Afterlife and The Old Testament

Inspired by @gbrooks9 and after reading this link

I have some questions. Now there are verses in the OT that i think show a heaven but why isnt heaven mentioned clear like in the New Testament?

And second if you have read the link do you think that the scholar says the truth about what actually Jesus taught and how the concept of heaven and hell made its way to the Christian faith?

Thanks for the responses


Hi Nick, William Lane Craig has responded to and debated Bart Ehrman. Here is one example that might interest you

Looks like Ehrman’s book might be too new for Craig to have crafted a response yet, but I found his perspective on Ehrman’s approach to the Bible informative

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Thanks Michelle. So it is an answer to that specific objection or to another thing Erhmans said? I guess the later since the book is recent

I will definitely try to make time to put some more work into answers later. I did not read all of it. I immediately recognized some serious errors on his part such as his confusion over body vs soul vs spirit. We are living souls, souls are living beings. Souls are physical and spiritual. With him confusing that at the very start and then trying to act as a authority on ancient Israelite world views just undermines it.

He also brings up that heaven and hell are not talked about in the Old Testament. That’s simply not true. It is many times and even indirectly through things like the Hosts of Heaven and by the time we get to the New Testament Jesus does outline it and the apostles hammer it out even more so.


yes, the old William Lane Craig videos were about how Ehrman views the reliability of the Bible. Ehrman is a New Testament scholar who used to be a Christian, but has since become and atheist

The OT audience had some concept of the afterlife but it was a common theme as other ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) audiences would have thought of it. A place of the underworld, the grave or Sheol as its called in the Bible. They had the idea that God would remember them while they were in the grave. Over time during and after the exile the concept of the resurrection would come about and the concept of living in heaven or in a heaven like state on earth starts to arise but it has an eschatological theme behind it. When Jesus comes around this seems to be the issues but Jesus reveals that those accept the Messiah will be granted eternal life and that they will also partake on the resurrection. Though Jesus did teach on the idea of Heaven (Paradise) and Hell (the grave, Hades, the place outside of God’s presence) the concept of Hell as a lake of fire is mainly our attempt to identify the Lake of Fire with Hell which is not the same but two different places. Heaven is being in close union with God and Hell is the place outside of God and a place of torment and dread (minus the hellfire)

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Quinn, any thoughts on Jesus’ parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus? It seems it must have been based on then current ideas about the afterlife.

Around the time of Jesus the idea of a place of Paradise and a place of torment was in the format. To be honest I totally forgot about this parable (oops :grimacing:) It would be reasonable for people to have the mindset that Jesus gives in the parable of Lazarus.

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Ehrman’s right of course in that regardless of what Jesus preached using afterlife motifs, He was preaching nothing about the afterlife. Whether in His allegory of Lazarus and Dives or any of his so-called hard, damnationist sayings.

For a start, being the fully human incarnation of God, He wouldn’t know anything about the afterlife; He was trying to motivate His contemporaries according to their culture.

Motivate them how though? And for what?

By scaring the liver out of them with their own augmented fears. To improve their behaviour.

Not hyperbole?

That might be true but someone has to question where did Jesus went after his ressirection if there are no heaven and hell?

That’s a false dichotomy Nick. If Jesus is the real deal, then so is Paradise.

Quite Nick. [… Randy, sorry!]

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Judaism in the Old Testament had no concept of afterlife although Ecclesiastes alludes to it. Sheol is the place of the dead but it is not animate. However the idea of the Spirit living on is part of witchcraft and is forbidden (See Saul).
Jesus does seem to be breaking new ground but it is not always clear whether the Kingdom of God in the parables is part of this world or the next. The Soul is more of Greek idea which has been incorporated into Christianity. It seems to me that the whole concept has both positive and negative aspects, especially when dwelt upon.


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I seem to remember there was a time when people were saying that Jesus and the OT were teaching revolution and communism. Just goes to show that when you come to the text with an agenda then you can impose just about anything on it.

How about me? Do I do that?


I came to the text with a scientific worldview and I wouldn’t consider the book to be intelligible or meaningful in any way that was contrary to the findings of science. If I couldn’t find anything compatible with science then I would simply have discarded it in the nearest trash bin – and that is all there is to it.

But from my perspective, the idea that the OT and Jesus doesn’t teach an afterlife is absurd. Simply claiming that Jesus never even existed as many of the new atheists do makes more sense. Without an afterlife the whole book is hardly worth the paper its printed on – a bunch of warmed over self-righteous ranting where you can probably do much better in other writings frankly. Make no mistake.
This is at the very heart of the conflict between the theist/spiritual and atheist/naturalist worldviews – because it isn’t morality. Atheism stands for morality just as much as do the theists. No it is question of whether the context of an afterlife enhances morality or detracts from it.

I think an afterlife enhances morality because it gives substance to virtue ethics, where what is important is who we are, even if there are no results and nobody ever knows. In the afterlife/theist worldview the self is a lasting result of our actions. It seems, however, that the atheist/naturalist worldview gives more support to the utilitarian ethics since the effect in the world is the only lasting effect of moral behavior at all, and if nobody ever knows then what can it matter what you do, especially if you are going to die soon after?

So what do we get from that? If heaven and hell istn real then what now? What do we do with the gospel

So you think that idea is an agenda ? If so why?

I’ve certainly communicated with professing Christians who accepted a less literal take on heaven, hell and afterlife. Something @Mervin_Bitikofer posted by Richard Rohr (sp?) sure sounded like he embraced such a view. It would have taken me much less time to cotton up to Christianity if such views were less hidden.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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