Did David Exist? And When Did I Know I Lost My Faith? Mailbag April 15, 2017

I will be dealing with two questions in this weekly Readers’ Mailbag.  The first has to do with the historical evidence, if any, for the Israelite kings Saul, David, and Solomon – did they exist, or are the stories about them entirely legendary?   The second, coming to us from a different universe, is about me personally, and my faith, whether there was a proverbial straw that broke my faith-camel’s back.

 

QUESTION:

According to Finkelstein and Silberman’s book, The Bible Unearthed, which I ...

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Job’s So-called Friends (With Friends Like These….)

Now that I have started talking about the book of Job in the context of the afterlife, I feel like I need to keep going, on a bit of a subthread to this thread, and talk about the bulk of the book, the poetic dialogues that take place in chapters 3-41.  These are glorious, powerful, and gripping chapters.   To make sense of them will take several posts.  I have lifted the discussion from my book God’s Problem.

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The Poetic Dialogues of ...

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Why I Find the Story of Job is Disturbing

In yesterday’s post I summarized the narrative of Job (the story that frames the book, chs. 1-2 and 42, which come from a different author from the poetic dialogues of Job and his “friends” of chs. 3-41), with a few words about its view of why a good person might suffer.  Life’s miseries could be a test from God to see if a person will remain faithful, not just when he is thriving but also when he is in the ...

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Understanding the Story of Job

In this thread on the afterlife in the Bible, I have turned to Ecclesiastes and Job as providing alternative views to what is found in most of the Hebrew Bible.  In my previous post I noted that Job appears to be two different books by two different authors edited together at some point into one long account.  The beginning and end of the book represent a short folk tale, with an intriguing view of why it is people suffer (a ...

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The Two Books of Job: A Blast from the Past

I have been arguiong that there are different views of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible.  The dominant view is that all people go to Sheol when they die — either they stay in the grave or there is some place that they all gather, a completely uninteresting, dark, dreary place where nothing really happens.  Some authors, though, suggest there is no afterlife at all.  Ecclesiastes, in one or two places, seems to suggest this, as does the book ...

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The Afterlife (or not) in Ecclesiastes

In my previous post I provided some comments on one of my favorite biblical books, Ecclesiastes.  Here I will continue my comments, with some remarks on the topic of the thread, the view of the afterlife in the book, a view unlike what you find in *most* of the Hebrew Bible.  Again, this is taken from my book God’s Problem.

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For the author of Ecclesiastes “traditional” wisdom (such as one finds in the book of Proverbs) was inherently flawed ...

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Ecclesiastes and the Meaning of Life

As I have been arguing, *most* of the authors of the Hebrew Bible who have anything to say about life after death believe that people go to Sheol – whether they are good or wicked, faithful or unfaithful.  It is the fate of all.  Different authors may have different views of what Sheol entails, but nowhere is it a place or reward or punishment for what one does (or believes) in this life.

A major exception seems to be the book ...

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Life After Death According to Samuel

 

Before getting sidetracked with other things, I was discussing the intriguing story of 1 Samuel 28, where the king of Israel, Saul, illicitly consults a medium in an attempt to communicate with his now-dead advisor and predecessor, the prophet Samuel.  This is the only case of necromancy in the entire Bible.   In this post I want to consider what the author of the passage seems to think about those who go to Sheol after death.

Recall the story: Saul is experiencing ...

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Returning from the Dead in the Hebrew Bible

In thinking about Sheol and death in the Hebrew Bible, it is worth reflecting on passages where the dead come back to life or are contacted by the living.  This does not happen much at all – a couple of instances of resuscitation and one of necromancy.

Probably the most famous resuscitation – the bringing back to life of a dead person – involves the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 17:17-24.   Elijah has been helping an unnamed widow from the town ...

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The Afterlife in the Hebrew Bible: Sheol

When trying to figure out where the Christian ideas of heaven and hell came from, an obvious place to start is with the Hebrew Bible.  Jesus himself held to the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures.   To be sure, there was not a completely fixed canon in his day, which all Jews everywhere agreed to.  But virtually all Jews we know of ascribed to the high authority (and Mosaic authorship) of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy); and most ...

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