My Favorite Anecdote about Jesus and the Afterlife: Teeth Will Be Provided!

I was thinking (I’m always thinking) about Jesus and the afterlife, and suddenly my favorite rather humorous anecdote occurred, which involves a real moment in (relatively) modern scholarship.  I tried to find where I had written about it in one of my books: I was sure I *had* done so, but I couldn’t find anyplace where I had.  If I haven’t, I may include it in the next one.  But I did find that I made a post of it ...

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Too Much Money and the Afterlife

In a previous post I talked about the very funny satirical dialogue of the second-century pagan Lucian of Samosata, “Voyage to the Underworld” in which an unbelievably wealthy tyrant became incredibly miserable after death, because he realized that all his power, influence, and massive wealth had been stripped from him, and would be, for all eternity, whereas a poor cobbler who had lived a miserably impoverished existence was rather pleased that he no longer would starve and freeze nearly to ...

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Looking at Hell

I have been talking about different views of what the afterlife entails.  In the broadest terms, some ancient people believed that everyone at death had the same fate: they lived on, not in their body but in their soul, in some kind of netherworld where nothing much ever happened.  It was a dreadfully banal and boring existence, that went on forever, the same for everyone.

Some ancient authors who had that view described visits to the underworld by the living, where ...

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Eternal Life and Damnation

In my summaries of the Apocalypse of Peter and the Apocalypse of Paul, as a couple of readers noticed, there was a striking difference in emphasis.  Both of these early Christian texts (the first from the second century, the other from the fourth or possibly the fifth?) narrate guided tours of the realms of the blessed and of the damned, and both seem more interested in describing the torments of the lost than the ecstasies of the saved.

The former focuses ...

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Another Gory Account of the Afterlife: The Apocalypse of Paul

Yesterday I discussed the first surviving Christian account of a tour of heaven and hell, an apocalypse allegedly, but not really, written by Jesus’ disciple Peter.   Here is one other, this time allegedly, but not really, written by the Apostle Paul.   I have taken this description from my book Forgery and Counterforgery (which I have revised a bit to get rid of some of the scholarly jargon).

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Far more influential on the history of Christian thought than the Apocalypse of ...

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Touring Hell: The Apocalypse of Peter

I am about ready now (I think!) to dig more deeply into a thread on the Invention of the Afterlife – the tentative title of the book that I *hope* will be my next one.  I’ve been putting off starting the thread in earnest because, in fact, I don’t feel particularly ready for it.  I’m just at the preliminary stage of my reading and have many dozens of books I need to work through before I can even think about ...

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Jesus the Superboy: A Blast From the Past

As is my wont, this time of year, I’ve been thinking about the stories of Jesus’ birth and early life for a few days now.  And just this instant I was looking at some old posts on the blog, from years ago — and this one turned up from 2013.  A matter of ongoing interest: if Jesus was the miracle working Son of God as an adult, what was he like as a kid?  We have stories about that from ...

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A Fantastic Saying of Jesus in Papias

I have mentioned one of the intriguing traditions found in the now-lost Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord by the early second century proto-orthodox church father Papias (his account of the death of Judas).  Here is another one.

In this one Papias is relating what he has heard that Jesus taught.  As you’ll see, it is not a teaching that is found in the New Testament Gospels, or in fact in any other Gospel source we have.

What is ...

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Other Accounts of the Death of Judas

As I indicated in the previous post, there are two versions of the death of Judas Iscariot in the New Testament.   These versions have some striking similarities, but at the end of the day, I think they cannot really be reconciled with one another.   After the New Testament period, there were legends about Judas’s death that continued to be invented and circulated.  I discuss one of them in my college-level textbook on the New Testament, in a side-bar that I ...

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Yale Shaffer Lectures 1 of 3 – Christ Come in the Flesh

Ten years ago now — October 12-14, 2004 — I delivered the Shaffer lectures at Yale University Divinity School. The central theme of the series was “Christ in the Early Christian Tradition: Texts Disputed and Apocryphal.” Among other things, I tried to show how early Christian groups tried to restrict readings of their sacred texts to suit their own purposes. This first lecture is entitled on “Christ Come in the Flesh.” (The video quality will not be ...

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