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Q&A on Heaven and Hell

The following is a Q&A that I have done with my publisher Simon & Schuster for the History in Five page.  You should check it out.  You will get a free ebook!   Here’s the site:  https://www.simonandschuster.com/p/historyinfive    You’ll see, its an impressive array of authors with intriguing answers to questions about their books.

Here’s what mine looks like.

    1. Why write about the afterlife? What drew you toward the subject of heaven and hell?

I was raised as in a Christian household and the literal realities of heaven and hell were taken very seriously.   My personal views intensified when I had a “born again” experience in high school, and eventually headed off to the fundamentalist Moody Bible Institute, where we were trained to evangelize “the lost” (that is, the vast majority of the human race): there was one way to heaven, and the results would be glorious; every other way led to hell and eternal torment.

I no longer hold those views, but I have long been struck that so many other people in our world do – nearly three out of four Americans believe in a literal heaven and almost three out of five in a literal hell.   I wrote my book to explain that these views were not the original teachings of either Judaism or Christianity and to answer the question: So where did they come from?

 

2. You argue in your book that it was after Jesus’s death that the ideas of eternal reward and punishment began to develop into their modern form. What do you think were the most influential developments along the way?

The Hebrew Bible that Jesus inherited as scripture has no idea at all of rewards and punishments after death.  This life is all there is and is all that matters. But two centuries before Jesus a different view emerged within Judaism, driven by the concern for “justice” in the world.  How is it fair that the righteous suffer now and the wicked prosper?  Surely God will ultimately bring justice.  So, after death, there will be rewards and punishments.  But Jews who held this view did not share the Greek idea (found in Plato, e.g.) that the soul could exist when the body dies.  For them, the human was a single unit, body and soul together.   So when they thought of afterlife, they assumed it would involve a bodily existence.  At the end of history, God would breathe life back into dead bodies. Those who had sided with God and his ways would be given an eternal reward in a new utopian kingdom on earth, those who were opposed to God would be annihilated for all time.

That was also Jesus’ view.  But the kingdom never arrived, and several decades after his death, most of his followers were by now gentile converts, not Jews.  These Christians had been raised with Greek ways of thinking.  They did believe in souls that survived the body.  And so they transferred the idea of a future resurrection of the body into the idea of the ongoing life of the soul.  That is the view then that became the standard Christian view down until today:  when a person dies, their soul goes to heaven above or hell below — a view not taught by the Old Testament nor by Jesus himself.

 

3. Did you encounter any surprises while doing your research?

I had studied the book of Revelation for over 40 years, but I never plowed deeply into its understanding of the afterlife.  I always simply assumed that its famous “lake of fire” was the ending place for all sinners, who would be confined to the flames for all eternity.  But when I actually examined the issue more closely, I realized that …

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… I realized that Revelation does not actually say that.   It does say that God’s super-human enemies, the “Beast” (popularly called the Antichrist, but not in Revelation itself), his “prophet,” and then, a thousand years later, Satan, will be thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented forever.  But not humans.  Revelation, like Jesus himself and the apostle Paul, thought the ultimate penalty as a death sentence.  Sinners would be destroyed out of existence.  Only saints would live on, here on earth, in the glorious utopia God would send from above.

 

 

4. . What was the most interesting source you worked with?

One of the most intriguing early Christian books known to scholars but virtually unknown to people is called the Apocalypse of Peter.   It almost came to be included in the canon of Scripture.  This is the early Christian account of a guided tour of heaven and hell, the oldest Christian forerunner of Dante’s Divine Comedy.   The apostle Peter is shown the torments of the damned, which he describes in graphic and even lurid detail.   The wicked are tortured in various, creatively imagined ways, depending on their characteristic sins:  adulterers, blasphemers, usurers, and so on.  Peter is then shown the blessings of the saved, which, remarkably, he discusses only briefly.  But the point of the account is clear: if you want to avoid non-ending physical torment, and receive a lovely eternity in a beautiful setting, don’t sin!

 

5. How does the developing understanding of the afterlife interact with the growth and change of early Christianity?

Here is one way.   Christians in the first three centuries occasionally (not regularly) were subject to Roman persecution; in some instances they were tortured to death for refusing to worship the Roman gods.  Christians insisted that if they could endure the torment and remain faithful to death God would honor their stalwart commitment by granting them ecstatic pleasure for all eternity in heaven.   Moreover, they maintained that the tortures they endured for a short time hour would be revisited on their torturers for all eternity.  And so, just as the martyrs were burned at the stake, or torn apart by wild animals, or subject to burning pokers in their eyes – this is what would happen forever and ever to their persecutors.   As one Christian martyr reported said to his torturers:  “You us, God you.”

 

 

6. According to polling, 58% of Americans believe in a literal hell. Why do you think the idea of eternal punishment is so popular and enduring?

My sense is that people cannot conceive of a world where ultimately no justice.  Surely if there is any divine guidance of this world, the injustices we face here will be dealt with after death – since they clearly are not being addressed in this world.  There is so much horrible, meaningless suffering caused by human willfulness and negligence, with the powerful and the mighty acting in ways that either intentionally or haphazardly create widespread disaster:  lack of clean water, medicine and health care;  massive starvation, war, and civil unrest; and so on.  Those people will pay a price.  And since, in this view, this life is only preparation for the eternal life to come, actions now have eternal consequences.  The soul will live on, and sinners will pay the price for their deed.  (But see my next answer.)

 

7.  How are the changing needs of the modern era affecting the conception of the afterlife? How do you see those beliefs changing in the future?

The most important developments along this line in the West is the constantly growing numbers of agnostics, atheists, and “nones”.  In parts of Western Europe the numbers are staggering, and they are growing in North America as well.  Many people do not find the church relevant or its teaching convincing anymore; many consider Christian responses to world crises and social issues to be outdated and deficient; many feel that the institution itself has not adopted to the realities of the world or the advances in science.   This has led many, many people to think there is no afterlife at all.  We are animals, as animals we die, and we have no more afterlife than the mosquito we just swat or the pig we just ate.

What is most striking, though, is that there is a move even among Bible-believing Christians to question and reject the idea of eternal punishment in hell.  If the idea of punishment after death originated as a way to establish the ultimate triumph of justice, how can eternal hell be justified, even for the worst of sinners, let alone your run-of-the-mill schmuck?  You live an imperfect life, even one filled with debauchery, for, say fifty years, and die, and then are physically tormented for fifty trillion years, and that’s only the beginning?    It just doesn’t make sense, and certainly is not just.  And in surprising numbers evangelical thinkers also beginning to think and say so.

 

8. You discuss how, over the years, there was never one single understanding of the afterlife but rather a number of competing views. Which is your favorite? Why and how did it develop – and if it didn’t catch on, why not?

After everything I read on the afterlife for years and years, at the end of the day I think the great Socrates himself got it right.   During his trial for crimes against the state, and facing the death sentence, Socrates explained why he was not afraid to die.  Death would bring one of two things.  It would either mean an ongoing existence with others who have died before – for Socrates, the lover of conversation and dialogue, an eternal happiness. He could talk with the greats of the past about all the mysteries of the universe, forever.   How good can it get?

The second option involve a complete annihilation, in which case death would be like entering into a deep, dreamless sleep for all time.  And who doesn’t enjoy that?   That’s what I think.  Death will either be an unconscious state no worse than what it was before we were born (when I didn’t have a care in the world) or a very pleasant ongoing existence along with those who have gone before us.  I personally think it will be the former, but am completely open to being surprised by the latter.  In neither event, is there the slightest thing to fear.

 

 


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Comments

  1. Lev
    Lev  April 14, 2020

    BE: “It does say that God’s super-human enemies, the “Beast” (popularly called the Antichrist, but not in Revelation itself), his “prophet,” and then, a thousand years later, Satan, will be thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented forever. But not humans.”

    Was there much speculation among Christians in antiquity over the eternal fate of Judas? In John’s gospel especially, Jesus describes Judas as the devil, and an editorial comment states that Satan entered him on the night he betrayed Jesus. I don’t know if the Johannine community were responsible for Revelation and GJn, but perhaps they held a belief that Judas would share the same fate as Satan?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 15, 2020

      No, as it turns out, none that has survived. Since most early Christians thought death was the end of the story until the future resurrection, they probably just thought: Good Riddance.

  2. Avatar
    flshrP  April 14, 2020

    In #7 you touch on the outdated and deficient Christian responses to world crises and social issues as these impact ideas of the afterlife. I agree with what you say but I think there’s another important factor. The recent behavior of the Catholic church top leaders and some Protestant leaders in covering up the sexual misconduct of priests and ministers and hiding them from civil prosecution indicates that the leaderships of these churches are engaged in a criminal conspiracy and that these leaders should themselves be prosecuted for obstruction of justice as a minimum.

    This behavior on the part of the church leadership undermines the moral authority of organized religion and raises doubts about the fantasies that religion promulgates concerning the existence of immortal human souls and an eternal afterlife of rewards and punishments. The fantasies of sin, guilt, grace, salvation and eternal rewards and punishments are now being recognized for what they are, namely, myths and fantasies. Eternal punishment of a wretched, powerless human by an infinitely powerful God, for starters, is not punishment, but rather is monumental injustice and torture. This idea could only have been generated by ignorant religious fanatics.

  3. boomeranglion
    boomeranglion  April 14, 2020

    Have you read “Stages of Faith” by James W. Fowler? I’m curious.

    I left Christianity and religion years ago, but I read and study the Bible out of pure enjoyment. Much of it reads as metaphorical, speaking of the future. Justice isn’t supposed to be present now; it’s something to come, based on my interpretation. (I throw out a lot of the New Testament to understand it that way, but they cherry-picked the text back then, so I don’t see why I can’t do the same now). 🙂

    I believe that if there’s a god, then the entirety of the universe would have to figure out how to live in harmony with one another, eventually. Otherwise, I don’t see the point of divinity.

    Annihilation is a fine alternative.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 15, 2020

      Yup, in seminary, so, well, 40 years ago! But it was a kind of big deal back then. I always thought it was very insightful.

      • boomeranglion
        boomeranglion  April 17, 2020

        Thanks for the reply! I thought you might have read Stages of Faith. I’m in my late twenties, so I wasn’t alive when it was prevalent. 🙂 It was recommended to me years ago by someone who knew I love(d) studying psychology and religion. I always get an insight when I pick up that book.

  4. epicurus
    epicurus  April 14, 2020

    I was all set to get my free book but read the fine print first – only available to residents of the US. I live in the Canadian part of the US, so not eligible.

  5. Avatar
    Zak1010  April 14, 2020

    Dr Ehrman

    Heaven and Hell in the Bible.
    Hell:
    “And he gave a cry and said, Father Abraham……..I am cruelly burning in this flame.”Luke 16:24
    “And in addition, there is a deep division fixed between us and you……..”Luke 16:26
    “Unhappy are you who are full of food now: for you will be in need. Unhappy are you who are laughing now: for you will be crying in sorrow.”Luke 6:25
    Heaven:
    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; …. my Father’s house are many rooms; …” (John 14:1-3)
    Both Heaven and Hell:
    Rev – 21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth…“Look! God’s dwelling place….the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
    The Bible ( both NT & OT ) has been proven to be corrupted. So, Why is it used to prove and disprove? Since we use OT as reference to NT and NT as reference to the OT, why not reflect on a book that claims to be the Word of God which elaborates and clarifies both Heaven and Hell in the Bible. ( scholars have used books outside the Canon to reflect on books in the Canon)
    Luke 16-24 ,25, and 26 ——-reflected in the Quran :
    “And the companions of the Fire will call to the companions of Paradise, “Pour upon us some water or from whatever Allah has provided you.” They will say, “Indeed, Allah has forbidden them both to the disbelievers.”17:50
    “And between them will be a partition, and on [its] elevations are men who recognize all by their mark. And they call out to the companions of Paradise, “Peace be upon you.” They have not [yet] entered it, but they long intensely.”7:46
    “So let them laugh a little and [then] weep much as recompense for what they used to earn.”9:82
    The Book of Revelation describes a “lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death”, which most Christians believe to be a description of Hell, comparable to Jahannam as “the fire”. While the Quran describes Jahannam as having seven levels, each for different sins, the Bible (regards the issue of levels), speaks of the “lowest Hell (Sheol)”. It also refers to a “bottomless pit”
    Your Thoughts.

    In response to Q #2, The Hebrew Bible that Jesus inherited …….. Jesus came to guide the children of Israel back on the right path. He came to fulfill what they were not.

    Did Jesus inherit the the Hebrew Bible?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 15, 2020

      Why are you telling me these verses? As you might imagine, I discuss them in my book. And yes, Jesus like all Jews of his time inherited the traditions of his faith, including their sacred Scriptures.

  6. Avatar
    Apocryphile  April 14, 2020

    I like your (and Socrates’) view of the afterlife, but whether we have individual souls or not, I don’t think there’s any denying that we are all part of the same reality, whatever that all entails and encompasses. I have to wonder, though, if this particular world and universe we find ourselves in is possible, what else might be possible? Unless we are of the opinion that this universe is all there is – a view that is questioned by more and more physicists these days – it seems to me we have to be open to other possibilities. I personally think there are far better worlds/universes than ours that exist, probably on a different plane of reality in the quantum multiverse. The idea that we inhabit the best of all possible worlds has never commended itself to philosophers throughout history, so that begs the question: if such an imperfect world as ours exists, might there be others that are far worse too? Whether there is a purpose to all these worlds is another matter.

  7. Avatar
    godspell  April 14, 2020

    I finished it yesterday, and would rank it in the top three of your books I’ve read. (I’ll get back to you about the other two, possibly Misquoting Jesus and How Jesus Became God, lists are hard). It was full of surprises and interesting reassessments of well-known (and not so well-known) sources. And the afterward was especially powerful.

    Of course it’s not attempting to tell the complete story of how humans have imagined what happens after death. It’s mainly about Christian ideas of the afterlife, and how they evolved from a mixture of Jewish and pagan sources. There have been many alternate visions, but the western world has been mostly influenced by Christianity and what came before it.

    I knew I had to read it when I learned you would say Jesus never believed in heaven or hell. I think that is one of the most heinous slanders ever leveled against him–that he believed in eternal hellfire for those who didn’t believe as he did. You cleared him of all charges in that regard. And put Plato and Virgil in the dock in his place. 😉

    • Bart
      Bart  April 15, 2020

      Thanks!

      • Avatar
        godspell  April 17, 2020

        Thank *you*. Though I will say, when I started reading it, I was suffering what I took to be early symptoms of Covid 19 (I may have been quite mistaken about that), and maybe not the most cheery subject to read about when one is seriously contemplating his/her own afterlife.

        I respect, of course, your belief that Socrates had the best answer, and I’m not unsympathetic to his idea that either it’s an endless dreamless sleep, or else you get to talk to all the dead people you admire (except wouldn’t there be like an endless line ahead of you, and wouldn’t they be bored to tears with hearing the same questions, ad infinitum? Also, you’ve heard the saying “Never meet your heroes.”)

        I think the reason people had a hard time accepting this is that mostly sleep isn’t dreamless. Yes, waking up after anesthesia administered by a qualified professional is quite refreshing, but dreams can range from blissful to tedious to downright hellish. I think dreams mainly inspire our ideas of the afterlife, because sleep is the closest thing to death that we know, and we need REM sleep to live.

        • Avatar
          godspell  April 17, 2020

          So to finish my thought (and my posts for the day)–if Socrates’ idea was so persuasive, how come Plato, having reported it, went on to promote an afterlife based on the merit system?

          Perhaps for the same reason Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, having fully understood Jesus’ ideas, and loved them, still felt obliged to ‘improve’ on them.

          As you say, the problem is us. We’re all Hamlet, down deep. His soliloquy sums the problem up very well. What dreams may come, indeed. There’s the rub.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 19, 2020

            My own view is that Plato did that for pedagogical purposes. I think he too thought death was the end of the story. But the “myths” (he calls them that) were meant to reveal what most mattered in life: living philosophically instead of for pleasure (that’s the shortest/simplistically worded way I can put it)

          • Avatar
            godspell  April 19, 2020

            If Plato is *that* untrustworthy a witness, we have to question *everything* he tells us about Socrates–at least as much as we question what we’re told about Jesus in the NT. Just because we don’t literally worship Socrates (there are those who come close) doesn’t mean we apply a whit less skepticism, to both the accuracy of what records we have, and to the messages being conveyed.

            A possibly illiterate stonemason, ignored by most (which is why we have so little about him) who described himself as a ‘gadfly’–which is to say a horse fly. In what way were equines ever well-served by blood-sucking insects that carry infection? His most famous pupils largely proved to be a plague upon the land. Athens tired of the bites, swatted the pest. (Is one interpretation.)

            Perhaps Socrates had pedagogical motives of his own–he certainly did. Even if we could know for a fact we’re reading a close approximation of what he said, we still have to look deeper, consider that perhaps he was deceiving himself, as all of us do. No one entirely holds up to deep scrutiny. Never meet your heroes. If you want to have any.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 20, 2020

            Yes, that’s absolutely right about Socrates and Jesus.

          • Avatar
            godspell  April 20, 2020

            Two men of humble background and little education, largely disregarded by their societies (Thucydides doesn’t even mention Socrates, though he mentions people connected to him in other sources), until such time as they were abruptly dispatched by it, for reasons that are still debated. Both subjecting the world they saw around them to close scrutiny and withering critique. Both attracting talented disciples (albeit of very different classes and backgrounds) who went on to change the world, in a variety of ways. Both known to us only indirectly, meaning that we can only see them through a glass darkly, so to speak.

            And, many would say, the two most influential men who ever lived, at least as far as the western world is concerned. For no reason other than their ability to express their ideas through the spoken word, unconventional behavior–and martyrdom.

            I read a review of I.F. Stone’s The Trial of Socrates in The Catholic Worker. The reviewer was offended that Stone questioned Socrates’ motives and character (while still believing Athens betrayed its ideals by executing him). For many centuries, the two have been linked in the western mind.

            Fascinating.

  8. Tuskensp
    Tuskensp  April 15, 2020

    I signed up with audible and got two free credits, so I’ve been listening to Heaven and Hell on Audible and am loving it. I think the topic is excellently chosen and discussed (as are all Bart’s books) I was raised in the Episcopal church (my dad is an Episcopal priest) and started having serious questions about my faith in college. The hardest part of leaving my faith was the prospect of losing out on an eternity in heaven. I think this book helps show that Jesus probably did’t teach about Heaven as most people believe in. Interestingly, I’ve talked to my dad recently about his beliefs in heaven, and he has beliefs that probably none of his parishioners share. He agrees that science has discovered that memories are stored in our brains which we won’t carry on into an afterlife, so he doesn’t believe he will have any memories of his life on earth after he dies.

    Bart – You mention some evangelicals are starting to question or even stop believing in hell. What is the strangest modern belief about heaven that you have run into from someone in a leadership position in a church?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 15, 2020

      I don’t know of anything particularly strange per se, but I do know evangelical theologians now who believe in a kind of Purgatory; that view would have been strictly Verboten in my evangelical days.

      • Avatar
        Charles Steiner  May 22, 2020

        Why is the Rich Man and Lazarus not proof that Jesus believed in eternal peace for the faithful and eternal punishment for the wicked? Though it is a depiction of Hades and not Heaven and Hell, it’s still depicted as never ending.

        • Bart
          Bart  May 24, 2020

          I deal with it at length in my book. The main point (it takes a while to explain): I try to show it is not actually a parable that Jesus himself told; it was produced after his death and put on his lips.

  9. Avatar
    clerrance2005  April 15, 2020

    Prof Ehrman,

    That was a great interview. I am currently reading Catherine Nixey’s ‘The Darkening Age’ in which she makes this statement and attribute to the Apocalypse of Peter – ” At the edge of a lake filled with the ‘discharge and stench’ of those who were tortured are babies that are ‘born before time’ ”

    Question is – Is it so reflected in the Apocalypse of Peter and does the contest really depict punishment for innocent ‘pre-mature’ babies? What sin did they commit

    • Bart
      Bart  April 15, 2020

      Yes, it is not that these babies were simply born before their time (i.e., premature); they were aborted. From their eyes they shoot lightening at their mothers who did this to them. Strongly anti-abortionist text.

      • Avatar
        clerrance2005  April 15, 2020

        A follow-up please.
        But were the babies in hell as well because I am of the impression that it was a description of hell. Will that mean aborted babies end up in hell according to the Book?

        Reference
        Question is – Is it so reflected in the Apocalypse of Peter and does the contest really depict punishment for innocent ‘pre-mature’ babies? What sin did they commit

        Bart April 15, 2020
        Yes, it is not that these babies were simply born before their time (i.e., premature); they were aborted. From their eyes they shoot lightening at their mothers who did this to them. Strongly anti-abortionist text.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 17, 2020

          Yup, it doesn’t make sense. Of course they aren’t being punished, but are given over to a guardian angel in the account. Still, why are they in hell at *all*? The thing about ALL these tours of teh afterlife from Homer to Virgil to teh Xn apocalypses: none of them is internally coherent. Weirdnesses and inconsistencies are virtually a feature of the genre. (I”ll be showing this in the monograph I’m writing on the topic)

  10. Avatar
    mikezamjara  April 15, 2020

    HI Dr. Ehrman, has your book been responded by fundamentalists?

  11. Avatar
    GeoffClifton  April 15, 2020

    Thank you Dr Ehrman and I am enjoying your new book, by the way. Despite its grim subject matter, it is still a very entertaining and satisfying read, as are all your books.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 15, 2020

      Maybe grim, but my point is that it need not be frightful! But I push that more at the end.

  12. Avatar
    ddecker54  April 15, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman – I just finished reading the book and enjoyed it very much. As expected, it was very well conceived and written. I couldn’t help but think that it must have been difficult for you when writing the “what did Jesus have to say about the afterlife” section. You basically had to condense “Misquoting Jesus” into “…well all we know about what Jesus said is found in the Gospels and ….well…. a lot of what’s in the Gospels wasn’t what he said.” I wonder what some of the reactions of people who were reading you for the first time might have been to that!
    Congrats on the book!

  13. Avatar
    ElizabethBetts  April 15, 2020

    Do you have time for a question regarding Menelaus’ motivation to keep Helen as a way to avoid the fate of but a few in the Greek afterlife, a wraith existence?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 17, 2020

      Ha, good question! He took her in the first place beacuse she was drop-dead gorgeous. Nothing in the poems suggest he “kept” her for any other reason, other than his own honor and being unwilling to give up what was his. I don’t think the poems sgguested he realized that as Zeus’s son-in-law, he’d get to Elysium until later. And I guess he would have been there even if he had given her up earlier. But HERE’S a question: why aren’t Paris and Deiphobus (e.g.) also in Elysium?

  14. Avatar
    Marble13  April 15, 2020

    Received your book in the mail the other day, and already halfway done with it. Fascinating thoughts, easy to read and understand, and causing me to rethink personal views. Not always easy to do, but a great read. Thanks for the extensive research done to produce it.

  15. Avatar
    MichaelM  April 15, 2020

    To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…

  16. Avatar
    allisonggmazaro  April 16, 2020

    Great interview! This topic touches a part of a larger curiosity I’ve always pondered: why is there so much in modern-day Christianity (beliefs and customs) that has no basis in the bible?! How the bible and biblical teachings have somehow morphed into what today’s (American) Christianity looks like is astounding to me.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 17, 2020

      Because they want authority for their own views. I guess an analogy would be how conservative religious persons also sometimes appeal to the faith of the “Founding Fathers” even though most of the time these claims are completely unfounded.

  17. Avatar
    Ashitindi  April 16, 2020

    Hi sir. I may ask.
    Who did you believe to be an Antichrist during your fundamentalist early period?

  18. Avatar
    clerrance2005  April 17, 2020

    Prof Erhman,
    At the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, what else was agreed on/ deliberated apart from the ‘nature of the divinity of Jesus Christ’?

  19. Avatar
    Ashitindi  April 17, 2020

    Hi Sir!
    I just finished listening to one of your lecture called “jesus the law and new covenant” One thing I learned from it is that, ancient Jews in old Testament didn’t had the idea of afterlife. If a person dies that’s it game over. But what did they make of with some of the stories like Enoch in Genesis, and Elijah. Who were taken heaven !

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      They didn’t die first. People who die didn’t go to heaven to be with God.

  20. Avatar
    PBS  April 17, 2020

    Dr., Ehrman,

    In you research of the parable of the the Rich Man and Lazarus, did you discover any other similar works from the same genre and/or milieu? I’ve heard a few Bible teachers say “the parable is found in the Jewish Gemara” or “it’s a Jewish parable but we’re not sure of its origin” while making a case for its parabolic genre (which I agree with you about). So again, what did you discover?

    Appreciatively!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      Yes indeed. In fact in teh book I tell th mot interesting tale in the book — from an Egyptian story that is *very* close (and intersteing)

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