What did early Christians believe about the dead?

by fulltimestudent 14 Replies latest watchtower beliefs


    Paradise Beauty,

    If a "soul" is the breath of life in a body, then why can't the life-force continue on? It seems that Paul was saying humans must "die" to put on the incorruptible. Why use a seed as an example? A seed does not die or cease to be, if it did there would be no sprout. This transformation happens in the twinkling of an eye, according to the bible.

    Jesus' "spirit" went back to his Father according to the bible, but the WTBTS says this is not true. Just read the Bible Teach index. They say that Jesus ceased to exist and had to be recreated. That does not seem to be taught in the bible at all.

    Sleep is not oblivion and an inspired illustration of a seed is meaningless if dying means non-existence.


  • paradisebeauty

    I don't believe Jesus was recreated. I believe he was transformed into a new creation, an immortal man.

    But I also do not believe there is a personal soul that lives separately.

    This book I gave as a reference above explains better. It is written by a university professor of old greek and hebrew.

  • fulltimestudent
    paradisebeauty: The jw's are wrong on many doctrine, but I do not think they are wrong on the "life after death" separated from the body doctrine.
    Thnx for the reference, paradisebeauty. But, I was not arguing for soul life or soul death. The thread was simply to examine what early Christians thought about the dead. As I headed my last post:
    "The biggest problem in using early writings, etc is that there was likely no unified 'Christian' belief system. So with that in mind, we should take care not to suggest that the evidence for a particular personal belief, demonstrates that ALL early Christians believed it."
    I will get round to reading your reference one day (got a lot of study at present) :(, though I note that its sort of associated with what seems to (may be) another splinter group from Armstrong's WWCG. Although, the Restoration Fellowship's own web-site claims an independent formation.
    Restoration Fellowship was founded by Sir Anthony Buzzard, Bt., MA (Oxon.) MA Th. in 1981. The subject matter of our literature is not new and has been held by small groups of believers throughout the centuries, notably by some Anabaptists and the Church of God General Conference whose headquarters and college, Atlanta Bible College, are located in McDonough, GA, USA.
    and thnx again for posting.
  • fulltimestudent
    I finished my post before last with - " In pages 36 to 40 he discusses messages left by the living requesting the dead to intercede for them. But that's for the next post."

    The book referred to, being Peter Brown's, "The Ransom of the Soul."

    On the pages I referred to, Brown describes an area in the catacombs of San Sebastiano, where Roman people, including Christians would go to eat 'celebratory' meals in what they felt was the presence of the deceased loved ones. Often they would scribble some kind of record of the mean, on a wall, along with a sort of prayer to the dead relatives/friends and church heroes.

    Brown says there are some 330 such graffiti messages that can still be read.

    So here in this quiet place we can still find the thoughts of ordinary Christians of the time prior to Constantine and the great changes he brought to the early church.

    What do these scribbled messages tell us. Brown states that the overwhelming sense, is that the living prayed intently to be remembered by the dead.

    For example, it was believed that Peter and Paul had been interred there for a while. so one graffiti message reads:

    "Peter and Paul, have us in mind, Holy spirits, hold in your mind."

    It was believed that dead Christians could also speak directly to God. So another reads:

    "Peter and Paul, pray perpetually for Dativus."

    But, such requests were not just addressed to the dead Christian heroes, but also to relatives and friends. An example given is this:

    "Januaria, take your rest well, and ask for us."

    Through these inscribed requests, we can see that for many early Christians, there was no thought that their dead relatives and friends were asleep in death, but they were regarded as being able to 'speak' directly to God and to pass on messages.

    That's a far cry from being unconscious.

  • kepler

    Without saying specifically what was the consensus back at the BC-AD transition, I've noticed in reading Josephus that there were both adherents to an afterlife and not among the three communities he mentions: the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. Judea was surrounded by civilizations that differed on this matter too. The Mesopotamian valley peoples such as Sumerians and early Assyrians thought of man as mortal. The Egyptians were obviously obsessed with the after life. Persians had a view about the after life - and about the battle of good and evil - Zoroastrianism. And the Greeks offered Platonism and a host of other philosophies that included after-lifes. Some offered resurrection; others, not.

    All of these civilizations over ran or influenced Judea.

    A hung jury was the status when Christianity arrived on the scene. It was influenced, but made some calls of its own.

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