Is death the end of the human journey, or is there continuity after death? What happens to body and soul after death? Were Israelites worshiping the dead? What is the source of mourning practices? This book explores this multifaceted topic as related in the Bible.
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Is death really the final station of the human journey, from which there is no return, or does the Bible allude to some form of continuity after death? Why must human beings die? Is there any meaning to the diverse forms of death, natural or unnatural to which a person succumbs? According to the Bible the dead go down to Sheol, the underworld. Do both the righteous and the wicked inhabit the underworld? Do the dead know what is happening in the world of the living? Are there any allusions in the Bible regarding the survival of the soul after death? A series of questions are raised related to the cult of the dead: Did people consult with the dead, and how? Is there any evidence in the Bible of sacrifices to the dead? The Bible mentions mourning customs—are these related to the cult of the dead? Finally, the resurrection of the dead is explored. The consensus among scholars is that Daniel 12:2–3, refers to the resurrection of the dead. The question is whether biblical texts before the 2nd century BCE allude to this doctrine. The phrase “resurrection of the dead” never appears in the Bible; but does in the Mishnah and in the Babylonian Talmud. Does the Bible view death as final? Or does it uphold a belief in resurrection? The fact that the Lord kills and then gives (back) life is an indication of his power to alter the condition of the dead and restore them to life.
Shaul Bar is the Associate Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Memphis where he teaches at the Bornblum Judaic studies. He received his PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Literature from New York University. He is the author of “A Letter that has not been Read: Dreams in the Hebrew Bible.” HUC Press 2001.