In Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3, Dr. Brown addresses a charge leveled at Paul. As Dr. Brown words the challenge, “Paul claimed that the Hebrew Scriptures prophesied the resurrection of the Messiah on the third day. Nowhere in our Bible is such a prophecy found” (objection 4.38, pg. 181).”
As a brief response, before he goes into much more detail, Dr. Brown says:
“Paul’s exact words are: ‘for what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…'(I Cor. 15:3-4). As a Jew schooled in the Scriptures from his childhood, Paul was not thinking of just one passage but of several passages that pointed to the Messiah’s resurrection on the third day…In fact, when we study the Tanakh, we see that the third day is often the day of completion and climax–and so it was with the Messiah’s death and resurrection!” (pg. 181-182)
The response from Dr. Brown suggests that there are at least two passages which discuss the Messiah’s resurrection and that although Paul didn’t attempt to quote a passage, he does have clear verses on which to rely.
But first, Dr. Brown wants to set the scene for us:
“We should first look at some prophecies that make reference to restoration–or rescue from death–on the third day.” (pg. 182) His verses?
*Hosea 6:1-2, which says “After two days he will revive us, on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” Brown adds, “This is a word given to Israel as a whole, but the sequence is there: full restoration on the third day!”
*Genesis 22:4, the Binding of Isaac, an event which Brown paints as a messianic foreshadowing (objection 4.1 in this volume) in which the actual binding–and reception of Isaac back from the dead according to midrashic allegories–took place on the third day
*II Kings 20:5, where Isaiah tells Hezekiah (a prototype of the Messiah, Dr. Brown points out, as he descends from David) that on the third day from the promise that he will recover from his illness he will enter the Temple of G-D
*Jonah 2:1-9, where Jonah was released from the fish’s belly on the third day
Brown again, page 183: “Elsewhere in the Tanakh, it is striking to see how often the third day has special significance,” as he points to Exodus 19:10, Esther 5:1, Ezra 6:15 (referring to the third day of the 12th month), Genesis 40:1-23, Leviticus 7:7-18; 19:6-7 (speaking of some sacrificial meat becoming unfit for consumption on the third day following slaughter), Judges 20 (in which the Israelites defeated the tribe of Benjamin in battle), and Joshua 1:11; 3:2.
After referencing two German scholars who weigh in on the importance of three days, Dr. Brown concludes the section as follows:
“These insights, coupled with some key verses about restoration, salvation, or rescue from death on the third day, give Paul the right to say that the Messiah rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. There would have been no day more suitable than this from the viewpoint of the Word of God.” (pg. 183-184)
I encourage you, dear reader, to examine the referenced chapters closely and ask yourself: if I were reading these chapters before Jesus was born, would I have come away with the notion that the Messiah is to be resurrected on the third day following death? Did Dr. Brown provide an actual reference that the Messiah is supposed to resurrect on the third day (setting aside every other aspect of the crucifixion/resurrection account for this exercise)?
As a minor objection, one could argue that the Messiah was to resurrect on the seventh day, since the Jews encircled Jericho seven times on the seventh day and the walls came tumblin’ down (Joshua 6); the seventh day of the week was blessed by G-D (Genesis 2); the seventh year is a year of rest (Leviticus 25); the year following the seventh seven of years is a holy year of freedom (ibid.); and examples abound.
Dr. Brown has not actually made an argument that the Messiah is to resurrect on the third day (of the month? week? that part isn’t clear from his argument, either). He begged the question and then tried to back into an answer which suits his purposes–and even then he opens the door for other possibilities.
Once again, he says a lot without resolving the objection.