Question from a Site Viewer
For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to destruction can no longer hope in your faithfulness. Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation can make known your faithfulness to the next.
That is clearly showing pre-Messianic thinking, which is inaccurate (or rather incomplete) in grand scheme. Since this is a man’s quote, I don’t see this as challenge point against the inerrancy of scripture as a whole. But doesn’t this cast shadow on other places where man is quoted, such as the whole book of Psalms, Mary’s Magnificat, Paul’s passage where it is him speaking, not the Lord, etc.
Your question is a good one. Not only here, but several times in the Psalms similar statements are made. Psalm 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-12; 115:17. Also, Solomon in Ecclesiastes says much the same thing (Eccl. 9:5). And yet, at the same time, there are passages such as Job 19:25-27; Psalm 73:24; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2, and strong implications in Proverbs 11:7; 23:17-18, and many other passages teaching of the resurrection.
What we know is that at least during the time of Christ there was a basic belief in the resurrection of the dead, at least among the Pharisees (Acts 23:8). When Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha and said that Lazarus would live and Martha said that she knew that he would rise again in the resurrection at the last day. I believe with Martha and with Hezekiah that there was a belief in the resurrection, but there was also a belief that from the point of death to the resurrection there was no life, or at least not a life with a body that could praise or move. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:21 and 12:7 seems to believe that the spirit would go to God. And Jesus teaches about the rich man and Lazarus that there was consciousness in the grave. But such is not taught in the Old Testament, at least not very plainly.
And there may be a good reason. Before the resurrection of Christ, the way from earth to heaven may not have been open. Abraham’s bosom does not seem to be a picture of heaven. The fact that many of the saints arose from the dead at the resurrection indicates to me that the resurrection of Christ brought some difference to the Old Testament saints. After the resurrection of Christ, the way to heaven was opened and we now go immediately to be with Christ in conscious state, as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 and Philippians 1:21-23. But before then, it may well have been that the dead did not praise God because the dead had no capability to praise Him. Without some sort of body, there is no organ to generate praise. On the other hand, the story of the rich man and Lazarus indicates that there was some body in the place of the dead before the resurrection. If so, then one wonders why such a body could not praise God.
My conclusion is that before Christ, the righteous dead probably did have a body and also probably had consciousness, but certainly did not have the life promised to us who live after Christ’s resurrection. From my understanding of Old Testament theology, there was human life, then death which was basically a holding place, and then the resurrection. And the saints did not see much happening in death. In their view, until the resurrection, there was no praise or activity; at least this is how I read the statements in the Old Testament. I do not believe there was any view of conscious living between one’s death and the resurrection; even though I think Jesus teaches that there was such conscious living. I think this simply was not revealed to the Old Testament saints.
I also think the point you make is a wise one. Just because someone says something in Scripture does not mean it is true. This is why it is important to read Scripture as a whole. And not every statement by godly people is accurate, although there is reason to place more weight on the words of righteous people. And the words of the righteous give us insight into God. An illustration is Paul before Ananias when Paul said: “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall” (Acts 23:3). Then Paul retracted his statement when he learned who Ananias was. Certainly, we would say based upon Christ’s teaching that Paul should not have cursed the high priest in response to being struck. But we also learn from Paul that an immediate retraction and repentance is the mark of a godly person.
I do not know if any of this will make sense to you. I hope it does.
May the Lord Jesus bless you.