Pre-Christian Judaism views on salvation

What did pre-christian Jews believe regarding salvation?
If possible, can you give any Old Testament references?

I’m curious as well, I know that the Pharisees believed in an afterlife, but the Saducees did not.



Salvation from what?

There are often not Jewish answers to Christian questions because the questions presume shared meanings when words can mean different things. :slight_smile:

As far as we know, the only catechism that either Abraham, Moses, or any of the other prophets gave is that God is one. Jesus only gave parables about the afterlife. God chose not to provide any details about the afterlife, therefore no one knows including the Catholic church.
There are other books which provide information on Jewish beliefs. I think many of them believed in a version of reincarnation. As I wrote above God has chosen not to provide details about the afterlife therefore no one knows.

Please forgive me. I will re-state my question in a different form.

What did pre-christian Jews believe happened to people when they died? Where did the bad people go? Where did the good people go?
If possible, can you give any Old Testament references?

I am praying that this thread does not go off topic.

It might be a bit misleading to suggest there was a systematic theory concerning one’s personal salvation, although most Jews did believe in Resurrection of the righteous and unjust. The Sadducees come to mind as being the party that would have no view regarding salvation (although they would maintain it was necessary to follow the law) believing that there is no Resurrection in the first place and that one simply ceases to exist.

From my very limited reading about the Judaism of this time (mostly shortly before Jesus and during his ministry), personal salvation was not a major concern, but rather national salvation of the people Israel was the major concern. When is God going to restore Israel from its exile? When will God deliver his people from the rule of the Romans? That seemed to be more of a concern to some. The Essenes might have had a view we can identify with, doing away with the Pharism and Sadducee parties to live ascetically in the hope of personal righteousness.

Other than this I am not sure.

I don’t really understand the idea of 'pre-christian Jews - I’m not aware of being a ‘post-christian Jew’ ;). There’s also something of a problem with discussing what ‘Jews’ did or did not believe at the time because somebody will come up with some indeterminate number of guys sitting out in the desert who had a different perspective - 2000 years from now, on the equivalent of a message board, somebody will say ‘ancient Catholics were opposed to abortion’ and somebody will say 'ah, but I found a group of them called ‘Catholics for . . .’ - you get the picture.

IgnatianPhilo has given a pretty good summary really - Judaism has always been rather vague on the subject of the ‘afterlife’ (here’s Judaism 101 on the subject and you’ll find it’s ‘typically Jewish’, “on the one hand, but on the other hand, while on yet another hand . . .”), it’s a very here and now religion.

Do remember also that we don’t share with Christians concepts like ‘original Sin’.

I’m somewhat preoccupied with the dreary business of moving my life from one computer to another at the moment so further replies may be delayed.

I think the point is valid. Unless I am misinformed, there has been an evolution of Jewish theology, just as there has been an evolution of Christian theology. So it is valid to ask, “what did Jewish theology during the period of XXX say”, or “what was the predominant Christian view on YYY in the 14th Century”. Such an approach might in certain circumsatnces be more accurate than taking a blanket view and assuming that any element of modern-day theology must have existed and been interpreted exactly as it is today since day one. Of course you’re right that “pre-Christian” is a bit of a vague term. It might be better to call it “immediately pre-Christian” or “during the period of Roman occupation” or something like that.

I assume by pre Christian Jews, he means Judaism which existed before the destruction of the second temple, which is not quite the same in form as we find modern Judaism. Modern Judaism had to rethink its central ideas in light of some facts, an absent temple, the challenge of Christianity and a people in exile. It was ultimately these sorts of problems which influenced the course and development of modern Judaism.

Not wanting to divert the thread and I agree that with you on Temple and diaspora being a break point but I think that such an emphasis can be more of a Christian perspective than a Jewish one because of the centrality of the whole priest/sacrifice idea.

I’m suggesting, obviously, that what might be described as the ‘synagogue system’ was more significant even then - there was no rapid transit system backwards and forwards from ‘the sticks’ to Jerusalem, no luxury cruises from Alexandria, no regular Alitalia flights from Ostia - for many Jews of the time, a trip to Jerusalem would have been more like Muslims and the ‘once in a lifetime’ Hajj today than a weekly trip to Shul.

My main influence on this area of history has been NT wright and while there are certaintly a wide range of views concerning the temple, heres what he has to say about it.

“The temple was the focal point of every aspect of Jewish national life. Local synagouges and schools of torah in other parts of Palestine, and in the Diaspora , in no way replaced it, but gained their significance from the implicit relation to it. Its importance at every level can hardly be over estimated.”

I have admitted having only a little knowledge but when I read the books of Maccabees or the New testament books concerning Judaism and temple, it was not just an ordinary place, it was the place wherein the spirit of God dwelt.

Consider the reaction of the jews when funds were about to be confiscated from the temple.

2 maccabees 3:12 He also added that it was entirely out of the question that an injustice should be done to those who had put their trust in the sanctity of the place and in the inviolable majesty of a Temple venerated throughout the entire world. 14 Fixing a day for the purpose, he went in to draw up an inventory of the funds. There was no little consternation throughout the city; 15 the priests in their sacred vestments prostrated themselves before the altar and prayed to Heaven, to the Author of the law governing deposits, to preserve these funds intact for the depositors. 16 The appearance of the high priest was enough to pierce the heart of the beholder, his expression and his altered colour betraying the anguish of his soul; 17 the man was so overwhelmed by fear and bodily trembling that those who saw him could not possibly mistake the distress he was suffering. 18 People rushed headlong from the houses, intent on making public supplication because of the indignity threatening the holy place. 19 Women thronged the streets swathed in sackcloth below their breasts; girls secluded indoors came running, some to the doorways, some to the city walls, while others leaned out of the windows, 20 all stretching out their hands to Heaven in entreaty. 21 It was pitiful to see the people crowding together to prostrate themselves, and the foreboding of the high priest in his deep anguish.

We could also consider Paul’s attempt to enter the temple.

Acts 21:27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”

And I might add that one of the charges against Christ at his crucifixion is that he plotted to destroy the temple.

It would seem to me, you understate the role of the temple at this time. Its hard to imagine the temple, wherein the sacrifices which were commanded by the Torah, sacrifices which were to happen on Passover were not a major or primary focal point of first century Judaism. Now what I say is mean in no offence but it would seem that you as a jew, lacking this temple and growing up without it have had to embrace a theology which has minimized its importance. Im not saying this is wrong, but it is wrong to suggest the temple was the thing Jews of the first century looked to when they thought of God and his glory.

Actually, Hajj is a pillar of Islam so my comparison wasn’t to understate the religious/cultic/national significance of the Temple - I was talking about the everyday life of everyday Jews in the Jewish world who were not taking day tours to the religious and political high dramas of Jerusalem.

As to the question of minimised importance, remember that Judaism had already survived a period without a Temple (between the destruction of the First and the building of the Second) and the ‘synagogue as place of common worship system’ which developed in exile continued to develop alongside the rebuilt ‘Temple system’ and was how most Jews, most of the time, experienced Judaism (it’s a long time since I read your ‘New Testament’ but I seem to remember that Jesus only turned up in Jerusalem a couple of times himself).

It looks like the thread has gone off topic. I’m reaching out into all you future posters–if you know the answer to the original question please don’t be shy about resurrecting this topic.

What is wrong with the answers you’ve got?

From 2 Edras Chapter 7 (notice the alternate verse numberings at the end):

[78] Now, concerning death, the teaching is: When the decisive decree has gone forth from the Most High that a man shall die, as the spirit leaves the body to return again to him who gave it, first of all it adores the glory of the Most High.
[79] And if it is one of those who have shown scorn and have not kept the way of the Most High, and who have despised his law, and who have hated those who fear God –
[80] such spirits shall not enter into habitations, but shall immediately wander about in torments, ever grieving and sad, in seven ways.
[81] The first way, because they have scorned the law of the Most High.
[82] The second way, because they cannot now make a good repentance that they may live.
[83] The third way, they shall see the reward laid up for those who have trusted the covenants of the Most High.
[84] The fourth way, they shall consider the torment laid up for themselves in the last days.
[85] The fifth way, they shall see how the habitations of the others are guarded by angels in profound quiet.
[86] The sixth way, they shall see how some of them will pass over into torments.
[87] The seventh way, which is worse than all the ways that have been mentioned, because they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame, and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High before whom they sinned while they were alive, and before whom they are to be judged in the last times.
[88] “Now this is the order of those who have kept the ways of the Most High, when they shall be separated from their mortal body.
[89] During the time that they lived in it, they laboriously served the Most High, and withstood danger every hour, that they might keep the law of the Lawgiver perfectly.
[90] Therefore this is the teaching concerning them:
[91] First of all, they shall see with great joy the glory of him who receives them, for they shall have rest in seven orders.
[92] The first order, because they have striven with great effort to overcome the evil thought which was formed with them, that it might not lead them astray from life into death.
[93] The second order, because they see the perplexity in which the souls of the ungodly wander, and the punishment that awaits them.
[94] The third order, they see the witness which he who formed them bears concerning them, that while they were alive they kept the law which was given them in trust.
[95] The fourth order, they understand the rest which they now enjoy, being gathered into their chambers and guarded by angels in profound quiet, and the glory which awaits them in the last days.
[96] The fifth order, they rejoice that they have now escaped what is corruptible, and shall inherit what is to come; and besides they see the straits and toil from which they have been delivered, and the spacious liberty which they are to receive and enjoy in immortality.
[97] The sixth order, when it is shown to them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of the stars, being incorruptible from then on.
[98] The seventh order, which is greater than all that have been mentioned, because they shall rejoice with boldness, and shall be confident without confusion, and shall be glad without fear, for they hasten to behold the face of him whom they served in life and from whom they are to receive their reward when glorified.
[99] This is the order of the souls of the righteous, as henceforth is announced; and the aforesaid are the ways of torment which those who would not give heed shall suffer hereafter.”

2 Edras Chapter 7 continued

[100] I answered and said, “Will time therefore be given to the souls, after they have been separated from the bodies, to see what you have described to me?”
[101] He said to me, “They shall have freedom for seven days, so that during these seven days they may see the things of which you have been told, and afterwards they shall be gathered in their habitations.”
[102] I answered and said, “If I have found favor in thy sight, show further to me, thy servant, whether on the day of judgment the righteous will be able to intercede for the ungodly or to entreat the Most High for them,
[103] fathers for sons or sons for parents, brothers for brothers, relatives for their kinsmen, or friends for those who are most dear.”
[104] He answered me and said, “Since you have found favor in my sight, I will show you this also. The day of judgment is decisive and displays to all the seal of truth. Just as now a father does not send his son, or a son his father, or a master his servant, or a friend his dearest friend, to be ill or sleep or eat or be healed in his stead,
[105] so no one shall ever pray for another on that day, neither shall any one lay a burden on another; for then every one shall bear his own righteousness and unrighteousness.”
[36(106)] I answered and said, “How then do we find that first Abraham prayed for the people of Sodom, and Moses for our fathers who sinned in the desert,
[37(107)] and Joshua after him for Israel in the days of Achan,
[38(108)] and Samuel in the days of Saul, and David for the plague, and Solomon for those in the sanctuary,
[39(109)] and Elijah for those who received the rain, and for the one who was dead, that he might live,
[40(110)] and Hezekiah for the people in the days of Sennacherib, and many others prayed for many?
[41(111)] If therefore the righteous have prayed for the ungodly now, when corruption has increased and unrighteousness has multiplied, why will it not be so then as well?”
[42(112)] He answered me and said, “This present world is not the end; the full glory does not abide in it; therefore those who were strong prayed for the weak.
[43(113)] But the day of judgment will be the end of this age and the beginning of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away,
[44(114)] sinful indulgence has come to an end, unbelief has been cut off, and righteousness has increased and truth has appeared.
[45(115)] Therefore no one will then be able to have mercy on him who has been condemned in the judgment, or to harm him who is victorious.”
[46(116)] I answered and said, “This is my first and last word, that it would have been better if the earth had not produced Adam, or else, when it had produced him, had restrained him from sinning.
[47(117)] For what good is it to all that they live in sorrow now and expect punishment after death?
[48(118)] O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendants.
[49(119)] For what good is it to us, if an eternal age has been promised to us, but we have done deeds that bring death?
[50(120)] And what good is it that an everlasting hope has been promised to us, but we have miserably failed?
[51(121)] Or that safe and healthful habitations have been reserved for us, but we have lived wickedly?
[52(122)] Or that the glory of the Most High will defend those who have led a pure life, but we have walked in the most wicked ways?
[53(123)] Or that a paradise shall be revealed, whose fruit remains unspoiled and in which are abundance and healing, but we shall not enter it,
[54(124)] because we have lived in unseemly places?
[55(125)] Or that the faces of those who practiced self-control shall shine more than the stars, but our faces shall be blacker than darkness?
[56(126)] For while we lived and committed iniquity we did not consider what we should suffer after death.”
[57(127)] He answered and said, “This is the meaning of the contest which every man who is born on earth shall wage,
[58(128)] that if he is defeated he shall suffer what you have said, but if he is victorious he shall receive what I have said.
[59(129)] For this is the way of which Moses, while he was alive, spoke to the people, saying, `Choose for yourself life, that you may live!’
[60(130)] But they did not believe him, or the prophets after him, or even myself who have spoken to them.
[61(131)] Therefore there shall not be grief at their destruction, so much as joy over those to whom salvation is assured.”
[62(132)] I answered and said, “I know, O Lord, that the Most High is now called merciful, because he has mercy on those who have not yet come into the world;
[63(133)] and gracious, because he is gracious to those who turn in repentance to his law;
[64(134)] and patient, because he shows patience toward those who have sinned, since they are his own works;
[65(135)] and bountiful, because he would rather give than take away;
[66(136)] and abundant in compassion, because he makes his compassions abound more and more to those now living and to those who are gone and to those yet to come,
[67(137)] for if he did not make them abound, the world with those who inhabit it would not have life;
[68(138)] and he is called giver, because if he did not give out of his goodness so that those who have committed iniquities might be relieved of them, not one ten-thousandth of mankind could have life;
[69(139)] and judge, because if he did not pardon those who were created by his word and blot out the multitude of their sins,
[70(140)] there would probably be left only very few of the innumerable multitude.”

And this is in the Catholic or Protestant canon?

It’s not in the Tanakh - it’s ‘an indeterminate number of guys sitting out in the desert’ stuff.

PS, links are more in line with CAF regulations than ‘copy and paste’ :slight_smile:

Sorry to continue this off topic discussion but I think it is neccessary. Also to the OP if there was anything unsatisfactory, please ask.

Now I can only read your comments of denial of its overall importance against what I see in history and there are more sources and experts to be consulted in this matter of the temple than I listed. The only thing to really respond to is what you said concerning the New testament. Its true the New testament doesn’t mention every time Jesus visited the temple (although it is no coincidence when Jesus was in Jerusalem he sought to teach from there as a priority) but that should not automatically mean he only went there the odd time, rather that is something that is not mentioned except the times that it is in the New testament, and we can say little (although I suspect he went often) on that. That Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple should indicate the importance Jesus felt the temple had.

There are jewish writings which exist beyond the orthodox Jewish canon which can and did reflect one of the many views one could expect to find within a pre 70 Judaism. That’s just what we can know from the sources we have, who knows what it was actually like.

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