Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life Jon Douglas Levenson

Publication date:
01 Mar 2008
298 pages: 229 x 152 x 17mm
black & white illustrations


This provocative volume explores the origins of the Jewish doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Jon D. Levenson argues that, contrary to a very widespread misconception, the ancient rabbis were keenly committed to the belief that at the end of time, God would restore the deserving dead to life. In fact, Levenson points out, the rabbis saw the Hebrew Bible itself as committed to that idea. The author meticulously traces the belief in resurrection backward from its undoubted attestations in rabbinic literature and in the Book of Daniel, showing where the belief stands in continuity with earlier Israelite culture and where it departs from that culture. Focusing on the biblical roots of resurrection, Levenson challenges the notion that it was a foreign import into Judaism, and in the process he develops a neglected continuity between Judaism and Christianity. His book will shake the thinking of scholars and lay readers alike, revising the way we understand the history of Jewish ideas about life, death, and the destiny of the Jewish people.

Jon D. Levenson is Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University. He is the author of The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity, and co-author of Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews, both published by Yale University Press.

?Bound to be controversial, this revisionist reading of biblical afterlife beliefs commands the attention of biblical scholarship.? - International review of Biblical Studies, Vol. 54:2007/2008

"In this volume Levenson does what he does so well: he picks up a standard scholarly consensus and turns it on its head. Anyone wishing to maintain the consensus view will have to reckon seriously with the claims this work makes."?Gary A. Anderson, University of Notre Dame 

?Levenson?s thesis is fresh and unprecedented in biblical scholarship. He makes a persuasive case for rethinking conventional wisdom on a major issue in Judaism and the Hebrew Bible?resurrection from the dead.??R. W. L. Moberly, Durham University 

?[Levenson] draws out subtle connections and makes fine distinctions, never claiming more for his evidence than what it will bear. . . . The prose of Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel is clear and often powerful, having absorbed much of the poetry and primal strength of the biblical passages it examines. Professor Levenson has written for an audience well beyond his fellow biblical scholars.??Peter Steinfels, New York Times

"The book's brilliance shows most clearly in the way it treats the continuities between the rabbinic and biblical imaginations. . . . Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel reveals a vision that makes death a parenthesis between moments of life, and makes the body a site not only of death but also of redemption. In showing the resurrection of the dead to be the divine promise?indeed the divine action?par excellence, Levenson recovers the Bible's theological colors in all their vibrancy."?Benjamin Balint, First Things 

?Jon Levenson has established himself as the foremost theological interpreter of the Hebrew Bible from a Jewish perspective in a way that contributes to the larger theological discussion. While he makes a sustained appeal to rabbinic tradition, he also invites and compels attention from Christian readers. This book serves as a companion piece to and an advance beyond his important 1993 book The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son. Whereas that book focused on the particular theme of ?the death of the beloved son? with special reference to Genesis 22, this book considers more broadly belief in the resurrection of the dead as a characteristic and pervasive mark of Jewish faith.??Walter Brueggemann, Christian Century

"Levenson's learned and stimulating work is a challenge to Jews today to reclaim their traditional belief in resurrection and to Christians to rethink the resurrection of Jesus in the context of Israel's story."?Daniel J. Harrington, America

"A beautifully written, multi-faceted work that begins with 19th- and 20th-century Jewish theologians and liturgists, moves back in time to touch on Maimonides in the 12th century, back still farther to the Talmud and midrash, and finally turns to the biblical material that stands at the core of the book. . . . This is a signal achievement indeed."?David Berger, Commentary

"A splendid study of a significant topic in Hebrew Bible scholarship done in a way that can be a model for students and scholars alike."?Robert Gnuse, The Catholic Bible Quarterly

Winner of the 2006 National Jewish Book Award in Scholarship awarded by the Jewish Book Council

"Levenson combines provocative readings of the Tanakh's (Old Testament?s) views of death with trenchant critiques of modern liberal religion for eschewing the import of resurrection and so restricting divine activity to the primordial past. . . . This volume is a major contribution to biblical studies, Jewish history, and theology. Highly recommended."?Choice

"Especially valuable for its exegetical insights and important correctives to common thinking about afterlife and resurrection in ancient Israel (and contemporary Judaism), Levenson's book is worthy of prolonged study."?Alan Lenzi, Journal of Hebrew Scriptures

"This highly engaging book sets the stage for all the future discussion concerning the roots of Hebrew and early Christian thought on resurrection."—Journal of Ecumenical Studies

"[An] original, polemical, and very important book. . . . It is impossible in the space of this short review to cover all the contributions of this rich work. . . . Scholars familiar with Levenson's earlier work will not be surprised to learn that this book is lucid to a degree that is, alas, rare for serious and original academic writing. Once again Levenson has succeeded in showing us not only that the received wisdom on a crucial topic is largely wrong; he also demonstrates that it is possible to communicate complex and surprising ideas with clarity and wit."—Benjamin D. Sommer, The Journal of Religion

2007 Best Book Relating to the Hebrew Bible given by the Biblical Archaeology Society