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Fresh Air Interview for Heaven and Hell: Airing Tuesday!

As most of you know, my new book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, is due to come out in two days, on Tuesday March 31.  I am very lucky to say that I have done an interview with Terry Gross for Fresh Air that will be playing  that day.  If you’re not familiar with the show, it is probably the premier interview radio program in the country, with millions of listeners; it will be playing on your local NPR station and, of course, can be listened to online.  Check it out at https://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/

It is an unfortunately very timely book just now.  But, as I’ve mentioned before, even though lots of people have more time to read now than ever because of our time of crisis, it is almost impossible for publishers to get the word out about their new books.  The only effective market strategies these days (I don’t mean corona-days but 2021-days in general) are social media (to a limited extent) and TV/radio media.  And TV/radio media is not interested in talking about the latest non-fiction, for the most part.

So this will be the one big media push for my book.  Please think about telling others to listen to the program, family, friends, anyone who might be interested in the topic.  It will be on at different times throughout the country, depending on when your local NPR station runs Fresh Air.

I’m feeling very fortunate the interview happened at all, since so many things have been cancelled.  Terry is the best interviewer on the planet, in my opinion (over the years I’ve done her show maybe eight times now?  But all you have to do is listen to *any* of her nightly shows — she’s extraordinarily good).  She has the uncanny knack of knowing the right questions to ask, on an unbelievable range of topics.

I once asked her how she did it.  I imagined she had a small army of assistants feeding her 3×5 cards with possible questions to ask next, but no, not at all.  She told me she gets the books that she’ll be dealing with the next week on Thursday evening, spends the weekend reading them carefully, and then is ready by Monday.  What a job.  But only someone incredibly smart, insightful, and attune to what is truly interesting about a subject – and able to interview by asking just the right question and letting the person get on with the answer — can pull it off.  Almost no one can.

Until now, her interviews have always been done in radio station, remotely.  If you listen to the show, you know that it always *sounds* like she’s talking to a guest across the table from her.  Not so.  It’s remote.   I’ve never seen her face-to-face.   This time we had to do it via Skype, so we’ll see how the sound quality is.

My last interview with her was about Triumph of Christianity, and when I told her at the time, before the recording began, that my next book was on the history of heaven and hell, she got all excited (more excited than about the Christianization of the Roman Empire!); this time I told her I should have written my next book first, since it’s about how the conservative Christian expectation that “The End is Near,” based on a misinterpretation of the book of Revelation has infiltrated into popular culture in the 20th and 21st centuries, especially in novels and films.   Now THAT is a relevant topic!  And she wanted to talk about it.  Obviously current events are starting to reshape how I imagine the book, and now it will almost certainly be one of many on the topic instead of the interesting idea that I thought someone needed to do a year or so ago.  And so it goes.  But it means I’ve been watching all these disaster movies (nuclear war; robots; and, uh, viruses) for a couple of months.  And still am.  Yikes.

In any event, the interview runs on Tuesday.  Hope you can listen, and spread the word, even though, int these days, we have so much else on our minds and hearts….



Is The End Today???
How To Begin with Heaven and Hell: An Excerpt



  1. Avatar
    Judith  March 29, 2020

    Aha! You did it!!!

  2. Avatar
    rivercrowman  March 29, 2020

    Many of us could use some fresh air. I’ll be listening!

  3. Avatar
    nichael  March 29, 2020

    Terry Gross and Bart Ehrman; hard to imagine a better way to spend an hour on a Tuesday evening.

    (You’re right that she must be the best interviewer on the planet. It’s always an interesting experience to hear her interview somebody about a topic and then hear someone else conduct the same interview, and then compare the two. She makes it sound so easy it can be easy to forget how good she really is. Likewise, the show’s format allows a reasonable of time for some depth to the interview. Especially in this world of “OK, explain the Middle East situation; you’ve got 90sec. Go!”)

    I’lll also mention that if someone doesn’t have access to the show on the radio, the show is also available as a podcast as well as on the Fresh Air website.

  4. Avatar
    veritas  March 29, 2020

    When I was delivering assembly auto parts between USA and Canada, *Fresh Air * was my favourite radio talk show. Terry Gross is a very fine interviewer and does ask meaty, right to the point questions. You have made a wise choice with her. I think she has some 4 or 5 million listeners each week. And she sounds alot younger than her age.😊

  5. Avatar
    Steefen  March 29, 2020

    Archaeologists have definitively shown that Jericho was not a major walled city at the time described in the book of Joshua. Kenyon simply got it wrong. There are massive publications on this.

    I agree, after reading, not only a past NYT article but also the following six articles published in Biblical Archaeology Review (available in the Society’s library):

    Redating the Exodus
    by John Bimson and David Livingston
    9 / 10 – 1987

    Radical Exodus Redating Fatally Flawed
    by Baruch Halpern
    11 / 12 – 1987

    A reply to Baruch Halpern’s “Radical Exodus Redating Fatally Flawed”
    by John Bimson
    7 / 8 – 1988

    Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence
    by Bryant Wood
    3 / 4 – 1990

    Jericho was destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age, Not the Late Bronze Age
    by Piotr Bienkowski
    9 / 10 – 1990

    Dating Jericho’s Destruction: Bienkowski Is Wrong on All Counts
    by Bryant G. Wood
    9 / 10 – 1990

    Yes, archaeologists have definitively shown that Jericho was not a major walled city at the time described in the Book of Joshua. This does not mean Jericho was not a walled city before the time described in the book of Joshua. And yes, Jericho was not a major city equivalent to Megiddo. Jericho was not along the trade route as Megiddo was.

    You say Kenyon simply got it wrong. The Biblical Archaeology Society articles say Kenyon was not wrong for saying Jericho was not a major walled city at the time described in the Book of Joshua. She was wrong for not dating Jericho to circa 1400 BCE.

    The time described in the book of Joshua is in error. The Exodus was not from Ramesses the Great at Pi-Ramesses. The exodus was from an earlier incarnation of Pi-Ramesses: Avaris.

    Moses lived earlier. Praeparatio Evangelica, Book IX, Chapter XXVII states that Moses was the stepson of a pharaoh much earlier than Ramesses the Great. It gives one of the throne names of that pharaoh which turns out to be Sobekhotep IV.

    The exodus occurred earlier in time shifting the destruction of Jericho with archaeological evidence earlier with it.

    Hopefully, your textbook will be updated to inform readers that although Exodus 1: 11 and the Book of Joshua produce a biblical timeline in which archaeology cannot agree that Jericho was a populated walled city; nevertheless, on a timeline of archaeological evidence, 1) Jericho was an earlier walled city and 2) its walls came tumbling down by earthquake and this city was burned down.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 30, 2020

      Have you looked up articles that address the issue more recently than 30 years ago, by reputable biblical archaeologists.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  March 30, 2020

        The Biblical Archaeology Society has no other articles related to Jericho and the Archaeological Institute of America has no other articles related to Jericho. Hence, the case can be addressed given the conclusions presented in my post.

        You imply the matter was not settled 30 years ago?

        You imply someone has picked up where the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) writers left off?

        You imply reputable biblical archaeologists with new information are bypassing the Biblical Archaeology Society?

        I call you on these implications if you are making them:: what reputable biblical archaeologists have 1) bypassed the Biblical Archaeology Society, 2) taken up the subject matter, and 3) moved the evidence-based conclusions presented in my post in a different direction?

        Until then, the evidence-based points of learning for textbooks, students, and people who study the Bible for facts are:

        1) Moses did not lead Israelites away from Ramesses the Great and his Pi-Ramesses.

        2) Jericho was a walled city that existed and was destroyed before the non-event of Moses leading Israelites away from Ramesses the Great and Pi-Ramesses.

        3) Joshua, after Moses on a historical timeline as opposed to an erroneous biblical timeline, enters Canaan and is not connected with the destruction of Jericho after the non-event of Moses leading Israelites away from Ramesses the Great and Pi-Ramesses; but, Joshua is connected with the destruction of Jericho before that time .

        4) Any downgrading of the destruction of Jericho from historical fact to story telling / literature is obligated to admit the archaeological evidence of point #2: Jericho was a walled city before the time of Ramesses the Great or before the time it would take for an Exodus from Ramesses the Great, the Wilderness Tradition, followed by an entry into Canaan with the destruction of Jericho being an early event in the Israelites settling in Canaan.

        You likely have a subscription to the Biblical Archaeology Society’s Library. Even without a subscription, one can search “Jericho” at https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/library/

        The articles I listed will come up with dates of August 24, 2015 which is likely when these articles published in print earlier were digitized into the digital library.

        So, as mentioned earlier, BAS and the Archaeology Institute of America is not showing more recent articles. Furthermore, a more recent encylopedia entry on Jericho is not referencing a turn from this being a settled matter. Again, let us know if you can proceed with a reply to the conclusions because there are no other research of material significance to consult.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 31, 2020

          I’m just saying you should read what the most skilled interpreters giving the most up-to-date results say — about any topic, from cosmology to the history of the Civil War to ancient Jericho.

      • Barfo
        Barfo  April 1, 2020

        I need some clarification, Bart. I’m currently reading your textbook The Bible (2014). Does Box 4.2 on page 89, The Walls of Jericho still stand? The most recent book I have on biblical archaeology is The Bible Unearthed (2001) which I assume is the latest information (archaeology focused) with regard to the subject. Thank you.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 3, 2020

          Well, I think so. So Finkelstein and Silverman say that it *was* a major walled city at the time?

          • Barfo
            Barfo  April 3, 2020

            No, they don’t. They report that no cities were fortified in Canaan during that time so no walls could have come tumbling down. They indicate there was no settlement in Jericho in the thirteenth century BCE.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 5, 2020

            Ah — I thought you were saying they had a different view from mine (my view is the one that every archaeologist I know holds, that Kenyon was simply not right in claiming that archaeology shows that Jericho really was a walled city that was destroyed at about he time the book of Joshua indicates)

          • Barfo
            Barfo  April 5, 2020

            I had trouble pin-pointing the conversation between you and Steefan. Sorry for the confusion. However, since we are on the subject of archaeology, I’m also reading Who Wrote the Bible, by Richard Friedman, which was published in 1987. Friedman updated his Epilogue in 2019 where he reports, “excavations in Jerusalem uncovered monumental architecture from the time of David.” This is contrary to Finkelstein and Silberman book, Bible Unearthed where they describe Jerusalem as, “no more than a typical highland village” during the time of David. I wonder where Friedman obtained his information.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 6, 2020

            The archaeological site Friedman mentions is much debated as to what it actually is. It is still being excavated.

  6. Avatar
    mjkhan  March 29, 2020

    Prof Ehrman,I have few questions.Did Jesus say in his earthly life he came for non jews?(as we know he clearly said I came for none but the jews in his earthly life)Secondly why we can’t find Gospel by or according to Jesus as we can find Quran and besides Quran where can we find a true account of Jesus what he did and didn’t

    • Bart
      Bart  March 30, 2020

      1. Definitely not. 2. I’m not sure what you’re saying. Are you saying that Islam is superior to Christianity because in Islam the Quran is traced directly back to Mohammed? I’m not sure why that would make it superior, any more than Mormonism or Christian would be superior to, say, Judaism because we know who wrote the books.

      • Avatar
        mjkhan  March 30, 2020

        All the messengers came with 2 things one the divine book and second themselves being role model for people to follow.They came with two basic principles they taught one God is only One and second Do good deeds as the basis for your being able to be judged to qualify to go to heaven or hell.(these two principles are Islam,therefore we say all messengers of God taught Islam.That has been going on since Adam to Muhammad.So we have Quran as a complete and unchanged book with the correct history of previous prophets and their missions and message.And biography of Prophet Muhammad that is complete from birth to death a complete role model.From a Muslim perspective Quran tells don’t discriminate between the messengers from God so for me Jesus was doing same work in his time as Muhammad did in his time but if you see Christianity and Islam.Then the difference becomes obvious.sadly Christianity today is not what Jesus taught.He never clearly himself said I am God nor he said worship me.His book is nowhere to be found.The Bible today is full of errors.,keeps on revising every few decades.Jesus said he came only for Jews.Paul who never met Jesus in his life and was his vocal opponent after his ascension was able to enter his contradictions in Bible over and above the teachings of Jesus.The Christianity as practiced today has gone far away form what Jesus came for and he came for only Jews.All prophets came including Jesus either came for a certain people or certain place and their religions are so named either after the founder or place(Jesus came only for Jews) but Prophet Muhammad came for whole mankind.He himself said and Quran says it just like Jesus himself said and Bible says he came for none but the Jews.
        Also professor now your book is already out but if you also covered the angle of Quran and Islam in it ,that would have made easy for your readers because they may not have read about Islam or Quran as you might

        • Bart
          Bart  March 31, 2020

          I don’t deal with the Qur’an or Islam in my books because I try to discuss only the things I’m an expert in. And so I really never get into anything apart from early Christainity.

  7. Avatar
    mmckiernan884  March 30, 2020

    I pre ordered my copy on Friday and am so so excited for it to get here. Very anxious to see your views on it. My dad used to tell me that if I keep listening to Led Zeppelin I will be standing in Hell right next to those Satan worshiping musicians. So my question is, how awesome is the music going to be in Hell?!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 30, 2020

      Listen to Charlie Daniels.

    • Robert
      Robert  March 30, 2020

      Did your Dad know Led Zeppelin’s song, Stairway to Heaven? No idea what those lyrics really mean, of course. Does anyone?

  8. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  March 30, 2020

    Best of luck with the book. It has to be very exciting to finally see so much hard work finally published.

  9. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 30, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Is the key intermediate state verse 2 Cor. 5:8?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 31, 2020

      You’ll need to quote it and then explain what you mean by intrmediate state for other readers on the blog to know what you’re talking about!

  10. Avatar
    jscheller  March 31, 2020

    Ecc. 3:21 says “Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth?”
    Doesn’t this imply that the issue of life after death was discussed or debated at that time?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 1, 2020

      Yes, Ecclesiastes was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy (it was written about 800 years or more after the death of Solomon!), and this was an issue there. Like the Epicureans (and influenced by them) the author eventually concludes that no, this life is all there is.

  11. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 31, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Is the key verse from Paul’s letters for the intermediate state (existence between one’s death and the universal resurrection.) 2 Cor. 5:8 (We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.)?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 1, 2020

      Yes, that entire passage is a key to the idea of an intermediate state, along with Philippians 1 (To live is Christ and to die is gain — etc.)

  12. Avatar
    josephpatterson82  April 1, 2020

    Thanks Dr, Ehrman,
    Fantastic interview. I thoroughly enjoyed listening.

  13. Avatar
    Paul  April 2, 2020

    Great Interview, also really liked the one you did for Science Salon with Michael Shermer. You should post the link on the blog!

  14. Avatar
    Research  April 2, 2020

    Our Family really enjoyed your interview. You speak with dignity and humility.
    I do have a question though. would you say that Job 14:13-15, also speaks of a hope of a resurrection?Also, In one of your presentations you spoke of everlasting fire for the wicked spoken of in the book of Revelation.
    How do you explain Revelation 20:14. Their the lake of fire means the second death. Not eternal torment.?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 3, 2020

      I talk about the passage in JOb in my book. The problem is that the English translations of the verse do not represent what hte Hebrew says, and Hebrew scholars cannot agree on what the Hebrew says (it’s all messed up, possibly because a scribe changed things so that now it doesn’ make sense). But whatever it says, they agree its’ not talking about an afterlife for people. Job elsewhere denies there is one. And yes, the lake of fire kills people, it doesn’t torture them for ever.

  15. Avatar
    Caiaphas  April 3, 2020

    I enjoyed the interview very much! Congratulations.

    A relevant cartoon from 1967: https://66.media.tumblr.com/be0b5563d2f2c724a5bfc2ca4f0751c4/70d95ceb02c4e74e-85/s500x750/1651825622cb5078a134d91ea23a769d43507b76.jpg

  16. Avatar
    eminentlaw  April 5, 2020

    Just listened to it. Both you and Terry did a great job!

    This is off the main topic, but your comments regarding the fact that your mother remains a Christian were interesting. I commend you for not trying to persuade her to give up her faith. Most of us have an inclination to want to persuade everyone to adopt our own worldview. However, trying to convince your mother to denounce Christianity at her age, would be selfish and unkind. You are going the right thing by respecting her faith.

    Now, I need to order the book. Need to read the details that support the conclusions you discussed with Terry.

  17. Avatar
    Brand3000  April 11, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Are the verses 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 the best in showing that Paul refers to the same body being raised with some continuity with the one that died, (albeit transformed) and not two different bodies?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      It’s certainly a strong part of his argument, but not the whole thing.

      • Avatar
        Brand3000  April 12, 2020

        Dr. Ehrman,

        Would the seed/plant analogy be the other top example showing that Paul refers to the same body being raised with continuity with the one that died, (albeit transformed) and not two different bodies?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 13, 2020

          Yup. You plant an acorn and an oak tree grows. It is from the thing that came out of the ground, so it is bodily. But magnificently different. It doesn’t grow into a giant acorn. But it’s a transformation of the acorn with new life.

  18. Avatar
    Brand3000  April 12, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman,

    The resurrection appearances by Jesus where just that, appearances; Jesus did not say anything about the afterlife as the risen Jesus, is that among the reasons Paul seems to think views on the afterlife are malleable?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      I’m not sure what you mean. Paul thought there was one truth about the afterlife (he changed his mind about it later, but the later view was then the true viwe, and he may well have said it had always abeen his view). Paul certainly though he saw the living Jesus after his death.

      • Avatar
        Brand3000  April 12, 2020

        Dr. Ehrman,

        Did Jesus teach Paul anything when he appeared to him, or are Paul’s teachings on the afterlife from Paul’s own surmise and Jewish tradition?

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