Resurrection, part 3
I guess it would be irresponsible of me to give my view of Ezekiel 37 without first saying that a lot of people who are far more qualified than I am disagree with me. N.T. Wright’s view is completely different.
In verses 1-10, Ezekiel receives the vision of the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel stood in front of a valley full of bones, and they all took on flesh and came back to life. In verses 11-14, God explained the vision. He said, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.” Then he says, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.” N.T. Wright argues that the reference to resurrection (coming out of your graves) is a metaphor indicating return from exile. The whole motif of the passage, he argues, is about eschatological restoration.
I think Wright is partially correct. The passage certainly is about eschatological restoration. In fact, it is about the complete restoration of Israel, including the return of the lost 10 tribes Israel who had not been a nation since 722 BCE when they were destroyed and dispersed by the Assyrians, and their reunion with Judah. In verses 15-22, God says the two kingdoms will become one, and there will be one king over them. In verse 24ff, it reveals that the king will be David, and that David would be their prince forever—an obvious reference to the eschatological messiah. So the whole passage is unmistakably about eschatological restoration.
But I disagree with Wright that the reference to resurrection is metaphorical. I think the eschatological restoration refers to the whole nation of Israel, both living and dead. Resurrection is part of the restoration. The reason I take resurrection literally in this passage is because there are two parts. The first part is a vision, and the second part is an interpretation of the vision. The vision included bones coming to life. The interpretation involved God opening graves and bringing people back to life. If the interpretation of the vision is itself only a metaphor, then God hasn’t really given any interpretation at all. He would only be interpreting a metaphor with another metaphor, which is really no interpretation at all. If the interpretation is really meant to signify the meaning of the vision, then the interpretation must be literal. Wright doesn’t dispute that the reunion of Judah and Israel or the return from exile is literal. Why, then, does he dispute that the resurrection is literal? The resurrection is part of the return from exile and the restoration.
Apparently, Wright isn’t alone in his interpretation. A lot of other commentators say basically the same thing. I remain unconvinced.
Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about non-canonical Jewish references to resurrection.