Fresh Air Interview for Heaven and Hell: Airing Tuesday!

As most of you know, my new book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, is due to come out in two days, on Tuesday March 31.  I am very lucky to say that I have done an interview with Terry Gross for Fresh Air that will be playing  that day.  If you’re not familiar with the show, it is probably the premier interview radio program in the country, with millions of listeners; it will be playing on your ...

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How To Begin with Heaven and Hell: An Excerpt

My new book is coming out next week – March 31.   Very exciting, even if it is coming out at the absolute worst time in modern history to publish a book that is not about either Donald or Disease.   But still, I’m excited.  And very oddly (I just checked) (OK, really, I don’t check every day; it’s been some weeks), it is now the top new release on Amazon on the topic of “reincarnation”!  HA!!  What a scream.

OK, there’s not ...

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Guided Tours of Heaven and Hell in a Christian Mode

I’ve started a short thread describing the academic monograph I’ve started writing, Guided Tours of Heaven and Hell: Otherworldly Journeys in the Early Christian Tradition..  In my last post I describe  two o the most important forerunners of the tradition, the Greek Homer (Odyssey 11) and Roman Virgil (Aeneid 6) — flat out fascinating texts that I’ve become obsessed with.  The Christian versions are similar in ways but also profoundly different.   Here is what I say about them ...

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Guided Tours of Heaven and Hell: My Scholarly Book

I mentioned that I have started writing my academic book on the early Christian versions of the guided tours of heaven and hell.  This will be very different from the trade book coming out in March — an full eight-chapter scholarly analysis of material that I cover in a very brief overview fashion in one chapter of the trade book.

As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, when I get to certain points of my work on a book, I like ...

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Does Your Soul Go To Heaven?

In my previous post I discussed the beginnings of the Jewish idea of the “resurrection of the dead.”  This view is a pretty much commonplace today: in every Christian church that recites a creed today, and in many conservative churches that do not use creeds, it is believed that at the end of time there will be some kind of judgment and people will be raised from the dead.

At the same time, I have to be frank and say that ...

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An Alternative View of Suffering and the Idea of Resurrection

In yesterday’s post I was explaining why I do not think we need to point to Zoroastrianism as the source or reason for the views of “the resurrection from the dead” emerged within Judaism.   This view could have arisen within Judaism itself, because of some internal dynamics.  Here in this post I explain how it may have happened.

I begin where I ended yesterday: in ancient Israel, as up to today, there have been people who think that the reason they ...

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Resurrection from the Dead: Were Jews Influenced by Zoroastrianism?

I often get asked if ancient Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism or other kinds of Persian thought – especially when it comes to the specific doctrine of the “resurrection of the dead” and, more generally, the whole category of “apocalyptic thought.”  I used to think so!  Now I’m not so sure.  At all.

I’ve talked about apocalypticism and resurrection on the blog before.  Here I’ll discuss where these ideas came from, before, explaining more fully what they ended up looking like.  ...

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How Views of the Afterlife Changed

I’ve been explaining how the tours to heaven and hell – both of them Near Death Experiences – in the Acts of Thomas are meant to show the Christian alternatives to Greek and Roman views of the afterlife.   For early Christians it would not be a dull and boring, powerless and mindless existence for all eternity, as it is depicted in the oldest Greek sources, and it would not require hundreds of years of “purging” where the stains of wickedness ...

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Who Has The Answer For a Happy Afterlife?

A few days ago I gave the opening part of the paper I read at a conference of New Testament scholars a couple of weeks ago, on the accounts of the afterlife in the Christian apocryphal book called Acts of Thomas (an account of Thomas’s missionary adventures in India), one of them involving a near death experienced that revealed the glories of heaven and the other a near death experience of the horrors of hell.

Most of the paper involved contrasting ...

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Some Very Strange Journeys to Heaven and Hell

This post is free for everyone, but most posts come only to blog members.  Joining the blog is easy and it gives you access to tons of material for very little expense.  All the money goes to charity.  so why not join.

Last week I was in Marburg, Germany for the annual conference for the Society of New Testament Studies.  This is an international society at the top tier of NT scholars in the world, a closed society that ...

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