Jesus’ Teaching About the Kingdom of God

I have explained how the idea of resurrection arose within early Judaism, and now I want to talk about the idea of afterlife in the teachings of Jesus.  To begin with, I need to stress that when Jesus talked about the coming kingdom of God – the core of his apocalyptic message – he was *not* referring to what happens to a person’s soul after she or he dies.

Here is how I explain Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom in my ...

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A Resurrection for Tortured Jews (2 Maccabees)

I have pointed out that the notion of “resurrection” first appears in Jewish writings in the book of Daniel, and I am arguing that this notion is intrinsically connected with the apocalyptic view of the world that developed at the time.  In this view of the world, as I’ve laid it out on the blog before (e.g.: https://ehrmanblog.org/the-rise-of-apocalypticism/) the people of God suffer *not* necessarily because God is punishing them for their sins but because there are forces of ...

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A New Genre in Jewish Antiquity: The Apocalypse

I am in midst of starting to explain how a new view of the afterlife came into existence in Jewish circles right around the time of the Maccabean revolt, and to that end I have devoted one post to a brief narrative of what happened leading up to the revolt and a second post to two of our principal sources of information about it, 1 and 2 Maccabees.

Now, I need to provide yet more background: it was at this time, ...

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Background to The Christian Afterlife: The Maccabean Revolt: A Blast from the (Recent) Past!

Back in April I was in the middle of a thread about the afterlife, and now, after this unusual hiatus, I am able and eager to return to it.  For those of you who were with us at the time, you may remember that this is the topic of the book I am working on now, that I have been reading massively about for most of the past year.  My views have developed, changed, and deepened since April.  I’ve had ...

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Apocalypticism in a Modern Idiom

As I pointed out some weeks ago on the blog, in the mid to late 1980s, as a liberal Christian, I was fully aware that the Bible was filled with mythological views that could no longer be accepted as literal truths but had to be translated into a modern idiom if they were to have any relevance.  And I thought that the Bible did have relevance.  But not in its literal sense.

This made interpretation of the Bible an extremely important ...

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The Essence of Biblical Apocalyptic Thought

I earlier pointed out that my views of suffering in the 1980s were heavily influenced by the biblical perspective that scholars call apocalypticism.  I have discussed the major views of apocalypticism on the blog a couple of times over the years, but some review would be useful at this point, both for those whose memories are as sieve-like as mine, and for those who weren’t around yet for all those years of previous fun   on the blog.

Let me stress, Jewish ...

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The Origins of Apocalypticism

In my previous post I began to explain how, in 1985, while teaching a class at Rutgers on the Problem of Suffering, I came to realize that I simply didn’t accept any longer most of the views of the Bible on why there was suffering in the world.  But one view did continue to appeal to me, the apocalyptic view that emerged toward the end of the New Testament period, and became the view of Jesus, John the Baptist before ...

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Explaining a Columbian Mudslide

During the term when I was teaching my class on the problem of suffering at Rutgers in 1985, one of those unthinkable natural disasters occurred that made headline news and disturbed all caring people around the world.   The night before there had been a volcanic incident in Columbia that caused a mudslide that wiped out several villages, killing thousands of people in their sleep.  The death toll in the end was 23,000, men women and children.

Some people blamed the Columbian ...

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Background to a Different View of the Afterlife: The Maccabean Revolt

The views about the afterlife found in the Hebrew Bible are not, by and large, replicated in the New Testament.  A new view had developed in Judaism by that time, rooted in the ideology known as “apocalypticism,” which I have talked about before on the blog.  Ideologies do not arise in a vacuum of course, but are responses to concrete historical, social, and cultural forces, events, and situations.   To make sense of the Jewish notion of “resurrection” (the dominant ...

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The Apocalyptic Background to Jesus’ Messiahship

To make sense of my claim that Jesus himself told the disciples that he thought he was the messiah, I have to set his teachings generally in a wider context.  As I have repeatedly argued on the blog, Jesus’ teachings are best understood as apocalyptic in nature, and to understand any of them it is important to remember what the world view we call Jewish apocalypticism entailed.  This is essential background to the question I’m pursuing, since I will be ...

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