The article shows that in the Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds’ belief in the afterlife underwent a progressive development. It focuses on a “belief” in no life after death in pre-exilic Judaism, which developed into the belief that the dead did not cease to exist in the afterlife. This view again developed into a belief that the dead still lived, but only as a shadow of the living existence. In post-exilic Judaism the belief in a general eschatological resurrection was held, a conviction that was the result of the understanding of martyrdom in especially the Maccabean period. In the Greco-Roman world the conviction initially was that there was no life after death (Homer), and later a belief in the immortality of the soul (Plato) set in. The mystery cults also upheld a belief in the resurrection of the dead. Interpreted from a Jewish perspective on afterlife in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus was seen as an individual resurrection before the general eschatological resurrection that inaugurates “the age to come”.
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