inheritance: “And those men said to me: This place, O Enoch, is prepared for those who dishonour God, who on earth practice sin against nature, which is child-corruption after the sodomitic fashion, magic-making, enchantments and devilish witchcrafts, and who boast of their wicked deeds, stealing, lies, calumnies, envy, rancour, fornication, murder, and who, accursed, steal the souls of men, who, seeing the poor take away their goods and themselves wax rich, injuring them for other men’s goods; who being able to satisfy the empty, made the hungering to die; being able to clothe, stripped the naked; and who knew not their creator, and bowed to the soulless and lifeless gods, who cannot see nor hear, vain gods, who also built hewn images and bow down to unclean handiwork, for all these is prepared this place among these, for eternal inheritance.”[11]


Jews, who embraced an eternal hope, saw its fulfillment entailing the resurrection of God’s people who died during the time of the Old Testament. At that time the material re-creation of the world provided the restoration of the Old Testament system, along with the Temple and the fulfillment of the national promises. Some believed this included King David once again sitting on his throne.[12]

Grateful for the hope of heaven,


[1] Matthew 22:23-33
[2] Acts. 23:6
[3] Targum means, “translate or interpret.” During the period of Ezra’s Temple, rabbis added comments to their translations of Old Testament scripture.
[4] Op cit. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. II, page 1
[5] Jubilees 23:26-31
[6] Op cit. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. II, page 407
[7] Assumption of Moses 10:1-10
[8] Secrets of Enoch 49:4-5
[9] Secrets of Enoch 51:1-4
[10] Secrets of Enoch 65:5-7
[11] Secrets of Enoch 10:3
[12] Schurer, Emil, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Second Division, vol. II, page 175, Hendrickson Publishers, USA 2008