The Invention of the Afterlife: Request for Ideas!

Toward the end of this post I will be asking for your opinions and ideas.   So I hope you get that far!

Now that I have sent my manuscript on The Triumph of Christianity off to my editor, and before she gets back to me for revisions and edits, I am turning my thoughts to the next book.  The reality is that I am not 100% certain what it will be.   That still has to be worked out, negotiated, and approved ...

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Gerd Luedemann on the Resurrection: A Blast From the Past

Here is an interesting post on the resurrection of Jesus that I made almost exactly four years ago today.  It’s interesting because (a) I don’t remember writing it (and only vaguely remember having read the book) and (b) my own views ended up being very similar indeed (even though I don’t at all remember being influenced by the book!).   These are views not widely shared by my colleagues in the field of New Testament studies, as will seem obvious ...

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Speaking in Churches as an Agnostic; and Jewish Beliefs about Afterlife. Readers Mailbag August 13, 2016

 

I will be dealing with two rather wide-ranging questions in this week’s Readers Mailbag:  What is it like for me, a public agnostic/atheist, to give a talk to believers in a church?  And what did Jews believe about the afterlife in the time of Jesus?

 

QUESTION:

Dr. Ehrman, do churches hire you to lecture on Christianity knowing that you’re an atheist? Do you ever get tempted to say, “Let’s be honest here. I think all of your cherished religious beliefs are baloney, ...

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The Fear of Hell, Good Debaters, and the Name of God: Mailbag April 22, 2016

For this week’s readers’ mailbag I have chosen three unusually unrelated questions, one on whether we should be afraid of going to hell, one on how I prepare for public debates, and one on how we got the name Jehovah from the Hebrew name of God, YHWH.   This shows just how wide ranging your questions can be on this blog!   If you one you would like me to address in the future, let me know.

 

QUESTION:

What would you say to someone ...

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Heaven and Hell, Part Two

In my previous post I explained how Jewish thinkers began to develop the idea of an afterlife when they devised the idea of a future resurrection of the dead, an apocalyptic event that explained how God would ultimately make right all that was wrong, rewarding those who had sided with him but punishing those who sided with evil.  But how did that idea of a future *bodily* resurrection morph into the Christian teachings of heaven and hell?  I try to ...

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Heaven and Hell, Part One

As I have been discussing the topic of resurrection in early Christianity, a number of readers have asked about a related issue, namely, where the Christian teaching of heaven and hell came from.   For most Christians, the afterlife seems to be the ongoing existence of the soul.  But for the earliest Christians, the afterlife involved the resurrection precisely of the *body*.  How did that change, and why?

I discussed this issue some years back in my book Jesus Interrupted, and what ...

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The Resurrection in Paul

I have been discussing an apocalyptic understanding of Jesus’ resurrection.  For the earliest followers of Jesus, coming to think that Jesus was raised from the dead provided both a confirmation and an elaboration of their understanding of the end times.  Prior to Jesus’ death they had come to think that they were living at the end of the age and that God was soon to bring history to a climactic end through a cataclysmic act of judgment; this final event ...

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Jesus’ Return to Life as a Resurrection

So far I have talked about the significance of the belief in Jesus’ resurrection for both Christology (the understanding of who Jesus was) and soteriology (the understanding of how salvation works).  It also was significant for eschatology (the understanding of what would happen at the end of time).

Christologically, the resurrection proved that Jesus really was the favored one of God, appearances notwithstanding.  It may have *seemed* like the crucifixion would show that Jesus was not God’s son, and certainly not ...

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The Resurrection of the Son of God

I’m in the midst of the most entangled thread I have yet produced in my well-over-three-years of doing the blog.   It started with orthodox scribes who were altering their texts of Scripture (specifically Luke 22; this was part of a thread I began in April!  I’ll get back to it….) and it has now managed by a number of intricate twists, turns, and interweavings to end up at the resurrection of Jesus.

I have been arguing that the resurrection radically changed ...

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Agnostics with a Moral Compass

In this post I’ll be sticking with my theme of yesterday, related to the lecture I gave at NYU, two nights ago now, about how the Bible deals with the problem of suffering. At the end of the lecture I indicated that I have a view of suffering related to that set out in the book of Ecclesiastes. The author of Ecclesiastes, claiming to be king of Solomon (even though he was living many centuries later) stressed that life is ...

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