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Progress Report on the Afterlife

It is a good time for me to give an update on my progress on my trade book that deals with the early history of heaven and hell.   I have not decided on a title yet – that won’t come until much further down the line, after it is actually finished and ready to head to press.  At that time, my publisher, my agent, and I will all toss about ideas for titles that are both the catchiest we can come up with and are faithful to the intents and purposes of the book.  For now I am continuing to call it “The Invention of the Afterlife” or, on occasion, “Heaven, Hell, and the Invention of the Afterlife.”

I know several members of the blog don’t like a title with “invention” in it, since it sound like someone actually *invented* the afterlife.  But if I do continue to use the term I’ll explain what I mean by it.  There are lots of views about the afterlife.  The most common one in our western culture is that when a person dies, their soul goes to heaven or hell (more people believe in heaven than in hell, but in the most recent polling, still 56% of Americans believe in a literal hell as a place of torment).  Others believe in some kind of heaven but not hell.  Other people think that death is simply the end of the story.  Throughout history there have been other ideas – for example, in the Greek Hades or the Hebrew Sheol (which were similar in many ways), or in the Jewish idea that at the end of time there would be bodily resurrection for the righteous but annihilation for sinners, and … and there have been other ideas.

My view is that each one of those ideas at one time did not exist.  Before around 200 BCE, e.g., no one believed in a bodily resurrection of the dead.  Then someone came up with the idea.  After that many people came to believe it.  Today it is still a doctrine confessed by over a billion people in the world.   If the idea did not exist at one time, and then did exist, then someone came up with it.  In other words, it was invented.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.   All of our ideas, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, understandings and so on are “invented” – that is, the result of human thought coming up with something no one had thought of before.  Some physicist invented the theory of gravity; some mathematician invented the formula for determining the area of a rectangle; some political scientist invented the idea of democracy.  They are human inventions.  Doesn’t mean they’re wrong.  I believe in all three of these things.  And lots of people believe in heaven and hell.

My question in the book is where these beliefs came from.  The basic thesis of the book is that the popular Christian notions today that when a person dies their soul goes to either heaven or  hell as places of eternal reward and torment are not to be found in the Old Testament and are not what Jesus himself thought.   So where did they come from?

Good question, I think.  The trick is coming up with a good answer.

So, in terms of my progress.  I have finished writing a draft of the book, and am ecstatic about it.   I did something very smart this time, around.   I changed the way I constructed, and therefore wrote, the book.  The book is about the same size as most of my other recent trade books, or slightly shorter.  I tried my darndest to keep it under 100,000 words; and it right now is weighing in at 93,000.  But I haven’t added endnotes yet.  Still, it should be within my target-length.

What I did that I’m really pleased with has to do with the length of the chapters.  I have always really loved books with *short* chapters rather than long ones.  My books tend to be something like 6 or 8 chapters on the longish side.  This time, I thought, why not write a bunch of short ones instead?  And that’s what I’ve done.  For now it is 14 short chapters, of about 7000 words each, instead of, say 7 chapters of 14,000 words each.

I am seeing this as a stroke of genius on my part, for a simple reason.  It made the writing of the book SO much easier.      I gave myself 3-4 weeks to write the book.   I can easily write 7000 words in a day.  For most of my books it has been more like 12,000-13,000 a day.  But that was really really hard.  Draining, exhausting, difficult.   I would lock myself into my study, shut out the world, and go into a zone to write for about 8 hours, then emerge like a zombie dead to the world.  Not pleasant for me, and not pleasant for anyone who happened to be around me.

Not this time.  I could start writing at 8:00 am and be finished by 1:00 or so, and be done for the day.   Absolutely fantastic.  Could hang out and do whatever I jolly well pleased – get a work out, read a novel, whatever, with no pressure to feel like I had to do more work.  Hey, I already wrote a chapter!  What more do you want?   I can’t believe it took me this long to figure this approach out.

Anyway, there are fourteen chapters, they are all done and in draft, and I’m on schedule.

So now what happens is this.  I have edited all the chapters once for style.  I will now edit them a second time, doing four things:  (1) Working on style some more; (2) Fact-checking (roughly 47,000 facts in a book of this length); (3) Adding end notes; (4) Making sure my arguments work at key pressure points where I know people are going to heartily disagree with me, or at least be vigorously inclined to disagree with me.

I will do all this at the computer, on screen.  Once I finish that, hopefully this week, I will print out all the chapters and edit yet another time: I always am better at improving style when looking at something on paper than on screen.

THEN I will send the manuscript off to colleagues who are experts in one area or another (Greek and Roman religion; Hebrew Bible; New Testament; Early Christianity), who have graciously agreed to read it and make comments, suggestions, and corrections.   They have agreed to do it in a month.  I will then edit accordingly, based on what they tell me.

Then I will show it to my agent for suggestions, and edit yet again accordingly.  Then I will send it in to my editor, who will make suggestions, and I will edit it some more, for the last time.

And then it will be done!  It’s a long process, but all the editing is absolutely essential.  And the HARD parts – all the research and, especially stress-inducing, the writing itself – are finished.  So I’m feelin’ good, and am ready now to move on to the next phase.


Opening for Dinner in Durham
Proselytizing on the Blog

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Comments

  1. godspell  September 2, 2018

    Looking forward to this one. Short chapters can work very well, for reading as well as writing. It depends on the kinds of points you need to make.

    We can’t ever know for sure when a particular idea was developed. The great majority of human history took place before civilization, before writing (and thus, in effect, before history). Humans developed ideas about gods and the spirit world very early.

    Going by present-day hunter gatherer cultures that only encountered ‘civilized’ humans in the last century or two, there’s no reason to think religion in its most basic form, including a notion of something surviving physical death (ancestor worship is predicated on the notion that the spirits of your forebears linger on in some sense), doesn’t predate the evolution of homo sapiens sapiens.

    Neanderthals probably had it. Maybe not Austrolopithicenes. Happened somewhere along the way. It wasn’t just a bad idea that took hold, as Dawkins thinks (Dawkins is an idiot about most things). It was a necessary and unavoidable part of developing sentience.

    A complex brain, elaborate dreams and visions, the ability to imagine things–and to think about your own death, long before it happens. And to wonder what happens afterwards.

    But certain expressions of this type of thought certainly did originate after the development of civilization. Which at least leaves evidence of its development, however sketchy.

    Perhaps it simply began with a belief in ghosts. Which most of us still believe in. Including many who are not religious. People see a vision of someone who died, someone they miss, someone who haunts them, someone they can’t forget.

    And that is, after all, how Christianity got started.

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  2. forthfading  September 2, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Just wanted to take the time to say thank you for everything you do for the members on the blog. It is so much fun to engage in conversation and debate with one of the leading authorities on Jesus and the history of Christianity. It is the highlight of my day to boot up the blog and read your topics and responses to our questions.

    I can’t wait for the new book!!!!

    Blessings

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  3. craig@corbettlaw.org  September 2, 2018

    Thanks for the update. Next update, if you think of it, I’d like to read how you add the notes. You must keep them as you write, so I’d like to know the mechanics of how you organize the notes during the process. No need for a specific response to this comment.

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    • Bart
      Bart  September 3, 2018

      OK, maybe I’ll post on this. But I’m hopelessly old fashion: no software for me!

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  4. Lev
    Lev  September 2, 2018

    You’ve finished writing it?! That’s awesome to hear, Bart! I’m *really* looking forward to this one as I have so many questions over how the early Christians developed their theories of the afterlife.

    Will the book discuss the earliest (1st century) development and move on to subsequent centuries? I have a vague understanding that Christian theory of the afterlife gets a lot more detailed and complex the further away we get from the 1st century – so much so that it’s barely recognizable. Will your book make some observations on this?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 3, 2018

      It starts with Gilgamesh and goes to the 5th Christian century, with more focuse on Jesus and the NT than anything else.

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  5. talmoore
    talmoore  September 2, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman, I’m still partial to the titles “The Afterlife After Jesus” or “Jesus Before Hell” (I like the ambiguity of that last one).

    “Before around 200 BCE, e.g., no one believed in a bodily resurrection of the dead.”
    I’m inclined to believe that the Persians originated the idea of the bodily resurrection of the dead, and that the concept was at least known by the 5th century BCE (itself originating from the Indian concept of Samsara, or the cycle of death and reincarnation) but, alas, I cannot prove it…yet*. However, I don’t think the concept of the mass resurrection of the dead became mainstream in Judaism until the 3rd century, when the Jews took what came from the re-worked ideas of Samsara they received via the Persians (where sinners were reincarnated into lesser animals and the righteous into higher beings, or even gods), mixed it with the ideas postmortem judgment they received from the Greeks, and made it a one time resurrection and judgment at the end of history. Anyway, that’s what makes the most sense to me.

    “Today it is still a doctrine confessed by over a billion people in the world.” If you count most Jews, all Muslims, and at least those Christians who realize that they’re supposed to believe in the mass resurrection, we’re talking several billion people.

    *Although notice that in the speech that Josephus gives Eleazar ben Yair during the siege of Masada, Josephus has ben Yair express some knowledge and understanding of Indian religion and philosophy! (BI VII:8.7)

    • Bart
      Bart  September 3, 2018

      There’s been a lot of work on resurrectoin in Zorastrianism; one very big problem is dating the texts and knowing if they embody traditions prior to the second century BCE or not.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  September 3, 2018

        I would contend that the Final Resurrection and Judgment we find in both Zoroastrianism and 2nd Temple Judaism evolved somewhat in tandem (particularly post 323 BCE), but the idea of the mass resurrection, as a concept, probably originated with the ideas of reincarnation we find in the Indo-Iranian cultures. (note that Scythian kurgans contained objects, such as horses that are fully bridled, that were possibly placed there for the interred person to use after rising from the dead.)

        With the rise of the Achaemenids, these ideas of reincarnation — that had developed particularly in the Hindu culture of the Ganges — diffused from the Persians, where it became part of Zoroastrianism, into its neighboring subject nations. The Persians essentially re-interpreted the concept of Samsara from a cycle of death and reincarnation into death and a final mass resurrection at the end of history. The exilic Jews then took this idea back with them to Judea, where it became an esoteric extension within Jewish theology — not meant for mass consumption, but, rather, was used as a new heuristic for interpreting the prophetic literature. Then, during the Hellenistic period (post 323 BCE), with the addition of Greek concepts of the afterlife (e.g., Plato’s borrowing of Samsara for his theory of the transmigration of souls) this broad idea of death, judgment and reincarnation that we find in Hinduism became the death, resurrection and judgment we see in both mainstream Zoroastrianism and Judaism from the 3rd century BCE on up.

        I know, Dr. Ehrman, that since you’re not an expert in religions outside Christianity (and possibly Judaism), that you’re uncomfortable exploring theories outside your bailiwick. Since I’m not an academic, I have no such compunction. I’ve tried to develop a broader expertise in the so-called Axial Age (5th cent. BCE to 1st cent. CE) in general. I’ve studied history and documents from as many cultures of that time period as I can, spanning from Gibraltar to the Yellow river. And when I compare them, I can easily spot these broad patterns shared by neighboring cultures. I’m sure if you also took a deep dive into these cultures, esp. that of the Indo-Iranians, the forest would become all the more clearly distinct from the trees. I wouldn’t say all of your questions would get answered, but you’d be shocked at how many questions that have boggled you for years would suddenly and easily become answerable.

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        • godspell  September 4, 2018

          The danger is, without the serious background (which you don’t have either, and I’m guessing you don’t know Ancient Persian) it’s easy to project–to see connections, and of course there are connections, but between all cultures, everywhere, past and present. Some are more obvious than others, but do you really think only one culture could have independently come up with the idea of the dead coming back to life? Whoever came up with that first, I guarantee you it happened a long time before Jew met Persian.

          Judaism certainly has a claim on being the most influential world religion (certainly pound for pound), and yet some people keeps assuming it’s always absorbing ideas, and never providing any. A religion some three thousand years old, that produced the two largest religions in history has to be considered fairly seminal.

          Maybe early Jewish ideas about resurrection influenced Zoroastrianism (which came along well after Judaism). Maybe it was an interactive thing (it pretty much always is).

          • talmoore
            talmoore  September 6, 2018

            Many people, especially in the West, don’t seem to understand or appreciate how the ancient civilizations of the Axial Age — connected as they were by the truly massive Persian and Hellenic empires — influenced each other. For most people, me saying that the Jewish idea of the eschatological mass resurrection and judgment has its roots in ancient Indo-Iranian ideas of reincarnation, well, to most people that sounds crazy. But if you dive into the history of that era, it really doesn’t look so crazy. It actually answers a lot of nagging questions.

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    • godspell  September 3, 2018

      I think we have to be wary of assuming that because somebody had some version of an idea first, that means all subsequent renditions of the basic idea stemmed from the original. Ideas don’t work like that. Many cultures can and have had similar ideas without encountering each other at all. You can argue about how this happens, talk about the ‘monomyth’ or say that all these ideas were implicit in the early folk religions that form our religious baseline, but it’s an undeniable fact. Divine conceptions, for example–innumerable cultures have told some version of that story.

      Zoroastrianism may have believed in some version of physical resurrection of the dead, but it didn’t take hold. Zoroastrians today cremate their dead, believing the body to be a source of corruption–it’s the spirit that matters. A cremated body can’t be resurrected.

      Christians for many generations went to great pains to recover mortal remains (you see this even in the desire to reclaim the bodies of soldiers fallen in war on foreign soil, and of course in the prayer for burial at sea, where we are told the sea will someday give up its dead). This may be taken less literally now (cremation is often the only practical means of interment in a world of billions), but the idea survives in the Abrahamanic religions, and not to anywhere near the same extent in Zoroastrianism, or related faiths.

      And of course, Zoroastrianism itself is a dying faith, with probably fewer than 200,000 active participants. Its ideas do live on, I agree (so would Nietzsche). But there is not sufficient data to conclude that the Jews (and then the Christians and Muslims) would not have developed the same ideas without them.

      We know Muhammad was influenced by Jewish and Christian scripture, because he left written records to that effect, and copied stories from the Old and New Testaments into the Qu’ran. There is no equivalent trail of evidence relating to Zoroastrianism and other eastern faiths with regards to Judaism and Christianity. We can make suppositions, but that’s all they are.

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      • talmoore
        talmoore  September 4, 2018

        The Zoroastrianism of today is very different from Zoroastrianism of ca. 5th century BCE. I would say it’s comparable to the difference between the Judaism of today and the Judaism of ca. 5th century BCE. My point is the ideas of reincarnation appear to be Indo-Iranian in origin, and up until Judaism made extensive contact with Iranian culture during the Achaemenid period, Jewish beliefs about the afterlife seemed indistinguishable from that of other Semitic cultures, such as the Assyrians, the Arameans, the Canaanites and even the Arabs. Judaism even had more affinity with the Hamo-Semitic cultures of Egypt and Libya (e.g. the Egyptians were circumcised and did not sacrifice swine). None of these cultures appeared to have any ideas of the reincarnation or resurrection — at least for the ordinary person; kings and heroes, as in most cultures, seemed to be the exception that proved the rule.

        And then, all of a sudden (from the historical point of view), after the Jews had significant contact with Iranian culture, their beliefs of the afterlife gained notions of resurrection for ALL peoples, which — let’s be honest — is only one step removed from reincarnation for all people. And not only that, but Jews were also talking about how their God cannot be represented by a physical image, which sounds exactly like what the Zoroastrians believed about their God, Ahura Mazda! The cross pollination is almost so clear as to be blatant.

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        • godspell  September 6, 2018

          Parallels are common, no matter what two religions you are looking at, because all religions stem from the same basic human needs. Influence needs to be proven.

          Reincarnation can be found in Celtic mythology. and in the surviving writings of the Pre-Socratic philosophers. Nobody agrees on where it began, and many scholars believe it might have been independently conceived in many places.

          No reason to think the Persians originated it (more likely the Hindus), but might they have passed it on to the Jewish people? Sure, but it’s not the same idea. In reincarnation, you are born into a new body, usually with little or no conscious memory of your past lives (of which there are many). In resurrection, your dead body is remade into a new perfect form, your soul rejoining it, with memories of the old life intact. There is just your mortal life and then your immortal life. And you don’t get reborn as a bug, no matter how sinful you were.

          All religions change over time, but just as Judaism today is derived from the ancient form of worship, so is modern Zoroastrianism–which clearly rejects physical resurrection.

          Judaism is much older than Zoroastrianism, so why would you assume any idea they seem to have in common stems from Zoroastrians influencing Jews? It seems more likely to me that the lack of visual depictions of Ahura Mazda would stem from the influence of a section of Jewish religious culture that already was reacting strongly against the worship of idols. A new religion like Zoroastrianism would be more likely to look for new ideas from other cultures. The idea that God can’t be fully perceived (or even named out loud) by mortals is very much a Jewish thing.

          Again–interactive. Cross-pollination. You can’t assume the influence was all one-way, because it basically never is. And because the Jewish people were wanderers, and often conquered, they had ample opportunity to influence and be influenced by a wide variety of ideas.

          I’ve noticed many times that this presumption of one-way influence tends to come from those who have some antipathy towards the Abrahamic faiths. I agree there are many other traditions worthy of notice, but with regards to global influence over the past few thousand years, it’s hard to beat Judaism.

  6. Todd  September 2, 2018

    I am not a great linguist, but it is my understanding that whenever Jeses referred to hell the Greek word gehenna was used. The only exception was one use of Hades. As you know, Gehenna is a small valley just outside of Jerusalem that was used as a burning garbage dump and that Jesus may have used that term in a metaphorical sense but that Greek word is consistently translated as “hell” in English bibles. Also, I think that the western notion of hell was invented by Dante in his poem “The Divine Inferno.”

    What are your thoughts on this and will your book deal with any of these ideas?

    I look forward to its publication.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 3, 2018

      Yes indeed, I’ll be devoting a section to Gehenna. With some views that are not widely held!

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    • talmoore
      talmoore  September 3, 2018

      The word Gehenna is actually the Hellenized version of the Hebrew Gai Hinnom, which means “Valley of Hinnom”. Gai Hinnom (short for Gai ben Hinnom, “Valley of the son of Hinnom”) is the name of the ravine just south of Jerusalem. The Bible mentions Jews “burning” their children there in worship to the Ammonite god Moloch. Second Temple Jews considered it cursed. It’s possible the population of Jerusalem incinerated their refuse there.

  7. nichael  September 2, 2018

    Glad to hear work on the book seems to be going well…

    …but this has to be the best title of all time.

  8. mkahn1977  September 2, 2018

    Will you deal with the different views of Satan/ ha-Satan between Judaism and Christianity?

    Forgive my two cents on a title- why not “Get an Afterlife! The Origins of Heaven and Hell.”? I thought of “Forged” and “Misquoting Jesus” as some similarly very eye catching past tilted of yours, or is that too informal for a TPB?

  9. mjordan20149  September 2, 2018

    I can’t wait to read this-really looking forward to it!

  10. rivercrowman  September 2, 2018

    In your earlier book “How Jesus Became God” (2014), you shared part of your early life at the beginning of Chapter 3. Here’s what I enjoyed (p. 85), especially. “Another semester I was a late-night counselor on the Moody Christian radio station. People would call up with questions about the Bible or with problems in their lives, and I would, well, give them ‘all the answers.’ I was all of eighteen years old.” I understand you may have thwarted at least two suicides, and who knows what else. But do you remember if any of the callers stumped you concerning the Bible? Thanks for any recollections!

    • Bart
      Bart  September 3, 2018

      I”m afraid I recall very little, except talking to one suicidal who kept playing Judy Collins Amazing Grace in teh background! But no, don’t remember ever being particularly stumped. I was rather proud of my biblical knowledge at the time….

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  11. RonaldTaska  September 2, 2018

    Thank for the update. Oddly, I turned on my computer today with the plan of asking how the book was coming. You and your work ethic are truly amazing and I have always liked shorter chapters. Keep plugging away. Death is so awful that I am sure that humans need to invent stuff just to deal with it and that is just the way it is..

  12. doug  September 2, 2018

    Way to go! Good idea to keep it more bite-sized. People are more likely to stick with it and to absorb more of it.

  13. Lilly
    Lilly  September 2, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman, I can’t imagine the feeling of relief and accomplishment you must have after two years of research, writing and finally seeing the end in sight . Maybe it’s similar to raising a child from infancy to adulthood and then watching her go off to college.
    After publication, do you have to go on a book promotional tour ? Can they become exhausting after awhile ? Or just the opposite, meeting new people and having the opportunity to talk about your new book.
    I do like the titles you have in mind , they all sound provocative and catchy.
    In a nice way, I find myself connected to this book. As a remember of your blog, I’ve been able to read about its progress and the nuts and bolts process of writing a trade book . It will definitely be on my reading list .

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  14. wje  September 2, 2018

    Good afternoon, Bart. The part about coming up with short chapters struck me as humorous. One good thing about getting older is not only do we know better, we actually start doing it! Will you put some of this new book on the blog? I have an idea for the title. Ask the blog members to submit their idea of a title. If you decide to pick one, maybe they could win something.

  15. fishician  September 2, 2018

    Really looking forward to this book, and I really like shorter chapters, as I don’t always have time in the evening for lengthy reading. Will you be doing a seminar at UNC prior to publication?

  16. thebigskyguy  September 2, 2018

    Definitely keep “Invention” in the title. It provocatively implies the contrived nature of the afterlife concept and will help get more publicity. Have you considered just “The Invention of Heaven and Hell”, with a tagline of some sort added?
    Do you provide an overview of the universality of the afterlife concept across cultures and religions?

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    • Bart
      Bart  September 3, 2018

      I deal with ancient Sumeria, Greece, Rome, Israel/Judaim, and Christianity — but not other times and religions.

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  17. maryn  September 2, 2018

    I can’t wait to read your book! Some folks will object to the word “invented” because they believe the idea of an after life was divinely provided to us, and therefore true. Humans inventing the idea is a whole different scenario. Coming from your background (and mine), I’m sure you are aware of this. and are used to this kind of reaction.

  18. jrauch  September 2, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman, you stated that Jesus did not believe that when a person dies their soul leaves their body and goes to heaven or hell. Would you agree that Paul also did not believe in the soul leaving the body? Paul wrote extensively about a physical resurrection that would occur only when Jesus returns. If this is correct, is there any other writer of the New Testament that did believe in the soul leaving the body upon death and going to heaven or hell?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 3, 2018

      I think Paul had a different view from Jesus. Phil. 1 and 2 Cor. 5 seem to presuppose an immediate presence in heaven at death, but before the resurrection.

      • jrauch  September 3, 2018

        2 Corinthians 5:3 says that “For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies.” How could Paul believe in a soul leaving the body before the return of Jesus, which was the only time that we would be transformed from an earthly body into a heavenly body? Could 2 Corinthians 5:8 only be a wish for Paul, still knowing that Jesus would have to return before he could be at home with the Lord? Could Philippians 1:22 again, just be a desire for Paul to be with Jesus? If his desire came true and Jesus returned to earth, then it would have been bad for the people who Paul was not yet able to save. They would not have been able to spend eternity in Heaven. If you don’t agree with this alternative interpretation of Paul’s writings, do you think that Paul’s understanding of life after death changed over time? Thank you for your response.

        • Bart
          Bart  September 4, 2018

          It is usually understood that he is talking about the ultimate destination of people, in resurrected bodies at the second coming of Jesus. But I’ll be talking about the passage at some length in my book.

      • JohnKesler  September 5, 2018

        What most informed Paul’s and Jesus’ views of the afterlife? Inferences from the Hebrew Bible? Midrashim? Mystery religions?

        • Bart
          Bart  September 6, 2018

          Mainly the views they inherited from the cultural and religious world, in particular their understanding of what scholars today call Jewish apocalytpic thought.

  19. mtelus  September 2, 2018

    Discovered as in they discovered the afterlife, like we would say we discovered life on Mars or discovered fire.

  20. Thespologian  September 3, 2018

    Glad you got all that out of your system. It’s liberating to discover simple formulas that work for oneself as it pertains to writing, isn’t it? Dr. Ehrman, has anyone attempted a study on how the arts may have affected the spread/teaching of Christianity? There’s been a bronze statue of a fictional boxer outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art since the early 1980s. I tend to think some people believe Rocky was an actual person. This is not an allsusion to Jesus.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 3, 2018

      Yes, lots on this. You might be interested in the books by Robin Jensen.

    • godspell  September 4, 2018

      Rocky is an allusion to the late Joe Frazier, who fought in the same crouching southpaw style as Rocky Balboa, trained in Philadelphia, punched sides of beef and ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art while training. AND he fought Muhammad Ali, who is self-evidently the model for Apollo Creed. Rocky’s trainer Mickey is likewise based on both Yank Durham and Eddie Futch, who worked with Frazier.

      The movie makes Rocky Italian, because Stallone is Italian, and because Hollywood.

      So in fact, even though Rocky Balboa never existed, that statue is based on real-life people and events. Only Frazier kicked Ali’s butt in the first fight, and it wasn’t held in Philly, because why would it be? 😉

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