There was a variety of beliefs about life after death held both by people generally and by intellectuals in the biblical eras. The ancient Hebrews rejected both the Canaanite Baal worship, which included in the cult the annual dying and rising again of the god, and also the Greek notion of the inherent immortality of the ‘soul’. But the NT concept of resurrection has only the barest hints in the OT. The idea of a hopeless shadowy existence in sheol (e.g. Ps. 88: 3–5) similar to the Greek conception of Hades, as in Homer, is a state of misery where the dead survived as feeble shades. In later literature there is a richer conception of life after death. Job 19: 25–7 is searching for a more satisfactory view which would conform to the Hebrew sense that the human body, part of God's creation, was ‘very good’ (Gen. 1: 31), and therefore life without ‘body’ was incomplete and unsatisfying. Moreover, while existence in sheol might be a fair reward for the wicked (Ps. 49: 14), surely the faithful deserved something better? So there is a promise of resurrection for Israel as a nation (Isa. 26: 19); Yahweh's loyalists who have suffered will rise to an appropriate reward (Dan. 12: 2) and apostates will endure shame and everlasting contempt. In 2 Maccabees there is hope for the resurrection of those who suffer (7: 9) and the righteous will be vindicated (1 Enoch 104: 2–6), and in the time of Jesus this was also the view of the Pharisees (but not the Sadducees) and of Jesus himself (Mark 12: 18–27).

The resurrection of believers is part of Paul's hope for all believers at the end of history. He anticipates a complete transformation of the whole human person (1 Cor. 15: 53–5).

The resurrection of the body is part of Christian belief about life after death. This has been superbly, but literally, depicted in great paintings, as by Stanley Spencer (1925) where the dead are emerging out of the churchyard at Cookham. The essence of the belief is that what has been of value on earth in the bodily, historical life is not wholly left behind but is transfigured.