In the latest issue of The Christian Century, Walter Brueggemann, the emeritus professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, has an excellent review of the book Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews by Kevin J. Madigan and Jon D. Levenson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).
The following is an excerpt from Brueggemann’s review:
In the present volume, Levenson reiterates much of the argument of that earlier book, only now the matter interfaces with Madigan's insistence that resurrection faith is central and nonnegotiable in the Christian tradition as well. The book opens with a recognition of resurrection as a key affirmation of the New Testament, then probes the Old Testament to find the sources of New Testament faith.
The focus in this discussion is on Sheol as a kind of quiet, gray warehouse where the dead go. Contrary to the common scholarly judgment that Sheol is a common destiny for all human persons, Madigan and Levenson make the case that not all the dead go there. Sheol smacks of punishment and is the continuation of an unfulfilled life. The righteous do not go to Sheol but are "enveloped in the blessing of God." Thus this study identifies two theologies in tension, one that sees Sheol as a common human destiny and one that makes an important distinction about the future for those attuned to God:
What happened with the biblical Sheol, it seems to us, is that the affirmation of faith in the omnipotent and rescuing God of Israel, against whom not even the most formidable enemies can ultimately stand, has collided with the brute fact of death. . . . Something had to give. What gave was not the faith in the limitless power of the Rock of Israel and their redeemer. What gave was death. . . . Death would remain universal, but not everyone who died would experience it as a plague. Sheol would remain pestilential, but not everyone who died would go there.
What gave was death! This is the burden of the book. Death had to yield, so say the texts, to the vigorous power of God, who wills life and who gives life marked by justice.
Brueggemann did such a great job in his review that he convinced me that I should buy this book and read it. Visit The Christian Century online and read Brueggemann’s review.
Click here to by the book from Amazon.com.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary