Immunity to death, endless existence. Two Greek words express the idea of immortality. One (athanasia) is translated literally as deathlessness (1Cor 15:53), the other (aphtharsia) as imperishability (Rom 2:7). It is significant that the only passages in the LXX that contain these words are in books of the Apocrypha (writings composed in Greek during the intertestamental period): the Wisdom of Solomon and 4 Maccabees. The notion of immortality is a Hellenistic idea. The Hebrews accepted death as a limit ordained by God (Gen 3:19). Blessedness consisted in a peaceful death at an old age and in having posterity to carry on in one’s place (Gen 15). Within the OT, the idea of individual resurrection appears first in Dan 12:2-3, written about 167 BCE. According to Daniel, many, but not all, people will rise from the dead. The wise will rise not to bodily existence on earth, but to a new form of life, “like the stars.” In the Gospels, Jesus is pictured as sharing the Hebrew notion of resurrection, rather than the notion of an immortal soul (John 11:23-25; Mark 12:18-27). For Paul, immortality is not the continuing existence of the soul apart from the body, but rather the new heavenly existence of those who, clothed in “spiritual bodies,” share in Jesus’s resurrection in the new age (1Cor 15:42-50; 1Cor 15:53-54).

1Cor 15:53

53For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

Rom 2:7

7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

Gen 3:19

19By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

Gen 15

God's Covenant with Abram
1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be v ... View more

Dan 12:2-3

2Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.3Those who are wise shall sh ... View more

John 11:23-25

23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”25Jesus said to h ... View more

Mark 12:18-27

The Question about the Resurrection
18Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying,19“Teacher, Moses wrote for ... View more

1Cor 15:42-50

42So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.43It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is ... View more

1Cor 15:53-54

53For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.54When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and th ... View more

 NEH Logo
Bible Odyssey has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.