FYI-- Afterlife - Dr. White Views of the Afterlife Ancient...

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Dr. White Views of the Afterlife The Bible as Literature Ancient Israel Israelite views of the afterlife underwent substantial changes during the first millennium BCE , as concepts popular during the preexilic period eventually came to be rejected by the religious leadership of the exilic and postexilic communities, and new theological stances replaced them. Because many elements of preexilic beliefs and practices concerning the dead were eventually repudiated, the Hebrew Bible hardly discusses preexilic concepts at all; only scant and disconnected references to afterlife and the condition of the dead appear in the texts. A few passages from late-eighth through sixth-century sources are illuminating, however, because they attack various aspects of the popular notions about the dead during that period. With these data, a general though sketchy picture of Israelite views can be proposed. Like all cultures in the ancient Near East, the Israelites believed that persons continued to exist after death. It was thought that following death, one’s spirit went down to a land below the earth, most often called Sheol, but sometimes merely “Earth,” or “the Pit” (See Hell). In the preexilic period, there was no notion of a judgment of the dead based on their actions during life, nor is there any evidence for a belief that the righteous dead go to live in God’s presence. The two persons in the Hebrew Bible who are taken to heaven to live with God, Enoch (Genesis 5.24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2.11), do not die. All who die, righteous or wicked, go to Sheol (see Genesis 42.38; Numbers 16.30–33). The exact relationship between the body of a dead person and the spirit that lived on in Sheol is unclear, since the Bible does not discuss this issue. Many scholars assume that the Israelites did not fully distinguish between the body and the spirit, and thus believed that the deceased continued to have many of the same basic needs they had when they were alive, especially for food and drink. Unless these needs were met, the dead would find existence in Sheol to be unending misery. Such a close connection between feeding the dead through funerary offerings and their happiness in the afterlife is well attested in Mesopotamia and Egypt. It is assumed that Israelite funerary practices were similar and included long-term, regular provision of food and drink offerings for the dead. Other scholars have pointed out the lack of evidence in the Bible for such funerary offerings. Two passages often quoted in reference to such offerings, Deuteronomy 26.14 and Psalm 106.28, are ambiguous and can be interpreted in different ways. Archaeological evidence from Iron Age tombs suggests that food and drink were provided at the tomb only when the burial took place. There is no evidence for regular post-funeral offerings of food at tombs in Israel. It is possible that the Israelites assumed that Sheol had its own food supply, and that the food placed in the tomb was conceived as provisions for the journey of the deceased to Sheol, but this is
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This note was uploaded on 07/01/2010 for the course LIT 3374 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at University of South Florida - Tampa.

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FYI-- Afterlife - Dr. White Views of the Afterlife Ancient...

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