Degrees of Punishment and Purgatory

Christians have always had a wide variety of beliefs about the afterlife, and just about everyone (who chooses) is able to find biblical support for their views.  The Bible itself has an enormous range of views.

Among other things, there have always been Christians who have thought that there must be varying levels of punishment for sinners in the afterlife.   The guy on the street who does his best but is not always a very good father surely doesn’t get punished ...

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Who Invented the Idea of a Suffering Messiah?

For this week’s readers’ mailbag I give a very interesting and important question.

 

QUESTION:

Where did the idea of a Jewish messiah dying for the sins of mankind originate from? OT? Did Jews prior to Jesus’ existence believe this notion of the messiah dying for other’s sins?

 

RESPONSE:

I deal with this issue in a couple of my books.  Here is one of my fuller discussion from Did Jesus Exist?, where I talk about the issue in connection with the question of why Paul ...

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97

The Unforgivable Sin and Purgatory

In my previous post I discussed one of the passages of the New Testament that has traditionally been used to support the idea of Purgatory, the place that most of the “saved” go after death to be purged of their sins (Matt 5:26  “you won’t get out of there until you have paid the last penny”).  In my judgment this passage is not talking about what happens in the afterlife, even though it has been read that way.   With another ...

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Did Jesus Teach About Purgatory?

The topic I’m dealing with on this destined-to-be-a-very-long thread seems to me to be particularly important.  Most of my scholarship is of interest mainly to people concerned about the life and teachings of Jesus, the New Testament, the history of Christianity, and so on; but this is of interest to *all* of us.  What happens when we die?  Or more specifically, what happens to *me* when I die?

My current discussion of purgatory may be of little interest to people, until ...

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61

The Golden Rule

After all the background I gave yesterday, I can now give a succinct answer to the question that was raised by a reader.  Here it is again.

 

QUESTION:

I was surprised to see that, in the Didache, the form of the Golden Rule is in the negative. I’ve read that the positive formulation in the Sermon on the Mount may be original to Jesus. If the Didache used Matthew as a source, how does one account for that reversion?

 

RESPONSE:

I think this question ...

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27

What Did Jesus Look Like?

I recently read an intriguing short article by my friend and colleague at King’s College London, Joan Taylor, on what Jesus probably looked like.  Good question.  I’ve always thought: how would we know?  But in fact, there are some things to be said.  I zapped her a note and she agreed to write up something for the blog.   The original piece was published in The Irish Times, here:  <https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/what-did-jesus-really-look-like-as-a-jew-in-1st-century-judaea-1.3385334>.  She has slightly edited it for us.  Here is what ...

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49

Pilate’s *Own* Account of Why He Crucified Jesus

I have been talking about how Pontius Pilate becomes increasingly innocent over time in Christian accounts of the death of Jesus.  One of my arguments is that the motive behind this exoneration of the Roman governor is an attempt to blame “the Jews” for killing their own messiah.  This exoneration increases over time and after a while stops being at all subtle.

Check out this non-canonical account that allegedly gives Pilate’s own version of the matter.  This is in an apocryphal ...

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25

The Increasing Innocence of Pilate in the Death of Jesus

QUESTION:

How is it that all four gospels portray Pilate as recognizing the innocence of Jesus and being extremely reluctant to order his execution?

 

RESPONSE:

What is most intriguing (and enlightening) is that over time in the Christian tradition – both inside the New Testament and outside of it – Pilate becomes more and more innocent in the death of Jesus with the passing of time.   You can see this clearly simply by lining up the Gospels chronologically and seeing how they portray ...

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60

Jesus Kissing Mary Magdalene: A Blast From the Past

Now for something *completely* different.  Here is a question that was asked and answered almost exactly four years ago, of ongoing intrigue!

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QUESTION:

I know that the “Gospel of Philip does not have much if any real historical veracity to it about Jesus’ life, but does the references about Jesus and Mary Magdalene being lovers and the holes in the papyrus ‘kissing’ verse (verses 32 and 55 in your “Lost Scriptures” book), help support the view that this ...

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20

Jesus and Paul: Similarities and Differences

In my previous post I raised the question of whether Jesus and Paul represent fundamentally the same religion or not.  Here I continue the discussion by pointing out what seem to me to be the main similarities and differences between them, as I spelled it out in a post several years ago:

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I have been talking about the relationship of Jesus’ proclamation of the coming Kingdom of God to Paul’s preaching about the importance of the death and resurrection ...

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