I read several of Ehrman’s books over the years and I got to a point where many of them seemed to contain one interesting new aspect but were otherwise often repetitious. Nevertheless, I was seeing this book on the Audible shelves and it looked interesting and maybe somewhat different. I put it on my Wish List. That was over a year ago now and this week I just needed something new to read.
Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife
by Bart D. Ehrman
Read by John Bedford Lloyd 12h 24m
2020 / (346 pages)
Rating: 8.75 / Christian history
Yes, much of the book is different – or it seems different to me. Ehrman uses more Biblical references and he specifically notes them. And he also uses Apocryphal sources and sources outside the Bible.
It’s far more philosophical and covers far more territory than the history of Christianity. Ehrman starts with a Prologue consisting of his personal evolution which is Ehrman as usual. But then we get into the ideas in Heaven and Hell. They go back to some manuscripts found in Egypt and Ehrman talks about Perpetua the young martyr of the 3rd century and how she “dreamed” she was taken up to heaven and accepted death at Roman hands. The gardens and beauty she had seen of heaven convinced her to martyr herself.
And Ehrman covers the story of Gilgamesh which was written prior to the New Testament.
Some of these pictures of Hell are horrendous. The trial of Socrates was held and he died. He was accused of several things, most seriously he corrupted the young and he introduced new and unsanctioned Gods to Athens. These gods were to be involved in state affairs (politics). Socrates was true to his convictions and was not afraid of death. Plato wrote the “apology (defense) of Socrates.”
To Homer death was as presented in the Iliad and the Odyssey which were invented by someone and put together way before Christ. Homer gets credit and he lived in approximately the 8th to 6th centuries BC. In the tale, Odysseus visits the Underworld and we have Homer’s tales – Hell is a world of death.
These earlier Pagan tales influenced the Jews in Jesus’ day and later. In Aeneid, Virgil has his own tale of the Underworld. Some of the dead are treated better than others starting with Homer at least and on to Virgil who gets them going. Plato didn’t invent them – he built on earlier views.