Heaven and Hell

heaven and hell 

Heaven and Hell | by Bart D. Ehrman | Tuesday 10am EST June 9 – June 30

Travis B. Williams
Short Bios of Leaders
Travis B. Williams, who holds a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Exeter (England), is associate professor of Religion at Tusculum University. He travels both nationally and internationally lecturing on various issues related to ancient Judaism and early Christianity. His primary areas of expertise are the New Testament letter of 1 Peter and the Dead Sea Scrolls. On these and other topics, Dr. Williams has published numerous books, articles, and essays.
Short summary of the book
What happens when we die? A recent Pew Research poll showed that 72% of Americans believe in a literal heaven, 58% in a literal hell. Most people who hold these beliefs are Christian and assume they are the age-old teachings of the Bible. But eternal rewards and punishments are found nowhere in the Old Testament and are not what Jesus or his disciples taught.

So where did the ideas come from?

In clear and compelling terms, Bart Ehrman recounts the long history of the afterlife, ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh up to the writings of Augustine, focusing especially on the teachings of Jesus and his early followers. He discusses ancient guided tours of heaven and hell, in which a living person observes the sublime blessings of heaven for those who are saved and the horrifying torments of hell for the damned. Some of these accounts take the form of near death experiences, the oldest on record, with intriguing similarities to those reported today.

One of Ehrman’s startling conclusions is that there never was a single Greek, Jewish, or Christian understanding of the afterlife, but numerous competing views. Moreover, these views did not come from nowhere; they were intimately connected with the social, cultural, and historical worlds out of which they emerged. Only later, in the early Christian centuries, did they develop into the notions of eternal bliss or damnation widely accepted today.