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All Day Seminar (Online) for the Smithsonian: This Saturday!

Looking for some fun, excitement, and a change of pace this weekend?  On Saturday I will be doing an all-day seminar for the Smithsonian Associates, four lectures (two in the morning, two in the afternoon), each with Q&A to follow, on Heaven and Hell, based, of course, on the book.  Interested in joining in?  Ticket information, and so on, can be found here: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/heaven-and-hell-perspectives-on-afterlife

The structure of the lectures will be different from the book.  Here is the line-up of the lectures.

9:30­–10:45 a.m.  Death After Death

The earliest records of the afterlife in ancient Near Eastern, Israelite, and Greek cultures portrayed it as no life at all: death leads to only a dreary, uninteresting, eternally empty existence in which there is no joy, no pleasure, and no hope, as portrayed in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Bible, and writings of Homer.

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  Justice in the World Beyond

Both Greek and Israelite cultures eventually developed the concept that this life cannot really be the end of the story and that the misery and injustices experienced now will be vindicated later.  There later emerged the idea of postmortem reward and punishments, as reflected in Plato and Jewish apocalyptic texts.

12:15­–1:30 p.m.  Lunch break (participants can either stay in the webinar or leave and return)

1:30–2:45 p.m.  Jesus, Paul, and the Book of Revelation

Neither Jesus, Paul, nor the author of Revelation believed that when a person died their soul went to heaven or hell.  Instead, God was soon to intervene in history to destroy the current world order and set up a utopian kingdom here on earth in which his followers would live blessed lives forever, in bodies raised from the dead; those opposed to God would be annihilated from existence.

3–4:15 p.m.  The Birth of Heaven and Hell

The end of the world expected by Jesus and Paul never arrived, leading Christians to believe that eternal life was not coming to this world in the future, but immediately after death.  The body would die, but the soul would live on, either to enjoy the pleasures of paradise or the eternal torments of hell.  Later, some came to believe in an interim period of punishment (purgatory), and yet others claimed that in the end, all people would be saved.


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  1. Avatar
    veritas  September 9, 2020

    Wow,the price!! Your cheaper in person and more enjoyable.

  2. Cheryl
    Cheryl  September 9, 2020

    The seminar looks excellent! I registered today, Bart. Looking forward to it!

  3. Avatar
    J--B  September 9, 2020

    “enjoy…the eternal torments of hell.” ?!? 😉

  4. Avatar
    tcasto  September 10, 2020

    Any chance this will become a podcast that can be watched at leisure?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 11, 2020

      I don’t know if they are recording it; if they aer they will not be giving me permission to post it, but they may make it available themselves (probably at a charge).

      • Avatar
        holdco  September 13, 2020

        Dr. Ehrman:

        I was an attendee at the webinar, and was wondering if SA will make the recording available to paying participants, with or without a fee. I had originally registered attend in DC, but with the ultimate move to a remote session, it was a bit challenging to stay in front of the screen for most of the day (especially with a toddler, in my case!), so I tried to “screen record” the whole session. But, probably due to SA restrictions, no audio was captured with the video, and I lost a good bit of your lecture. I reached out to SA directly on this point, but if you have any “pull” in making the presentation accessible for registered attendees, it would be great to get the audio for personal use only. Thanks very much.

        • Bart
          Bart  September 14, 2020

          I’m afraid I don’t know! I’d suggest you contact them to see. But yes, staying tuned to a screen is not that easy for people who have others int heir lives — esp young ‘uns….

  5. Avatar
    JonA  September 11, 2020

    To my way of thinking, if ” death (as per early Near Eastern, Israelite, and Greek cultures) led to only a dreary, uninteresting, eternally empty existence, in which there is no joy, no pleasure and no hope”, that would run a close second to eternal torment itself.

  6. Avatar
    AndrewJenkins  September 11, 2020

    Dear Bart,
    Many thanks for the invitation!

    I was just wondering whether you have encountered Theodore Zeldin’s perspective – he seems to share your approach and suggests that: “Since the only place where complete happiness can be found is Paradise, I tried to discover all I could about Paradise. But every vision of it seemed to be stamped with the mark of the epoch when it was written down…..”

    He has written in his book ‘Paradise’ the story of a traveller who obtained a visitor’s visa, and has tried to envisage a perspective on Paradise for the next generation…..Could this be relevant for a further stage of Afterlife History?

    Very best wishes, Andrew.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 13, 2020

      No, I haven’t read it. But I’m not sure what to make of his statement. I would simply *assume* that every person’s view of paradise is determined by their own historical and cultural context.

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