Concern for the afterlife is not something predominantly found in the Hebrew Scriptures, but as we begin to move into 2nd Temple Judaism, we find that the issue of the resurrection started to become more pronounced. For the Jews under the yoke of foreign rules, it was a means not only of escape but of vindication. We find the maturing of this idea, in which righteous works lead to a righteous vindication expressed clearly in the Maccabean books. In the Psalms of Solomon (PssSol), we find much the same idea that the righteous will rise at some future time, while the unrighteous will perish.
I have divided the 3rd Psalm into a prolog and sections relating to the Righteous and the Sinner. The Righteous represents the writer’s community while the sinner those who had deposed them from power. Examining the Righteous, we find that they hold certain traits:
- Remembrance of the lord (perhaps the ceremonial Law) vs. the sinner’s focus on his life
- Takes disciplining from God vs. the Sinner’s spoiled behavior
- When the Righteous falls, they await God; the Sinner falls and stays down
- The Righteous seek truth; the Sinner seeks sin
- The Righteous is remembered; the Sinner is forgotten
Here we take a look at the visitation upon the Righteous, something nurtured in the Wisdom Literature and solidified in the New Testament. The Greek word is ἐπισκοπῇ. Friberg’s Analytical Greek Lexicon reads,
ἐπισκοπή, ῆς, ἡ (1) as the presence of divine power to benefit or save coming visitation); (2) as a demonstration of the divine power to punish visitation, reckoning (3) as the position of an overseer office, responsibility (AC 1.20)
It is used several times in the Septuagint (LXX), notably, in
And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die; but God will visit you, and bring you up out of this land to the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Gen 50:24)
And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for Joseph had solemnly sworn the people of Israel, saying, “God will visit you; then you must carry my bones with you from here.” (Exo 13:19)
The bones of Joseph carried to the Promised Land must be recognized as an allegory of the Resurrection hope. It is for Joseph a return to the land of his fathers, and a vindication of his works in Egypt. Therefore, God’s visitation refers to the final consummation in which all the Righteous will be resurrected/vindicated.
The word is used 3 more times in PssSol, in the 11th psalm, but more noticeable to our present inquiry, the 10th Psalm:
Happy is the man, whom the Lord remembers with reproving, and whom he restrains from the way of evil with strokes, that he may be cleansed from sin, that it may not be multiplied.
He that makes ready his back for strokes will be cleansed, for the Lord is good to them that endure chastening.
For he makes straight the ways of the righteous, and does not pervert (them) by his chastening. And the mercy of the Lord (is) upon them that love Him in truth.
And the Lord remembers his servants in mercy. For the testimony (is) in the law of the eternal covenant. The testimony of the Lord (is) on the ways of men in (his) visitation.
Just and kind is our Lord in his judgments forever. And Israel will praise the name of the Lord in gladness.
And the pious will give thanks in the assembly of the people. And on the poor will God have mercy in the gladness of Israel;
for good and merciful is God forever. And the assemblies of Israel will glorify the name of the Lord.
The salvation of the Lord be upon the house of Israel to everlasting gladness!
The 10th and the 3rd Psalm connects at various places, and in doing so, shows what I believe to be a complete hymn devoted to Resurrection. We see the need for cleansing through chastisement, which is the same method Paul uses to describe preparing for the Eucharist,
Throughout this Psalm is the connection of righteous living, along with the poor, who will because of the chastening of God, have ‘everlasting goodness.’
Another use of the word ἐπισκοπῇ can be found in the 15th Psalm,
And the inheritance of sinners is destruction and darkness. And their iniquities will pursue them to Sheol beneath. Their inheritance will not be found of their children, for sins will lay waste the houses of sinners. sinners will perish forever in the day of the Lord’s judgment, when God visits the earth with his judgment. But they that fear the Lord will find mercy therein, and will live by the compassion of their God. But sinners will perish forever. (Pss 15:10-13 OPE)
It is here as well that we note that the wrath of God is directed against the sinners who had previous attempted to destroy the Righteous. This wrath will come when God ‘visits’ the earth. At that moment, those that fear the Lord, the Righteous, will find mercy (everlasting gladness, eternal life) with God, but the sinners will perish forever into the Grave.
Resurrection is seen as a type of vindication, which will not take place until the day of God’s Visitation. In Luke 19, Christ connects the Day of Visitation to the moment He enters Jerusalem,
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luk 19:41-44 NASB)
The thought here that the visitation is the saving work of the Cross, which in the eschatological framework begins the Kingdom of God. In this new Kingdom, the Righteous are restored as Kings and Priests (something that they had lost when Pompey invaded and removed the Pharisees from power). Further, Matthew connects the resurrection of saints to the moment of the death of Christ. Luke’s use of this word is not accident, as he has shown other connections to the Wisdom Literature as well as developing the motif of Israel’s New Exodus.
In the PssSol, the Resurrection becomes a judgment against the sinners in and of itself. While the sinners are powerful, and stand against God, the righteous are meek and humble, and often succumb to the sinners; however, during the Resurrection, at the Visitation, it will be the Righteous who arise to eternal life.
The Righteous Man in the Wisdom of Solomon (Ch. 3-6) exemplified this like none other. His death at the hands of the unrighteous and his subsequent resurrection was seen as a vindication of his life.