Does the Bible teach that resurrection is impossible?

Resurrection is a key Bible doctrine -- but some critics think the Bible also excludes the possibility of the dead rising. Let's see what they cite:

Eccl. 3:19-21 Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath ; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?

Eccl. 9:5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.

Job 7:9 As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so he who goes down to the grave does not return.

Is. 26:14 They are now dead, they live no more; those departed spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.

1 Tim. 6:15-16 which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Each of these verses is regarded as a refutation of any possibility of resurrection.

However, the first three are in a proverbial genre-context that indicates that they are not be taken absolutely. (Note also that Ecclesiastes is a discourse that takes the persona of the man who lives without knowledge of God, and that the Job verse is words said by Job and thus do not necessarily reflect an accurate teaching, but merely reporting what he said; though that book too is written as a discourse/dialogue.) See two links below.

In the fourth verse, "rise" carries the sense of action and accomplishment ("Cain rose up against Abel his brother"), not of resurrection, which is an action performed by God.

The specific word in Timothy means "deathlessness," something men must put on (1 Cor. 15:53), but have not yet; hence it is right at this time for Paul to say that only God is "immortal" for there has yet been no putting on of immortality by men. 1 Tim. 15-16 will become anachronistic after the general resurrection.

None of these verses therefore contradicts an idea of resurrection.

Objection: You're just using a contrived category of "proverbial literature: to give yourself freedom to interpret any verse as non-literal and non-absolute whenever you think the context indicates it.

Proverbial literature, of course, lends itself to the argument that the genre of proverbial literature displays non-literal and non-absolute tendencies. Real scholars, informed by contextual study, recognize such distinctions as fact. This is not difficult to look into; the materials on these subjects are readily accessible in public and academic libraries.

On the verse from Job, it is true that this phrase is spoken by Job himself in the middle of a commenatry against God's injustice. But nothing and no one in the entire book contradicts it - Eliphaz and Bildad don't tell Job he's talking nonsense, and neither does God.

It is hardly the case that any false statement not corrected must be taken as true. Even so God's response to Job could itself be considered a correction of his entire worldview and orientation. Please note that if the Bible quotes a person who is not speaking for God (that is, a prophet), then the content of that quotation is not a Bible teaching per se.


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