Journeys to Heaven and Hell: A Sketch of My Project

As I indicated in my previous post, I’ve decided to write a scholarly book on tours of heaven and hell in ancient Christian texts.  I am tentatively calling the book “Observing the Dead: Otherworldly Journeys in the Early Christian Tradition.”   I decided last week to come up with a 1000 word sketch of what I am thinking so far, about what the book would be and why it is needed.   This is just a draft for my own thinking, written ...

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My New Scholarly Project

I have a lot more to say about the development of the views of the afterlife in ancient Jewish and Christian thinking – specifically, about how we got from an understanding that there would be a resurrection of the body (the view I’ve been discussing) to the idea that when a person dies, their soul (not their body) goes to heaven or hell —  the view most (not the *vast* majority, of course) people have today.   It’s a good thing ...

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Physical Persecution and the Physical Resurrection of the Dead

In this post I’m thinking out loud rather than making a definitive statement.   A question occurred to me a week or so ago that, since I am on the road and rather unsettled just now, I have not had a chance to look into.  Maybe someone on the blog knows the answer.  Prior to the persecution of Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE, do we have a record of *any* group of people in the entire Mediterranean world being ...

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Why I Find the Story of Job is Disturbing

In yesterday’s post I summarized the narrative of Job (the story that frames the book, chs. 1-2 and 42, which come from a different author from the poetic dialogues of Job and his “friends” of chs. 3-41), with a few words about its view of why a good person might suffer.  Life’s miseries could be a test from God to see if a person will remain faithful, not just when he is thriving but also when he is in the ...

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The Two Books of Job: A Blast from the Past

I have been arguiong that there are different views of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible.  The dominant view is that all people go to Sheol when they die — either they stay in the grave or there is some place that they all gather, a completely uninteresting, dark, dreary place where nothing really happens.  Some authors, though, suggest there is no afterlife at all.  Ecclesiastes, in one or two places, seems to suggest this, as does the book ...

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The Afterlife (or not) in Ecclesiastes

In my previous post I provided some comments on one of my favorite biblical books, Ecclesiastes.  Here I will continue my comments, with some remarks on the topic of the thread, the view of the afterlife in the book, a view unlike what you find in *most* of the Hebrew Bible.  Again, this is taken from my book God’s Problem.

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For the author of Ecclesiastes “traditional” wisdom (such as one finds in the book of Proverbs) was inherently flawed ...

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Ecclesiastes and the Meaning of Life

As I have been arguing, *most* of the authors of the Hebrew Bible who have anything to say about life after death believe that people go to Sheol – whether they are good or wicked, faithful or unfaithful.  It is the fate of all.  Different authors may have different views of what Sheol entails, but nowhere is it a place or reward or punishment for what one does (or believes) in this life.

A major exception seems to be the book ...

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Life After Death According to Samuel

 

Before getting sidetracked with other things, I was discussing the intriguing story of 1 Samuel 28, where the king of Israel, Saul, illicitly consults a medium in an attempt to communicate with his now-dead advisor and predecessor, the prophet Samuel.  This is the only case of necromancy in the entire Bible.   In this post I want to consider what the author of the passage seems to think about those who go to Sheol after death.

Recall the story: Saul is experiencing ...

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Returning from the Dead in the Hebrew Bible

In thinking about Sheol and death in the Hebrew Bible, it is worth reflecting on passages where the dead come back to life or are contacted by the living.  This does not happen much at all – a couple of instances of resuscitation and one of necromancy.

Probably the most famous resuscitation – the bringing back to life of a dead person – involves the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 17:17-24.   Elijah has been helping an unnamed widow from the town ...

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The Afterlife in the Hebrew Bible: Sheol

When trying to figure out where the Christian ideas of heaven and hell came from, an obvious place to start is with the Hebrew Bible.  Jesus himself held to the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures.   To be sure, there was not a completely fixed canon in his day, which all Jews everywhere agreed to.  But virtually all Jews we know of ascribed to the high authority (and Mosaic authorship) of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy); and most ...

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