Bart Ehrman, an influential NT scholar, at https://ehrmanblog.org/was-paul-the-founder-of-christianity/ says the following.
"Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was soon to
arrive with the appearance from heaven of the Son of Man. People needed
to prepare for that imminent catastrophic event by turning to God and
living in the ways that he decreed through the proper observance of the
Torah, principally by loving (and trusting) God above all else and by
loving their neighbors as themselves. Those who did so would survive
the coming onslaught and would be brought into the Kingdom.
Paul agreed that there was an imminent disaster to take place.
But in his view, that would happen when Jesus himself arrived from
heaven in judgment. The way a person would survive the onslaught was
not by obeying the Law of God or by loving their neighbors as much as
themselves. Salvation would come only by believing in Christ’s death
... In other words, Jesus preached about God and his coming Kingdom; Paul
preached about Christ and his death and resurrection. Important
similarities, yes; but also fundamental and crucial differences."
Of the four gospels in the NT it seem to me that the Gospel which is attributed as being according to Matthew is the one which comes the closest to saying what the entirely human Jew named Jesus taught. I also think it best represents the teachings of Jesus than any of the letters attributed to Paul (and according to Ehrman and other NT scholars many of the letters attributed to Paul are actually forgeries instead of being written by Paul).
At https://www.npr.org/transcripts/300246095 Bart Ehrman discusses his book called How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. Ehrman says the following.
"The earliest Christians thought that Jesus had been taken up into heaven
and then made a divine being and that he was coming back. And they
thought it was going to happen very soon. ...
Well, what I argue in the book is that during his lifetime, Jesus
himself didn't call himself God and didn't consider himself God and that
none of his disciples had any inkling at all that he was God. The way
it works is that you do find Jesus calling himself God in the Gospel of
John, our last Gospel. Jesus says things like: Before Abraham was, I am,
and I and the father are one, and if you've seen me, you've see the
These are all statements that you find only in the Gospel of
John, and that's striking because we have earlier Gospels, and we have
the writings of Paul, and in none of them is there any indication that
Jesus said such things about him. I think it's completely implausible
that Matthew, Mark and Luke would not mention that Jesus called himself
God if that's what he was declaring about himself. That would be a
rather important point to make.
So this is not an unusual view among scholars. It's simply the view that
the Gospel of John is providing a theological understand of Jesus that
is not what was historically accurate. ...
And so when Jesus told his disciples that he himself was the messiah, he
was saying that in the future, when God establishes the kingdom once
more, I myself will be the king of that kingdom. And so it's not that
the messiah was supposed to be God. The messiah was not supposed to be
God. The messiah was a human being who would be the future king, and
that's probably what Jesus taught his disciples that he was."
At https://www.npr.org/2020/03/31/824479587/heaven-and-hell-are-not-what-jesus-preached-religion-scholar-says Ehrman discusses his book called Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. There he says the following.
"Our view that you die and your soul goes to heaven or hell is not found
anywhere in the Old Testament, and it's not what Jesus preached. I have
to show that in my book, and I lay it out and explain why it's
absolutely not the case that Jesus believed you died and your soul went
to heaven or hell. Jesus had a completely different understanding that
people today don't have. ..
EHRMAN: I think one of the hardest things for people to get their minds
around is that ancient Israelites and then Jews and then Jesus himself
and his followers have a very different understanding of what the
relationship between what we call body and soul. Our view is that we -
you've got two things going on in the human parts. So you have your
body, your physical being, and you have your soul, this invisible part
of you that lives on after death, that you can separate the two and they
can exist - the soul can exist outside of the body. That is not a view
that was held by ancient Israelites and then Jews, and it's not even
taught in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, what we would call the soul is really more like
what we would call the breath. When God creates Adam, he creates him
out of earth, and then he breathes life into him. The life is in the
breath. When the breath leaves the body, the body no longer lives, but
the breath doesn't exist. We agree with this. I mean, when you die, you
stop breathing. Your breath doesn't go anywhere. And that was the
ancient understanding, the ancient Hebrew understanding of the soul, is
that it didn't go anywhere because it was simply the thing that made the
And so in the Old Testament, there's no idea that your soul goes
one place or another because the soul doesn't exist apart from the body.
Existence is entirely bodily. And that was the view that Jesus then
picked up. ...
EHRMAN: Right. So this is a really important shift for understanding
both the history of later Judaism and the history of later Christianity
and the historical Jesus. About 200 before Jesus was born, there was a
shift in thinking in ancient Israel that became - it became a form of
ideology, a kind of religious thought that scholars today call
apocalypticism. It has to do with the apocalypse, the revelation of God.
These people began to think that the reason there is suffering in the
world is not what the prophets had said, that it - because people sin
and God is punishing them; it's because there are forces of evil in the
world that are aligned against God and his people who are creating
suffering. And so you get these demonic forces in the world that are
creating misery for everyone.
But they - these apocalyptic thinkers came to think that God was
soon going to destroy these forces of evil and get rid of them
altogether, and the world would again return to a utopia. It'd be like
paradise. It'd be like the Garden of Eden once more. The people who
thought that maintained that this Garden of Eden would come not only to
people who happened to be alive when it arrived; it was going to come to
everybody. People who had been on the side of God throughout history
would be personally raised from the dead and individually would be
brought into this new era, this new kingdom that God would rule here on
EHRMAN: Yeah. That became a view somewhat in Judaism, and it became a
very pronounced view in Christianity. The - after Jesus. Jesus himself
held to the apocalyptic view that I laid out. He taught - his main
teaching is that the kingdom of God is coming. People today, when they
read the phrase kingdom of God, they think he's talking about heaven,
the place that your soul goes to when you die. But Jesus isn't talking
about heaven because he doesn't believe - he's a Jew - he doesn't
believe in the separation of soul and body.
He doesn't think the soul is going to live on in heaven. He thinks that
there's going to be a resurrection of the dead at the end of time. God
will destroy the forces of evil. He will raise the dead. And those who
have been on God's side, especially those who follow Jesus' teachings,
will enter the new kingdom here on Earth. They'll be physical. They'll
be in bodies. And they will live here on Earth, and this is where the
paradise will be. And so Jesus taught that the kingdom of God, this new
physical place, was coming soon, and those who did not get into the
kingdom were going to be annihilated.
What ends up happening is that, over time, this expectation that the
kingdom was coming soon began to be questioned because it was supposed
to come soon and it didn't come soon, and it's still not coming, and
when is it going to come? And people started thinking, well, you know,
surely I'm going to get rewarded, you know, not in some kingdom that's
going to come in a few thousand years, but I'm going to get rewarded by
God right away. And so they ended up shifting the thinking away from the
idea that there'd be a kingdom here on Earth that was soon to come to
thinking that the kingdom, in fact, is up with God above in heaven. And
so they started thinking that it comes at death, and people started
assuming then that, in fact, your soul would live on.
It's not an accident that that came into Christianity after the majority
of people coming into the Christian church were raised in Greek circles
rather than in Jewish circles because in Jewish circles, there is no
separation of the soul and the body. The soul didn't exist separately.
But in Greek circles, going way back to Plato and before him, that was
absolutely the belief. The soul was immortal and would live forever in
Greek thinking. And so these people who converted to Christianity were
principally Greek thinkers, they thought there was a soul that live
forever. They developed the idea, then, that the soul lived forever with
God when it's rewarded."
Folks note that what is being said above are the teachings of Bart Ehrman, an influential NT scholar; they are not the words of the WT though in number of respects Bart is teaching the same as the WT (and in some other respects he is teaching the same as atheistic naturalists [Bart now is an agnostic atheist]).
Folks, please read the rest of what Bart Ehrman says at https://www.npr.org/2020/03/31/824479587/heaven-and-hell-are-not-what-jesus-preached-religion-scholar-says . It is extremely insightful. When you do so note that he says the following.
"And the other interesting thing is that what the Gnostics did, by
reading their ideas into Jesus, is also what the Orthodox Christians
did, by putting words in Jesus' lips that supported their ideas of
heaven and hell. And so in our various Gospels, you have Jesus saying
all sorts of things that are contradictory because different people are
putting their own ideas onto his lips."