What is the First Mention of the "Resurrection" in the Bible?

The English word "resurrection" means a re + standing, or standing (rising) again. The Greek is anastasis and occurs first in Matthew 22:23 for a total of 40x in the Christian Bible. The first occurrence of the word in the Jewish Greek Bible (LXX) is in the negative at Job 14:12, "and man that has lain down (in death) shall certainly not rise again." Or, "will not be resurrected." That a resurrection is possible is inferred in verse 13, 14.

There are two other occurrences of forms of ANASTASIS in some versions of the LXX at Job 42:17, ‘And Job died, an old man and full of days: and it is written that he will rise again (ANASTESESTHAI) with those whom the Lord raises up (ANISTESIN).’ This could be rendered: "that he will be resurrected with those the Lord resurrects." So, the first occurrence of "resurrect," or "resurrection" is in the Book of Job which is thought to record events from the Sixteenth Century BC between Joseph and Moses.

The next occurrence of this form anastasis is 1,300 years later in the Book of Isaiah again in the negative much as in the case in Job at Isaiah 26:14, ‘But the dead shall not see life, neither shall physicians by any means raise them (ANASTESOUSI).’ Then in the positive at 26.19, ‘The dead shall rise (ANASTESPNTAI) and they in the tombs shall be raised.’ This verse in the LXX is precisely quoted by Jesus at John 5:28.

Lastly, the resurrection is directly mentioned 200 years later in Daniel 12:13, ‘and thou shall stand (ANASTESE) in thy lot at the end of the days.’ Though the resurrection is inferred by the metaphor of "awaken" in Daniel 12:2.

There is another occurrence of the form anastasis at Hosea 6:3, ‘in the third day we shall arise (EXANASTESOMETHA) and live before Him.’ Revelation 11:12 is an echo of it.

The resurrection is inferred in several other cases. For example, ‘(Abraham) reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; and from there he did receive him also in an illustrative way.’ (Hebrews 11:19 NWT) Paul does not tell us how he knows this and it may be reached by normal deduction regarding God’s power. (Romans 4:17) Or, the natural interpretation of Genesis 3:15. Judging from Paul, then, this would be the earliest record of hope in a resurrection.

Peter does something similar with Psalm 16:8 and the foretold resurrection of the Nazarene: ‘Therefore, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath that he would seat one from the fruitage of his loins upon his throne, he saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Ha'des nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.’ (Acts 2:30-32 NWT)

The Nazarene himself uses an artful argument with the resurrection-denying Sadducees who only accepted the five books of Moses. He quotes to them Exodus 6:3, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living.’ (Matthew 22:32; Luke 20:37, 38 NWT) Since Moses phrase identifies Jehovah as God of these dead patriarchies, the Nazarene adeptly uses this to establish these men are in some way still "living" from the standpoint of God. Luke’s Gospel records this Nazarene deduction as: ‘They are living to Him.’ (Luke 20:38 NCMM) If they are "living" to God it is inferred they will one day be resurrected, the subject before Jesus.

The idea echoes Job and his request to be "remembered" by God for that day when he would be "re-created." (Job 14:14, 15) Indeed, the Nazarene borrows this word "re-created," which is PALIN GENOMAI in the Greek LXX, in his words: ‘in the re-creation (PALIN-GENESIA) ... (Matthew 19:28)

Friends of the Nazarene Publishing

Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

Back to Index to Biblical Articles