After praising me for bringing the thread back on topic, JWI will maybe curse me for branching it off again—and Arauna, too, for that matter, because it really is a branch. He may even use his secret powers to make this a separate thread—I could live with that if he did.
The fork in the road here is Aruana’s link to Time Magazine. Enticed by an absurdly low rate, I subscribed to Time two years ago, with the thought I would cancel when the auto-renewal hit. When it hit, I did cancel, because the magazine—once a powerhouse, now upstaged amidst the digital revolution, seemed no more than “same-old same-old” to me. My curiosity had been peaked by the low subscription rate.
I think it is because a sale was pending. Mark Benoif has bought it, he who is the Salesforce company founder—a guy worth 6 billion, I am told. He joins Bezos who bought the Washington Post, and Lourene Jobs (widow of Steve) who bought a majority stake in Atlantic.
Not sure how the new owners will change the brands they bought, however Time Magazine has just run an article about afterlife topics (soul, psyche, Sheol, Gehenna, heaven, hell) that mirrors almost exactly Watchtower publications—I can’t picture this in the old Time (or in fact, anywhere).
And—the author is my new nemesis: Bart Ehrman! The occasion is the release of his latest book (he has over 30) ‘Heaven and Hell.’
I have not been especially kind to Bart, and maybe I should walk some of it back. Or maybe I should double down. Is he coming around in his views? Or is he (more likely, I think, but only suggested—far from proof) ripping off the views of the Watchtower without crediting them?
Not that he would accept the Watchtower as a source in itself, I don’t think. But what I can easily picture is him keeping abreast of their writing and the explanations that only they have, then tracing it back to original sources, whereupon he verifies it all and presents it as though his own research—which it would be, minus the credit for who put him on the right track in the first place.
A few segments for the Time article, which I think is quoted directly from his book:
Neither Jesus, nor the Hebrew Bible he interpreted, endorsed the view that departed souls go to paradise or everlasting pain.
Unlike most Greeks, ancient Jews traditionally did not believe the soul could exist at all apart from the body. On the contrary, for them, the soul was more like the “breath.” The first human God created, Adam, began as a lump of clay; then God “breathed” life into him (Genesis 2: 7). Adam remained alive until he stopped breathing. Then it was dust to dust, ashes to ashes.
Ancient Jews thought that was true of us all. When we stop breathing, our breath doesn’t go anywhere. It just stops. So too the “soul” doesn’t continue on outside the body, subject to postmortem pleasure or pain. It doesn’t exist any longer.
The Hebrew Bible itself assumes that the dead are simply dead—that their body lies in the grave, and there is no consciousness, ever again. It is true that some poetic authors, for example in the Psalms, use the mysterious term “Sheol” to describe a person’s new location. But in most instances Sheol is simply a synonym for “tomb” or “grave.” It’s not a place where someone actually goes.
Most people today would be surprised to learn that Jesus believed in a bodily eternal life here on earth, instead of eternal bliss for souls, but even more that he did not believe in hell as a place of eternal torment.
In traditional English versions, he does occasionally seem to speak of “Hell” – for example, in his warnings in the Sermon on the Mount: anyone who calls another a fool, or who allows their right eye or hand to sin, will be cast into “hell” (Matthew 5:22, 29-30). But these passages are not actually referring to “hell.” The word Jesus uses is “Gehenna.” The term does not refer to a place of eternal torment but to a notorious valley just outside the walls of Jerusalem, believed by many Jews at the time to be the most unholy, god-forsaken place on earth. It was where, according to the Old Testament, ancient Israelites practiced child sacrifice to foreign gods. The God of Israel had condemned and forsaken the place.
In the ancient world (whether Greek, Roman, or Jewish), the worst punishment a person could experience after death was to be denied a decent burial. Jesus developed this view into a repugnant scenario: corpses of those excluded from the kingdom would be unceremoniously tossed into the most desecrated dumping ground on the planet. Jesus did not say souls would be tortured there. They simply would no longer exist.”
Is Bart just taking our stuff? You know, I think he is. If I do a quick search of this site—
, nothing about Jehovah’s Witnesses comes up, apart from a post about the name Jehovah itself, where he misses entirely the import of God having a name rather than a title, to focus on its Latin letters, and thus declaring it “false.” But I found nothing else. Nobody espousing on these ‘afterlife’ views like Jehovah’s Witnesses, and apart from them almost nobody does—and yet he never mentions them. I suspect we have found the ‘secret source’ that points him to much of his scholarship.
Where are these items found in our own literature? I find it hard to keep track of anything, these days, now that all is digitalized and we have taking to presenting matters in bitesize tidbits. Basic study guides will show up much of it, however, and certainly the Insight Book—a Bible encyclopedia. But a favorite of my for being both concise and complete is the 1974 book ‘Is This Life All There Is?’ We were there light years ahead of him, on all topics except for those in which he is muddled, such as:
“Some thinkers came up with a solution that explained how God would bring about justice, but again one that didn’t involve perpetual bliss in a heaven above or perpetual torment in a hell below. This new idea maintained that there are evil forces in the world aligned against God and determined to afflict his people. Even though God is the ultimate ruler over all, he has temporarily relinquished control of this world for some mysterious reason. But the forces of evil have little time left. God is soon to intervene in earthly affairs to destroy everything and everyone that opposes him and to bring in a new realm for his true followers, a Kingdom of God, a paradise on earth. Most important, this new earthly kingdom will come not only to those alive at the time, but also to those who have died. Indeed, God will breathe life back into the dead, restoring them to an earthly existence.” (italics and bolded text mine. “Some mysterious reason”—he doesn’t know that?! after nailing it on so many other points)
Not to mention his muddled:
“And God will bring all the dead back to life, not just the righteous. The multitude who had been opposed to God will also be raised, but for a different reason: to see the errors of their ways and be judged. Once they are shocked and filled with regret – but too late — they will permanently be wiped out of existence.” Sigh...it is as Anthony Morris said: “just stick with publications of the slave, and you will be alright.” The moment he goes off-script he comes up with some half-baked “nah nah—told ya so!” diatribe from his born-again days.
Part of me wants to get my head around this more. Frankly, he’s got a good gig going—I’m jealous over some of it—and so I wonder where his head is at. He presents as an agnostic/atheist in his Great Courses lecture series. I’ve written about ten posts, none of them kind, with several more in the hopper that I may or may not ever get to. Most of them I posted here as well as on my site, but I can find them easier on my site:
Now—back to those Uyghurs...