What’s old is new again. This is the theme of an article written by Peter Berger in The American Interest. The article’s title is, “Immortality and Hay Fever.”
He writes his life will live on through memories, things he has written, DNA and his hay fever. There will be no afterlife.
But, Berger’s interest is really in plotting the belief, or nonbelief, in life after death in Jewish history. The most ancient Isralite tradition did not include a happy life after death. That changed about two centuries B.C.E.
The irony is that while the “traditional”, or main stream thinking today, within the Jewish faith remains with the rewarding afterlife, it is falling out of favor in the younger generation of Jews. These younger Jewish scholars are returning to the view that prevailed earlier than two centuries B.C.E., that of no happy life after death.
The first Old Testiment reference to a rewarding life after death was in the 12th Chapter of Daniel. Daniel is thought to be the most recent of the cannons of the Hebrew Bible. It revealed the new view of life after death.
Berger discusses a couple of possible reasons for the change in Jewish thinking. One was the violent conflict between Jews and the Greeks and their Hellenism. Dealing with the death of Jewish martyrs was helped by developing the view they lived on as a reward.
Religious truths were changing back then. They are still changing.
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