Why Discuss 2 Maccabees 7 with Resurrection? A Case for Using Jewish Backgrounds June 13

Darrell L. Bock's picture

I have been asked on various occasions why use a text like 2 Maccabees 7 to discuss resurrection? It is an important and fair question. One uses such a text because it indicates (1) how physical a resurrection the Jews anticipated and (2) because the meaning of resurrection of Christians is what is being debated, making use of the Bible a problem for some who are listening to the discussion. Many of the biblical texts from the OT discuss a resurrection but are not clear about how physical it is. For example, Daniel 12:1-2 simply declares a resurrection but with no detail. In 2 Maccabees there is no doubt that a physical resurrection is what was meant.In this passage seven sons of a faithful Jew are being murdered for keeping the Law one by one. When the third son's turn comes he holds out his hands and stick out his tongue (which the persecutors had come to remove). He basically tells them they can have these bodily parts because one day God will give them back. That makes it pretty clear he expects a physical element to the body he will get at the end. This view is like that of the Pharisees and was the view of resurrection paul had as a Pharisee. When he sees Jesus in a glorified form, it indicates and reinforces this understanding of resurrections.So here is a good example where knowing background of what was believed in the first century also helps us to see what was meant by Christians when they discussed concepts that are taught in the OT but detailed in these later works that the NT also indicates.


This passage from Maccabees is great for shedding light on the Resurrection of the body. This belief was one that came to be held by the Pharisees at the time of Christ, and can help explain much about the Raising of Lazarus from John's Gospel.

Recalling the story, Jesus tells Martha, the sister of Lazarus, that her brother will "rise again". She affirms the Lord's declaration because she holds to the pharisitic understanding of a bodily "resurrection at the last day." Of course, Christ then explains that He is their resurrection and last day. A beautiful insight into a central truth of Christianity.

If this 2 Maccabees passage serves as the best historical origin of the idea of resurrection of the body, why then is it not included in most of today's bibles?

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Ty:The answer to your question is simple. Not everything in a book like 2 Maccabees had the same truth value. There are the Scriptures of Israel and then there are works that reflect accurately on that teaching but are not Scripture. That is where 2 Maccabees fits.Appreciated your comments on Lazarus. dlb   

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