Heaven and Hell in a Nutshell: Getting into the Kernel

Here is the second and last part of my summary of the heart of my forthcoming book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife.  It’s not an outline of the chapters, but a summing up of the key issues, flow, and the ultimate “point” of the book.  As a tip, I’ve called this little essay (in my own mind): “There Is Nothing To Fear.”

 

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The idea of rewards and punishments eventually found its way into Judaism as ...

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An Older Manuscript Controversy about the Dead Sea Scrolls

I’ve been thinking about controversies over ancient Christian and Jewish manuscripts lately, in connection with the (false) claim that a First Century copy of Mark had been discovered.  Browsing around on the blog I saw that I dealt with a completely different manuscript controversy on the blog many years ago, involving the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I had forgotten all about it.  This one involved a court case and jail time!   Here’s what I said:

 

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A few years ago I was ...

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What About the Original *Old* Testament?

Recently several readers have asked me about the manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible; I talk a lot about the New Testament on the blog, but what about the Old Testament?  Are there problems there too?

Short answer, yes indeed.  I’d say!   Here’s how I dealt with this in a post long ago, back in the days of my youth.  Only one thing is different.  I don’t read from the Hebrew Bible every morning any more.  I’ve gotten obsessed with classical Latin!  ...

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Does Your Soul Go To Heaven?

In my previous post I discussed the beginnings of the Jewish idea of the “resurrection of the dead.”  This view is a pretty much commonplace today: in every Christian church that recites a creed today, and in many conservative churches that do not use creeds, it is believed that at the end of time there will be some kind of judgment and people will be raised from the dead.

At the same time, I have to be frank and say that ...

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An Alternative View of Suffering and the Idea of Resurrection

In yesterday’s post I was explaining why I do not think we need to point to Zoroastrianism as the source or reason for the views of “the resurrection from the dead” emerged within Judaism.   This view could have arisen within Judaism itself, because of some internal dynamics.  Here in this post I explain how it may have happened.

I begin where I ended yesterday: in ancient Israel, as up to today, there have been people who think that the reason they ...

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Resurrection from the Dead: Were Jews Influenced by Zoroastrianism?

I often get asked if ancient Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism or other kinds of Persian thought – especially when it comes to the specific doctrine of the “resurrection of the dead” and, more generally, the whole category of “apocalyptic thought.”  I used to think so!  Now I’m not so sure.  At all.

I’ve talked about apocalypticism and resurrection on the blog before.  Here I’ll discuss where these ideas came from, before, explaining more fully what they ended up looking like.  ...

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Enoch’s Vision of the Realms of the Dead

In discussing the research I’m doing on (human) journeys to the realm(s) of the dead, I have so far mentioned two in particular that occur outside of Christian circles and much earlier: the famous account of Odysseus’s vision of the dead in Homer’s Odyssey book 11 and Aeneas’s journey to the underworld in Virgil’s Aeneid, book 6.   These are very similar to one another (since Virgil was basing his account on Homer’s) but also very different: in particular, whereas in ...

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Guest Post! Joel Marcus on His New Book on the John the Baptist

Many readers of the blog will already be familiar with my long-time friend and colleague from Duke, Joel Marcus, one of the top New Testament scholars in America (or anywhere else, for that matter).   Joel and I have known each other for over thirty years — since he started teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary, soon after I finished my PhD there.   He is especially well known for his massive and learned two-volume commentary on the Gospel of Mark for the ...

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Were First-Century Jewish Boys Taught to Read and Write?

In this post I continue to dig down into whether a poor Aramaic-speaking fisherman in rural Galilee could compose a highly sophisticated Greek treatise such as 1 Peter.  In my last post I dealt broadly with the question of how many people in antiquity could write.  In this post I turn my attention to Peter’s own historical context, Roman Palestine.  Is it true that boys were consistently taught literacy there and that it’s plausible that one of them could write ...

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Pilate, Who Never “Learned His Lesson”

This is the second of my two posts  from over three years ago that try to show that Pilate almost certainly would not have removed Jesus’ body from the cross on the afternoon of his death simply because not to do so would have been in violation of Jewish sensitivities.   (NOTE: Pilate is not said to have done so for the other two who were crucified with Jesus. Are we to think he made an exception in Jesus’ case, since, ...

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