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Kellermann, Ulrich


Das Gotteslob der Auferweckten. Motivgeschichtliche Beobachtungen in Texten des Alten Testaments, des frühen Judentums und Urchristentums.


Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag 2001. VII, 146 S. 8 = Biblisch-Theologische Studien, 46. Kart. Euro 19,90. ISBN 3-7887-1861-7.


Andrew Chester

The theme of this book is well described by its title and subtitle. Kellermann sees the song of praise to God, by those he has resurrected, as having its roots clearly in the Old Testament. Thus he argues that the earliest example of such a song of praise is to be found in Isa 26.19: "Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!" K. understands this verse not as an original part of the so-called Isaiah-Apocalypse (chs 24-27), but as a later gloss, probably from c. 200 BC. At any rate it is presupposed by the writer of Dan 12.2, and reflects the belief in physical resurrection that had begun to develop by this stage. It directly contradicts Isa 26.14, with its denial of resurrection and life after death, and is specifically introduced as a correction of this. K. notes, but rejects, the main alternative understanding of this verse: that is, as original to the text, and as expressing a metaphorical understanding of resurrection, in corporate, national terms.

Along with the consensus of OT scholarship, K. does understand Ezek 37.1,14 as a graphic metaphorical portrayal of national resurrection. But the real significance of both this text and also Isa 26.19 for the theme of K.'s book lies in the way they are both used in later texts to help express praise of God for his act of resurrection. Thus both LXX and Targum of Isa 26.19 express the idea more strongly, while in 2 Baruch 29-30 it is given its focus in the messianic age, and it is also an important text for a number of early Midrashim. The earliest interpretation of Ezek. 37 in terms of physical resurrection and a song of praise is found in the so-called Ezekiel-Apocalypse found at Qumran (specifically fragment 2 of 4Q385). Indeed, since it probably dates from well before 200 BC, it considerably predates Isa. 26.19 and is the earliest instance we have of this kind of song of praise for resurrection. In the famous Rabbinic discussion, in b.Sanh. 90a-92b, of scriptural evidence for resurrection belief, Ezek 37 is cited specifically in relation to the praising of God, and that use of the Ezek. passage is evident from the equally famous Dura Europos synagogue fresco. The Targum of Isa 42.10-11 brings Ezek 37 into its interpretation of the Isa song of praise, and the influence of Ezek is also evident in Justin's Apology.

The theme of this song of praise to God is also developed independently of Isa 26 and Ezek 37 in other early Jewish texts outside scripture, for example, 1QH, Lk 1.68-79, and in various places in the Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs, Rabbinic texts and Jewish prayer texts. It is also evident in distinctive traditions within the New Testament, as for example Lk 24.30, 1 Cor 15.52-57, Lk 7.11-17, Jn 12.12-19 and in the Synoptic resurrection narratives.

The earliest form of this song of praise, as we have seen, K. finds in 4Q385. But along with the important role played by both Isa 26.19 and Ezek 37, there is also the closely related theme of thanksgiving to God for deliverance in the face of death, found in a number of Psalms. And K. argues that it is only a small step to move from this to thanksgiving for God's final, eschatological saving act of resurrection and the deliverance from death that this involves. In part this represents the response of Jewish piety not only to the denial of resurrection in Isa 26.14, but also the challenge to God's power over death in Ps.88.11. It also clearly represents in part a pious response of thanksgiving for God's constant deliverance from darkness and the evil forces of the night.

Yet the main and most striking aspect of this theme is unmistakably positive. It is already clear within the OT (eg Isa 38. 10-20 and several of the Psalms) that being alive means being able to give praise to God, and being dead, and in Sheol, means not being able to. Hence to praise God for deliverance from death and restoration to life is the only proper response; and it also marks the beginning of the new, resurrection life that is now being entered into in the final age. It is a theme that is taken over into the New Testament, and which Jews and Christians can hold in common down to the present day. But for Christians, of course, the focal point for their final hope is thanksgiving for the risen life of Christ. Hence that thanksgiving is naturally given expression in the hymns that Christians sing, not only - but not least - at Easter and the Lord's Supper.

There are, inevitably, a number of points where one could raise questions about various aspects of K.'s thesis and the detail of his argument. Equally, however, there is a great deal of helpful discussion and there are many interesting observations throughout. The book ranges over quite a lot of material in short space, but it does so in a well-informed and carefully nuanced way. It provides an accessible discussion of an important theme. It will repay careful reading, and will enable the reader to make better sense of some difficult and puzzling biblical passages.