Though appreciating a great deal of Wright’s argumentation in Resurrection and the Son of God, I did interact critically with him in my dissertation regarding his views on resurrection in the Old Tetament.
I quote Wright’s summary of the typical reconstructon of the development of resurrection beleif in Israel:
Surveys and studies of ancient Israelite beliefs about life after death have thus tended to plot three distinct types of phases. In the early period, there was little or no hope for a life of joy or bliss after death: Sheol swallowed up dead, kept them in gloomy darkness, and never let them out again. At some point (nobody knows when; dating of developments in such matters is notoriously difficult) some pious Israelites came to regard the love and power of YHWH as so strong that the relationship they enjoyed with him in the present could not be broken even by death. Then, again at an uncertain point, a quite new idea came forth: the dead would be raised. [RSG, 86]
Wright is willing to accept this position as “broadly accurate,” though he will adjust it to fit his unique emphasis on the exile of Israel (RSG, 86, 121-24).
In contrast, I would argue that the early parts of the Old Testament affirm the resurrection. For instance, Job claims that in the future, when his Redeemer stands on the earth (which will occur after the decomposition of his body), he will see God himself in his flesh (Job 19:25-27).
Wright says on this passage, “The passage in Job often thought to be an exception to this rule [that in Job there is no concept of life after death] is almost certainly not.” In Wright’s view, Job 19:25-27 is full of translational difficulties. Since other, clearer, passages in Job deny life after death, Wright finds it unlikely that this difficult passage should be understood differently (RSG 97-98).
But these other passages are not as clear as Wright supposes. Job 7:7-10 does say that once a man dies he never returns to “his house” or “his place.” But this is a true statement even for those who believe in resurrection. Resurrection occurs at the end of the age, and people do not return in this age to their own houses and places (Thomas Aquinas, The Literal Exposition of Job , trans. Anthony Damico [Atlanta: Scholars, 1989], 148-50).
Likewise Job 14:1-2, 7-14 applies only to this present world. A time limit is placed on the period in which people will not rise: “Till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep” (14:12). But after God’s wrath is past, Job desires to be remembered (14:13). Wright also prejudices his readers by cutting off the quotation in verse 14 with the question and providing “no” as the answer, whereas Job continues in verse 14 with a hope of his “renewal.” Even if the question of 14:14a should be answered, “no,” the remainder of the verse reveals that the “no” is not a denial of the resurrection (Aquinas, 228; Andersen, Job, TOTC, 169-70, 172-73; Talbert, Beyond Suffering, 111, 317-18, n. 66-67).
Thus Wright’s first example does not prove the absence of resurrection, and his second example actually points toward belief in resurrection. The way is therefore cleared for a look at Job 19:25-27 itself.
Wright says that nobody can really know whether the key word in 19:26 should be translated “in my flesh” or “without my flesh” (RSG, 98). But Job insists that his very own eyes will see his Redeemer (19:27), and eyes presuppose a body (Talbert, 121, 324, n. 51, 52, 57; Andersen, 193-94). Though not every phrase of Job 19:25-27 is entirely clear, the translation that affirms bodily resurrection is, on balance, the most likely.
I would also argue that the promises of God to Abraham also imply a resurrection. God had told Abraham, “I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8). But Abraham never received this promise during his lifetime (Heb. 11:13). It is this truth that lies behind Jesus’s affirmation that Exodus 3:6 teaches the resurrection (Matt. 22:23-33 || Mark 12:18-27 || Luke 20:27-40). God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because he has covenanted with them, and in the Exodus he is fulfilling some of the covenant promises made to them (Ex. 2:24-25). He is not the God of the dead but of the living, because the patriarchs must be raised one day for the promises to them to be fulfilled.
Wright correctly concludes that this passage is not only about the patriarchs in the intermediate state but that it also deals with their future bodily resurrection (RSG, 423-36). Given what Hebrews 11 says about what Abraham beleived, concerning these promises, I think we must conclude that Abraham beleived in resurrection.
Several Davidic Psalms also imply resurrection: 11:7; 16:8-11; 17:15; 23:6; 139:18. And yet a number of Psalms speak in a way that would seem to deny resurrection (Psalm 6:5; 30:9; 88:3-7, 10-12; 115:17; cf. 2 Samuel 14:14). Their presence together in the Psalter, along with the ascription of Davidic authorship to passages in both categories, argues that passages that seem to deny life after death should be harmonized with passages that affirm the afterlife and resurrection.
Hosea 13:14 is a borderline passage. In affirmation of ressurrection, see the NIV and HCSB. For an alternative approach, see NASB and ESV. On this passage Wright attempts to divorce later inspired interpretation of this passage from the original author’s intention (RSG, 118-19). I don’t find this an acceptable approach.
Isaiah clearly promises, “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead” (Isa. 26:19).Isaiah’s affirmation of resurrection here is doubted by few, though Wright seems to indicate that many (not including him) wish to date the passage late simply because it affirms bodily resurrection (RSG, 116). Daniel 12:2-3 is almost universally acknowledged to teach bodily resurrection (RSG, 110).
Given this evidence from the Old Testament, I would argue that bodily resurrectionis affirmed throughout the entire Old Testament, from patriarchs (or earlier) to prophets.
This material is adapted from my dissertation, available here for purchase as a paperback or for free download as a PDF.