Thursday, February 18, 2021

Bart Ehrman's "Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife", previewed


Sierra Nevada, California, 2012

I ordered a hardcover copy of “Heaven and Hell: A History of the After Life”, by Bart D. Ehrman, sometime back because, well, of my current situation with age and the pandemic, and my writing, where certain character are “angels” (particularly in the screenplay “Epiphany”).

The publisher is a biggie, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-5011-3673-3, 326 pages, endnotes and index starts at 297, fourteen chapters.

I expect to do a more thorough review on Wordpress after some time, but I want to note that the middle chapters provide a sequence of views, from the old testament (“why wait for a resurrection?”), then Jesus himself, and finally the apostle Paul.

One theme that comes up is that for many people who did not “make it”, death is simply annihilation, and back to non-existence.  Indeed, it seems, if the brain is physically intact, even after death, there might occur a “life review” and time could stretch out infinitely and create the impression of eternal life, if one never “converges” to death.  But if the brain is destroyed traumatically, as in war, of some forms of self-harm, or by an enemy with religiously based destruction, there could be no opportunity for such an indefinite extension. Paul, particularly, wanted the reward for the faithful (remember “faith” = “works”) to come with some kind of re-embodiment, as an angel.  In theory, at least in the realm of science fiction, this opens up the idea that “angels” are those who came back (the opposite of “the Leftovers” as in the HBO series). 

There is a review of the book by Ben Corbitt for Saint Matthias Episcopal Church, link

One of my own issues is my own personal agency.  Given a sequence of ironies in my life, the current pandemic challenges my agency (really, almost as a result of quantum theory, when I was privileged enough to escape the things that happen to most people, so I get caught in the paradoxes posed by lockdowns, quarantines and maybe sequestrations). Situations can occur that would seem to nullify what I had believed in my whole life.  Would I want more than annihilation if I was triaged?  This is all quite disturbing. I would have to be much more willing to bond with people "where they are" with less of my own individuality than I have been.  That sounds like the tale of the "Rich Young Ruler"

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