So scholars have inferred from a similar ritual of digging a hole described in Homer’s Odyssey, book 11:25ff.


Ecclesiasticus, or the Book of Sirach, is part of the Catholic canon and is contained in the Septuagint, the first translation of the Bible from Hebrew to Greek—made for the Jews of Alexandria in about the third century B.C. Ecclesiasticus is in the apocrypha of Jews and Protestants.


This passage from the Ecclesiasticus is an elaboration of Psalm 6:5: “None talk of thee among the dead; who praises thee in Sheol?” See also Psalm 88:10–12:

“Dost thou work wonders for the dead?

Do the shades rise up to praise thee?


Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave,

or thy faithfulness in Abaddon?

Are thy wonders known in the darkness,

or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?


A non-biblical book that originated in third-century B.C. Judaism (see “The Strange Visions of Enoch,” BR 03:02, by Matthew Black and “Don’t Let Pseudepigrapha Scare You,” BR 03:02, by Hershel Shanks).


The Book of Wisdom, or Wisdom of Solomon, is part of the Catholic Bible. It refects the concerns of Jewish intellectuals living in first-century B.C. Alexandria, Egypt.



Ancient Semitic and biblical ancestor worship and the condition of the dead are surveyed in Klaas Spronk. Beatific Afterlife in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East (Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1986). Helpful recent studies include Herbert C. Brichto, “Kin, Cult, Land and Afterlife—A Biblical Complex,” Hebrew Union College Annual 44 (1973), pp. 1–54; Oswald Loretz, “Vom kanaanäischen Totenkult zur jüdischen Patriarchen- und Elternehrung,” Jahrbuch für Anthropologie und Religionsgeschichte 3 (1978), pp. 149–204; George C. Heider, The Cult of Molek (Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1985); Akio Tsukimoto, Untersuchungen zur Totenpflege [kispum] im alten Mesopotamien (Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1985).


Robert Cooley, “Gathered to His People: A Study of a Dothan Family Tomb,” in The Living and Active Word of God: Studies in Honor of Samuel J. Schultz, ed. Morris Inch et al. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983), pp. 47–58.


1 Samuel 28:13. The term rendered “ghostly form” by the New English Bible is elohim, i.e., “god” Psalm 16:3 calls the dead the “gods [literally, holy ones] who are in the earth”; Spronk, Beatific Afterlife, p. 249.


Bernhard Lang, Monotheism and the Prophetic Minority (Sheffield, UK: Almond, 1983).


Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, “Theorie générale de la magie,” Année sociologique 7 (1902/03), pp. 1–146, at p. 19.


For the possibility of identifying the “household gods” (teraphim) as ancestors, cf. Tsukimoto, Untersuchungen zur Totenpflege, p. 104f. The measures taken by King Josiah are echoed in Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:11.


Presupposed in Deuteronomy 26:14, see Brichto, “Kin, Cult, Land and Afterlife,” p. 28f.; see also Jacob Milgrom, “First-born,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, suppl. vol. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1976), p. 338.


Job 14:21. Cf. also Isaiah 43:16, a passage that makes Yahweh the only “father” of Israel, while asserting that “Abraham does not know us nor Israel [i.e., the patriarch Jacob] acknowledge us”; Spronk, Beatific Afterlife, p. 255.


Gilgamesh, tablet 7, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. James B. Pritchard, 3rd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969), p. 87; cf. pp. 107, 509 for further Mesopotamian texts.


Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1975), vol. 1, p. 236; Boyce, “On the Antiquity of Zoroastrian Apocalyptic,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 47 (1984), pp. 57–75.


Verses 12b–13, referring to graves is, in my opinion, a later addition or gloss.


Boyce, A History Of Zoroastrianism, vol. 1, pp. 325–330.


Cf. Isaiah 26:19 and Gerhard Hasel, “Resurrection in the Theology of Old Testament Apocalyptic,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 92 (1980), pp. 267–284. Lang, “Street Theater, Raising the Dead, and the Zoroastrian Connection in Ezekiel’s Prophecy,” Ezekiel and His Book, ed. Johan Lust (Louvain, Belgium: Louvain Univ. Press, 1986), pp. 297–316.


One Jewish martyr is reported to have declared, “It was from Heaven that I received these [limbs]; for the sake of his law I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again” (2 Maccabees 7:11).


1 Enoch 10:10, 25:6 in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), pp. 18, 26. Cf. Lang, “No Sex in Heaven: The logic of Procreation, Death, and Eternal Life in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition,” in Mélanges bibliques et orientaux en l’honneur de M. Mathias Delcor, ed. André Caquot et al. (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1985), pp. 237–253, especially p. 238f.


The Hebrew verb rendered “to receive, to take” is a technical term for heavenly assumption in Psalms 49:15 and 73:24, as well as in Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:3, 5, 9.


Andrew B. Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament (Edinburgh, UK: T. & T. Clark, 1904), p. 439.


Philo, On the Giants, 15.


Harry A. Wolfson, Philo, vol. 1, 4th ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1968), p. 403f.


Philo, On Dreams, 1.139


Hans C. Cavallin, Life After Death (Lund, Sweden: Gleerup, 1974); Cavallin, “Leben nach dem Tode im Spätjudentum und im frühen Christentum,” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2nd series, ed. Wolfgang Haase, vol. 19/1, (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1979), pp. 240–345.


Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 18.16. Cf. Jean Le Moyne, Les Sadduceens (Paris: Gabalda, 1972), pp. 167–175.


“The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan,” A-5, in Faith and Piety in Early Judaism. Texts and Documents ed. George W. E. Nickelsburg et al. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), p. 32.


Jacob Neusner, Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity (London: SPCK, 1984), p. 26f.


Josephus, Jewish War, 2.163 is taken to refer to resurrection.


Josephus, Jewish War, 2.154f.