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John 11:22-27 (ESV):

22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Martha showed that she was well informed about a resurrection that was to take place on the last day (v24). Interestingly, like Peter, she was also very aware of Jesus' true identity as Christ, the Son of God (v27). All of this has me intrigued: what was most likely Martha's understanding of the concept of "the last day"? Where did she most probably learn this concept from? Also, since Jesus did not correct her for saying this, does this mean that Martha's understanding of "the last day" was accurate?

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The "Last Day" ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (yes, usually in the dative case) is a technical phrase, that occurs regularly:

  • John 6:39, 40 - And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of those He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day. For it is My Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
  • John 6:44 - No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
  • John 6:54 - Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
  • John 11:24 - Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
  • John 12:48 - There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not receive My words: The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

It is also called "that day":

  • Matt 24:35, 36 - Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. See also Mark 13:32.
  • Luke 10:12 - I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. [Jesus is discussing the last day judgement]
  • 2 Tim 1:12 - For this reason, even though I suffer as I do, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.

It is also called "the day of the Lord/God":

  • 2 Peter 3:10-13 - But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and its works will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to conduct yourselves in holiness and godliness as you anticipate and hasten the coming of the day of God, when the heavens will be destroyed by fire and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

[Important note: "last day" should not be confused with "the last days" - a different technical term for the time between Jesus' two advents.]

From this it is apparent that "the last day", "that day" and the "Day of the Lord" all refer to:

  1. The time of Jesus return (Matt 16:27, 24:30, 31, 38, 39, 42, 26:64, Mark 8:38, 13:26, 27, Luke 21:25-28, John 14:3, Acts 1:11, 1 Cor 1:7, 4:5, 11:26, Phil 3:4, 20, 1 Thess 1:9, 10, 3:13, 4:16, 17, 5:23, 2 Thess 2:1, 2, 8, Titus 2:12-14, 2 Tim 4:8, Heb 9:28, 10:25, 37, James 5:7-9, 1 Peter 2;12, 2 Peter 3:8-10, 1 John 2:28, 3:2, 3, Rev 1:7, 3:11, 22:12, 13, 20, 21, etc)
  2. The general resurrection of the dead (Matt 22:30, 31, Mark 12:23, Luke 14:14, 20:33-36, John 11;24, 25, 1 Thess 4:16, 17, 1 Cor 15:21, 22, 46-55.)
  3. The time of divine judgement
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  • Good considering other equivalent terms. I considered what they would know from the OT, but that is usually day of the Lord, not last day.
    – Perry Webb
    May 9 at 23:13
  • " I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town." Considering that IIRC there's basically just a potash mine there nowadays, I would hope so!
    – nick012000
    May 10 at 6:41
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It's in Jesus' teachings.

 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ... 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. ... Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:39–40, 44, 54 ESV)

Jesus had more teachings on the last day but after Lazarus was raised from the dead.

The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:48, ESV)

Thus, it's a resurrection day, but also a day of judgment. However, unlike the Old Testament day of the Lord passages that emphasized judgment of the nations and sinners, Jesus' the last day emphasized the resurrection of those who followed him, but mentioned judgment on those who reject his message. Thus, Martha got her understanding from Jesus' teaching.

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  • I like this answer also. +1.
    – Dottard
    May 10 at 5:32
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Saint Martha of Bethany's apparently casual use of "the Last Day" would most certainly have been through formation/reception in her catechetical experience of dominant (at least in Jerusalem/Judea) rabbinical Pharisaism. What they and she meant by this doctrine in the context of first century CE Jewish "confessional eschatology" was that the Messiah would come eventually to establish his Kingdom congruent with the "resurrection of the dead", many having experienced Gehinnom/purgatory (posthumous purgation/perfection) in preparation. All but those who denied the possibility of bodily resurrection, and possibly the most heinous sinners (cf. Johannine "mortal sin"), qualified for the Resurrection.

In opposition were the contemporaneous "sola scriptura" Sadducees (Moses/Pentateuch alone) and their heirs of today: (a) the "protestant" Karaites (i.e.,Law/Torah sans the Prophets/Nevi'im, the Writings/Ketuvim and Oral Tradition/Talmud) and (b) "modernist" Reformed Judaism (viz, religious belief must comply with conventional "science"). Therefore, Martha's confession exemplifies Pharisaic Judaism as the hermeneutical foundation of today's Orthodox/Chassidic Judaism and Orthodox/Catholic Christianity.

A good overview of the eschatology of Rabbinical Judaism is found in Baruch BRODY, "Jewish Reflections on the Resurrection of the Dead" (The Torah U-Madda Journal, Vol. 17 [2016-17]), pp. 93-122. See also Maimonides' "Thirteen Fundamental Articles of Jewish faith" (Resurrection is no. 13):

In the messianic epoch the body will once again rise in the resurrection and will exist for ever and ever.

The belief in the resurrection of the dead forms a basic foundation of the Jewish faith.

Thanks to this belief, one knows that the physical body, to which one dedicates one's entire effort in Torah and mitzvot, and for whose elevation one toils eighty or ninety years, is an eternal entity.

One's struggle on behalf of the body will never be in vein.

The body dies temporarily, only to reawaken to everlasting eternal life.

As the famous principle of Talmudic law teaches, "Any change that reverts back to its original condition is not considered to be a change at all" (Bava Kamma 67a; Sukkah 30b).

Thus, the ongoing battle to purify, refine, and uplift the body and all of material existence has an eternal result.

https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/rambam13.asp

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  • 1
    Hi FrDarryl, welcome to BH.SE - thanks for contributing! When you get a chance, don't forget to take the Site Tour for a quick overview of some of the site distinctives, and how we may be differentiated from other sites on the SE network.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 10 at 12:13
  • 1
    I'm interested that you are so certain that a first century woman would typically receive some kind of catechetical instruction, or that Gehinnom was an influential eschatological concept prior to Jesus. Do you have sources for either of these ideas? Also unsure as to whether rabbinical eschatology from many centuries later is really helpful for understanding the first century, especially as many early interactions with Christians did significantly shape the development of some Jewish theology.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 10 at 12:18
  • Thanks! Just ordered this (which should provide more warrant): amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0198844093/… Josephus states that the Essenes had a three year catechumenate but whether Pharisees followed suit if another question. My claims do need more warrant especially Gehinnom as reparative (apart from Maccabean witness is Deuterocanon). I should add I am RC and thereby take LXX as authoritative per Councils of Florence and Trent.
    – FrDarryl
    May 11 at 10:34
  • For a recent Jewish hermeneutic on the ancient concept Gehinnom: chabad.org/search/keyword_cdo/kid/10797/jewish/Gehinnom.htm
    – FrDarryl
    May 11 at 10:40
  • Sure - on a little digging it seems there's a reference in Enoch to an accursed valley that the majority believe is gehinnom, too. I'm aware of its usage in the later prophets, but until now had assumed that the usage by Jesus as a place of punishment was novel.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 11 at 11:14
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The Old Testament also has much to say about the resurrection, a good place to start would be Daniel 12.

the last verse states:

13 But go your way till the end; and you shall rest, and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

Martha would understand the Old Testament and be familiar with it and therefore the reference to the last day. Christ principally taught from the Old Testament so he would share much of these teachings.

The last days in scripture have 2 meanings, the first AD70 - the destruction of the Jewish temple, and the resurrection of the faithful that is illustrated in Daniel 12 but the theme of which stretches from Genesis - Revelations.

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  • Hi Matt, welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. I agree that the Old Testament context is key to understanding Martha's worldview, thanks for drawing attention to this. Upvoted +1. Please be sure to take the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. Thanks! May 11 at 3:05

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