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Response to Paris

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Abstract

Let me first say how much I appreciate this comparative survey of attitudes toward the possibility of the afterlife in ANE and biblical literature. It conveys the difficulty of the discussion (due to the paucity of available biblical data) and yet still finds a fresh nuance within the available materials. Such insight is to be highly commended. Paris' opening claim that the Old Testament "fails to offer readers much information about the afterlife" is beyond controversy. But this statement begs the question: why is there so little interest in and information about the afterlife in the Old Testament? It certainly is not due to a wider cultural "lack of interest" in the ANE, if you will; Egyptian theology had highly-developed concepts of the afterlife—the invocation of the dead in funerary scripts and tomb inscriptions 1 in virtually all ANE cultures indicate that the idea that "the dead…continue on in the afterlife" 2 was a nearly-universal religious concept. It is the nature of that continuance which is at issue. This lack of developed thought about the afterlife may, in fact, be a result of the prevalence of this line of speculation in the surrounding ANE societies. In fact, the Bible's disapproval of all forms of necromancy 3 most likely indicates attempts to "stamp out…abhorred practices" like séances and the marzeah ritual 4 and would make an 1 Through which the departed symbolically speak from "beyond the grave." 2 Theodore J. Lewis, "Death, OT," in The New Intepreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 2, edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007), 68. 3 See 1 Samuel 28. 4 "At Ugarit, the marzih commemoration, held at intervals after the death of an important personage, was a copious drinking bout, wherein the living, the grateful dead, and the gods might meet and be glorified." Such feasts were condemned by the prophets (cf. Amos 6:4-7; Jer. 16:5-9). See Alan F. Segal, "Afterlife," in The New Interpeter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 2, edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007), 67.

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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Death: Old Testament
  • Kent Richards
  • Harold
Richards, Kent Harold. "Death: Old Testament." In Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, pp 108-110. Edited by David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Last Things, Doctrine of
  • Stephen R Spencer
Spencer, Stephen R. "Last Things, Doctrine of." In Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, pp. 438-441. Edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.