The idea of any resurrection at all first emerges clearly in the 2nd-century BC Book of Daniel, but as a belief in the resurrection of the soul alone. Josephus tells of the three main Jewish sects of the 1st century AD, that the Sadducees held that both soul and body perished at death; the Essenes that the soul was immortal but the flesh was not; and the Pharisees that the soul was immortal and that the body would be resurrected to house it. Of these three positions, Jesus and the early Christians appear to have been closest to that of the Pharisees. Steve Mason notes that for the Pharisees, "the new body is a special, holy body," which is different from the old body, "a view shared to some extent by the ex-Pharisee Paul (1. Cor. 15:35ff)."
Endsjø notes that the evidence from Jewish texts and from tomb inscriptions points to a more complex reality. For example, when the 2nd century BC author the 12:2), he probably had in mind rebirth as stars in God's Heaven, stars having been identified with angels from early times – such a rebirth would rule out a bodily resurrection, as angels were believed to be fleshless. Other texts range from the traditional Old Testament view that the soul would spend eternity in the underworld, to a metaphorical belief in the raising of the spirit. Most avoided defining what resurrection might imply, but a resurrection of the flesh was a marginal belief.
The Greeks held that a meritorious man could be resurrected as a god (the process of apotheosis), and the successors of Alexander the Great made this idea very well known throughout the Middle East through coins bearing his image, a privilege previously reserved for gods. The idea was adopted by the Roman emperors, and in Imperial Roman apotheosis the earthly body of the recently deceased emperor was replaced by a new and divine one as he ascended into heaven. The apotheosised dead remained recognisable to those who met them, as when Romulus appeared to witnesses after his death, but as the biographer Plutarch (c. AD 46–120) explained of this incident, while something within humans comes from the gods and returns to them after death, this happens "only when it is most completely separated and set free from the body, and becomes altogether pure, fleshless, and undefiled".