Even Jews, who traditionally have not had any scriptural basis for believing in an afterlife, have begun acquiring it as a sort of contact high. The General Social Survey conducted annually by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found in the 1970s that a mere 19 percent of American Jews confessed a belief in the afterlife; in the 1990s, that proportion rose to an astonishing 56 percent.

From an article on athiesm in Reason.The article seems otherwise fine thus far; but the idea that Judaism has Christianity to thank for the afterlife as some sort of hand-me-down is patent bullshit.  I’m no expert on Jewish religious thought, but having just finished Milton Steinberg’s Basic Judaism, I can confidently say that belief in some form of afterlife has always been a part of Jewish faith.  To be sure it has been vague, the form it takes subject to dispute, and long de-emphasized; but just because American Jewry is so secularized doesn’t mean that life after death is a recent, secondhand acquisition.  Funny how even in an ostensibly objective article, the Christian idea that the bible itself is the only authoritative religious text is taken for granted.

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  1. The belief in the afterlife has NOT always been part of the Jewish faith. It was adopted into their culture after the teachings of Greek Philosophy, namely Philo, but I’d have to check the name on that. This did not happen until the Second or Third century.
    There was always a belief in a resurrection, but not that life continues after one dies automatically. Ecclesiates 9:5
    Psalms 146:3,4
    Ecclesiastes 3:19-21
    Look at the Old Testament…no talk of souls or heaven or spirits, etc. See, it is important to go to actual texts instead of just accepting what modern-day scholars assume about things.

    1. You forget that the Torah and the Tanach are not the sole authorities in Judaism. The highest, perhaps; but we have always placed a great deal of weight on rabbinical teachings and traditions as well.

    2. I’ll try to look into this at greater length later.

    3. From

      Some scholars claim that belief in the afterlife is a teaching that developed late in Jewish history. It is true that the Torah emphasizes immediate, concrete, physical rewards and punishments rather than abstract future ones. See, for example, Lev. 26:3-9 and Deut. 11:13-15. However, there is clear evidence in the Torah of belief in existence after death. The Torah indicates in several places that the righteous will be reunited with their loved ones after death, while the wicked will be excluded from this reunion.

      The Torah speaks of several noteworthy people being “gathered to their people.” See, for example, Gen. 25:8 (Abraham), 25:17 (Ishmael), 35:29 (Isaac), 49:33 (Jacob), Deut. 32:50 (Moses and Aaron) II Kings 22:20 (King Josiah). This gathering is described as a separate event from the physical death of the body or the burial.

      Certain sins are punished by the sinner being “cut off from his people.” See, for example, Gen. 17:14 and Ex. 31:14. This punishment is referred to as kareit (kah-REHYT) (literally, “cutting off,” but usually translated as “spiritual excision”), and it means that the soul loses its portion in the World to Come.

      Later portions of the Tanakh speak more clearly of life after death and the World to Come. See Dan. 12:2, Neh. 9:5.

      1. From some cursory reading, it does appear that if nothing else, the Jewish view of the afterlife was firmed up considerably between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

        The insinuation of the article, however, that Jews have no basis for belief in the afterlife and are picking it up from Christians is just wrong though.

        1. Wait, now I’m confused. Where exactly do you stand with all this? And why are you so worked up about it?

          Personally, I’m wary of web scholarship.

  2. When were the concepts of Shiol and Gehenna introduced?

    1. Sheol–The common grave of mankind, gravedom, not an individual burial place or grave (Hebrew qe’ver at Judges 16:31.)
      Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1986–“Since Sheol in Old Testament times referred simply to to the abode of th dead and suggested no moral distinctions, the word ‘hell’ as understood today, is not a happy translation.”

      Gehenna–Greek form of the Hebrew Geh Hinnom “Valley of Hinnom”-a valley that lay to the S and SW of ancient Jerusalem, modern day Wadi er-Rababi. Judean Kings Ahaz and Manasseh engaged in idolatrous worship there, which included the make of human sacrifices by fire to Baal. Later, to prevent such activies there in the future, King Josiah had the place of idolatrous worship polluted.
      Therefore, the Biblical eviden concerning Gehenna generally parallels the traditional view presented by rabbinic and other sources. That view is that the Valley of Hinnom was used as a place for disposal of Waste matter from the city of Jerusalem.

      So those are what they mean in the Bible…whatever concepts of hell or torment that are now used with them are not Biblically based…

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