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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Death and the Meaning of Life

Different understandings about what happens to us at death embody and promote different views about what we consider to be the ultimate reality of life, what it is that we think — at the deepest level of our being — provides meaning for our existence and makes sense of the world we encounter while still breathing.

I have given four examples from the ancient world.  Each of them portrays a different sense of ultimate reality, of one thing, in each case, ...

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Paul in Hell. The Apocryphal Apocalypse of Paul.

You may have not noticed, since so much else has been happening on the blog lately (guest posts, a debate, etc.), but I have a very loose thread  going on my book on the guided tours of heaven and hell, a scholarly monograph that deals with the Christian versions of “katabasis” (the technical term for “going down” — that is, someone going down into the underworld and then reporting what he saw) in relation to Greek, Roman, and Jewish versions.  ...

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Enoch’s Vision of the Realms of the Dead

In discussing the research I’m doing on (human) journeys to the realm(s) of the dead, I have so far mentioned two in particular that occur outside of Christian circles and much earlier: the famous account of Odysseus’s vision of the dead in Homer’s Odyssey book 11 and Aeneas’s journey to the underworld in Virgil’s Aeneid, book 6.   These are very similar to one another (since Virgil was basing his account on Homer’s) but also very different: in particular, whereas in ...

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A Roman Vision of Heaven and Hell

In our world, most people who think about the afterlife suppose that when we die we either cease to exist or receive our due rewards (rewards/punishments).  I have pointed out that the latter view did not originate in Jewish or Christian circles, but in pagan, going back some time before the Greek philosopher Plato in the fourth century BCE.   The Greeks influenced their later conquerors the Romans in many, many ways, one of which involves their views of the afterlife.  ...

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