How does the resurrection of Yeshua fit with Yehudi views of an afterlife?

A comparison of the three faiths of the Middle East at the death of their founders is significant. Before Mosheh died, he gathered the Benai Yisra'el together and led them from Mitzrayim to the threshold of the Promised Land. At the time of Mohammed's death, a powerful alliance of his followers dominated his homeland. By contrast, Yeshua' lonely death seemed to signal the end of His movement. His Talmidim were frightened, scattered, and disheartened.

But something suddenly transformed Yeshua' frightened Talmidim into fearless witnesses with a radical, new understanding of the things He had told them. Their own explanation for this change is that in many unmistakable ways they had encountered Yeshua alive and well after His death. The Apostolic Writings makes it clear that Yeshua' resurrection was the foundation of the Assembly

It is possible, of course, to believe in resurrection and a future day of judgment without believing in Yeshua' resurrection. The P'rushim already believed in resurrection and judgment before Moshiach's coming. But much of the emphasis of the Yehudi Scripture and tradition focuses on this life rather than the next. The first five books of the Tenakh -- the part of the Tenakh most honored by all Yehudim -- contain little to encourage confidence in personal survival on the other side of death. In fact, most Tenakh writings offer only intimations of immortality, along with pessimistic statements that seem to exclude hope for personal survival or reward after death (Acts 1:1-3 ; 1 Korintos 15:5-7 ; 1 Yochanan 1:1). (Job 19:25-27 ; Shemuel Bet 14:14 ; Job 10:21 ; Tehillim 88:5 ; Ecclesiastes 3:19; 9:4-5) Only one of the last Tenakh writings (a book that orthodox Yehudim don't consider inspired to the same degree as the five books of Mosheh) contains a clear reference to personal resurrection and judgment (Daniel 12:1-3).

Given the ambiguity of Tenakh, it isn't surprising that Yehudim of Yeshua' day were divided between those who believed in personal resurrection (the P'rushim) and those who didn't (the Tz'dukim.)1 

For Yehudi people millennia of persecution have made it clearer that only justice beyond the grave can make history meaningful. But apart from the gospel story of Yeshua' life, death, and resurrection, there is no new, significant evidence to confirm hope in life after death and final justice. Therefore, a faithful Yehudi has only three options: He can continue to hope for resurrection and justice without a clear biblical or historical basis; he can become like a Tz'dukim, focusing his hopes on this world with little expectation of reward or judgment in a life to come; or he can consider the evidence for the resurrection of Yeshua Moshiach.

For Yehudi believers in the early Assembly, including the Talmidim who abandoned their Master before He encountered them on the other side of death, the evidence of Yeshua' resurrection was indispensable (1 Korintos 15:15-20). Viewing the Tenakh from the perspective of their encounter with a risen, living Messiah, they saw that it contains more prophetic evidence for Yeshua' resurrection than it offers for resurrection itself! Yeshua' life and death fulfill Tenakh prophecy.2 

1. The Shaliach Paulos himself referred to this disagreement in his confrontation with the Kohen Gadol, Ananias, in Acts 23: "Then Paulos said to him, 'Hashem will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the Torah, yet you yourself violate the Torah by commanding that I be struck!' Those who were standing near Paulos said, 'You dare to insult Hashem's Kohen Gadol?' Paulos replied, 'Brothers, I did not realize that he was the Kohen Gadol; for it is written: "Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people." '


Then Paulos, knowing that some of them were Tz'dukim and the others P'rushim, called out in the Sanhedrin, 'My brothers, I am a Parush, among the P'rushim. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.' When he said this, a dispute broke out between the P'rushim and the Tz'dukim, and the assembly was divided. (The Tz'dukim say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither malakhim nor ruachim, but the P'rushim acknowledge them all.)" (Acts 23:3-8).

2. See, for example,  Beresheet 3:15; 22:8; 18 ;  Devarim 18:15-18  ; Tehillim 2:7-9; 16:8-11; 22:14-18; 110:1; 118:22 ; Yeshayahu 6:9-12; 49:6; 53; 55:1-3 ;  Amos 9:11-12  ; Mikah 5:2 ;  Zechariah 9:9  ; Malakhi 3:1; 4:5 .