Gary: I left Christianity after evaluating the many inconsistencies and false claims in the Bible, not just because of a couple of books by Bart Ehrman. One of those inconsistencies/false claims is: the evolving concept of an afterlife in the OT.
Christian blogger: That’s not problematic given Jewish or Christian theism. Since there’s the Biblical concept of progressive revelation whereby God grants more and more information about spiritual matters down through Redemptive History. It’s not one large data dump. That progression is seen even within the the Old Testament. And even within the first five books [i.e. the Torah/Penteteuch]. Also, “evolving” in what way? The Old Testament taught a conscious afterlife in Sheol and hinted at a more blessed condition for the righteous than for the unrighteous. That basic outline is completely consistent and compatible with the New Testament’s understanding of the afterlife. While it has some flaws [as Annihilationists point out], I recommend the general arguments presented by Robert Morey in his book “Death and the Afterlife.” For example, he points out how Gen. 35:18 says regarding Rachel “And as her soul was departing (for she was dying).” Implying an immaterial aspect to Rachel and its departure. Sure, the Hebrew word “soul” used could sometimes be translated “life,” but in this case it could also [more?] plausibly be translated as “soul.” Similar to how in 1 Ki 17:21 the “soul” [or “life”] came back INTO the child’s body. Or how Jacob said in Gen. 37:35, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Implying Jacob believed in a conscious afterlife in Sheol where he would be reunited with his son Joseph.
While a bit dated, here’s a public domain link to Messianic Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim’s Appendix 19 in his famous book, “Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.” He shows how the New Testament didn’t invent the Christian afterlife out of thin air, but was partly built upon previous 2nd Temple Jewish beliefs about the afterlife. Beliefs that themselves were built upon from the Old Testament revelation.
Appendix 19, On Eternal Punishment, According to the Rabbis and the New Testament by Edersheim
“Since there’s the Biblical concept of progressive revelation whereby God grants more and more information about spiritual matters down through Redemptive History. It’s not one large data dump.”
Says who? Did God say this or is this “apologetic spin”, an ad hoc “harmonization” to explain away inconsistencies in one’s belief system? Yes, the Christian god may exist and, yes, progressive revelation might be true. But it is also entirely possible that the concept of an afterlife did not develop until the Jews were taken into captivity and exposed to the religions of Babylon, Persia, and Greece/Macedonia. Prior to their captivity, Jews believed that obedience to God resulted in blessings in THIS life. Once they were captives, the chances of blessings in this life looked bleak, their theology changed. Now obedience to God might not provide any benefits in the life, but one could look forward to blessings (or punishment) in the next.
Bottom line: Progressive revelation might be true but it also may be nothing more than an ad hoc rationalization for a gaping inconsistency between the God of the Hebrews and the God of Christians. In my re-evaluation of Christianity, it wasn’t just one inconsistency. It was MANY. I came to realize that Christianity is a house of cards, a house of cards held together by the glue of ASSUMPTIONS. Christians must make a lot of assumptions to maintain their faith.
End of post.