Resurrection as a concept is not a Christian invention; it entered Judaism during the post-Exile period (cf the Book of Daniel) and by the time of Jesus it was widespread among Jews. Not uniformly, however, since some factions like the Pharisees embraced the notion enthusiastically, while the Sadducees, strict adherents of the Pentateuch, rejected it. NT Wright in a recent article points out seven ways in which the resurrection view of the earliest Christian community differed from that of its Jewish matrix.
- There is virtually no spectrum of belief on this subject within early Christianity. The early Christians came from many strands within Judaism and from widely differing backgrounds within paganism...Christianity looks, to this extent, like a variety of Pharisaic Judaism.
- In Second-Temple Judaism, resurrection is important but not that important...But in early Christianity resurrection has moved from the circumference to the center...
- In Judaism it is usually left vague as to what sort of a body the resurrected will possess...But from the start the early Christians believed that the resurrection body, though it would certainly be a body in the sense of a physical object, would be a transformed body, a body whose material, created from the old material, would have new properties. That is what Paul means by the "spiritual body".
- ...The resurrection, as an event, has split into two...the resurrection itself has happened to one person in the middle of history, anticipating and guaranteeing the final resurrection of his people at the end of history.
- ...The early Christians believed...that God had called them to work with him...to implement the achievement of Jesus and thereby to anticipate the final resurrection, in personal and political life, in mission and holiness.
- ...In the Old Testament "resurrection" functions...as a metaphor for return from exile [Ezekiel 37]...in the New Testament resurrection is used [metaphorically] in relation to baptism and holiness...though without affecting the concrete referent of a future resurrection itself.
- No one in Judaism had expected the Messiah to die, and therefore nobody had imagined the Messiah rising from the dead...It is impossible to account for the early Christian belief in Jesus as Messiah without the resurrection.