Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

The Historical Jesus: Recommended Reading

February 19, 2015 Leave a comment


With the rise of interest in studies of the historical Jesus and the increasing presence of mythicism on the internet, Bible believers are advised to be well informed on the subject of Jesus historicity. This article provides a balanced reading list of resources presenting the evidence for Jesus’ historicity and the authenticity of the Jesus tradition, and addressing mythicist claims.

Works by Christians

This is a select list of recommended works on the historical Jesus by Christian scholars. There are too many to describe in detail, but it is worth noting the authors who are considered most useful and authoritative in the field; Craig Blomberg, William Lane Craig, James Dunn, Craig Evans, Gary Habermas, Craig Keener, John Meier, Stanley Porter, and Robert Van Voorst.

  1. Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997).
  2. Darrell L Bock, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: Baker Academic ; Apollos, 2002).
  3. Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002).
  4. Ronald K. Craig, William Lane; Lüdemann, Gerd; Copan, Paul; Tacelli, Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate between William Lane Craig & Gerd Lüdemann (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).
  5. Tom Evans, Craig A. Wright, Jesus, the Final Days (ed. Troy A. Miller; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2008).
  6. Bruce David Chilton and Craig A. Evans, Authenticating the Words of Jesus (Brill, 1999).
  7. Michael R. Cosby, Portraits of Jesus: An Inductive Approach to the Gospels (Westminster John Knox Press, 1999).
  8. Pieter F. Craffert, The Life of a Galilean Shaman: Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological-Historical Perspective (vol. 3; Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2008).
  9. Markus Cromhout, Jesus and Identity: Reconstructing Judean Ethnicity in Q (vol. 2; Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2007).
  10. Donald L. Denton, Historiography and Hermeneutics in Jesus Studies: An Examination of the Work of John Dominic Crossan and Ben F. Meyer (vol. 262; London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004).
  11. John P. Dickson, The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know about Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010).
  12. James D. G Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2003).
  13. James D. G. Dunn and Scot McKnight, The Historical Jesus in Recent Research (Eisenbrauns, 2005).
  14. James D. G. Dunn, A New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005).
  15. Craig A Evans, “Jesus in Non-Christian Sources,” in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (ed. Bruce David Chilton and Craig Alan Evans; Brill, 1998), 443–78.
  16. David Flusser and R. Steven Notley, Jesus (The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2001).
  17. Joel B. Green and Max Turner, Jesus of Nazareth Lord and Christ: Essays on the Historical Jesus And New Testament Christology (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994).
  18. I. Howard Green, Joel B.; McKnight, Scot; Marshall, ed., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992).
  19. Leonard J Greenspoon, M. Dennis Hamm, and Bryan F LeBeau, The Historical Jesus Through Catholic and Jewish Eyes (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 2000).
  20. Brian Han Gregg, The Historical Jesus and the Final Judgment Sayings in Q (Mohr Siebeck, 2006).
  21. Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1996).
  22. Tom Holmén and Stanley E Porter, Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011).
  23. Leander E Keck, Who Is Jesus? History in Perfect Tense (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2000).
  24. Craig S Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2009).
  25. John S. Kloppenborg and John W. Marshall, Apocalypticism, Anti-Semitism and the Historical Jesus: Subtexts in Criticism (vol. 275; Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series; T&T Clark International, 2005).
  26. Leif E. Kloppenborg, John S.;Vaage, ed., Early Christianity, Q and Jesus (vol. 55; Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 1992).
  27. J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2006).
  28. Clive Marsh and Steve Moyise, Jesus and the Gospels: 2nd Edition (Continuum, 2006). Criteria of authenticity.
  29. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, Rethinking the Historical Jesus (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1991-2009). Published in four volumes, criteria of historicity and authenticity.
  30. Stanley E. Porter, Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004).
  31. Mark Allan Powell, Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998).
  32. Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede (trans. W. Montgomery; 2d ed.; London: Adam and Charles Black, 1911).
  33. Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz, Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998).
  34. Robert E Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2000).
  35. Ben Witherington III, The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (2nd ed.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
  36. Ben Witherington III, What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History—Why We Can Trust the Bible (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006).
  37. Thomas R Yoder Neufeld, Recovering Jesus: The Witness of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2007).

Works by non-Christians

These works are useful because they provide non-Christian scholarly perspectives of the historical Jesus, and cannot be dismissed by non-Christians as biased in favour of Christian beliefs. Naturally these works give no credence to the gospels’ accounts of supernatural events such as Jesus’ miracles and his resurrection, and their assessments of how Jesus was viewed by his disciples does not always agree with our own. Nevertheless, they are important witnesses to the extent to which Jesus’ historicity is well established within mainstream secular scholarship, proving it is not merely a fringe view confined to Christians

Bart D Ehrman, Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). Assesses the New Testament evidence for the life and work of Jesus, applying criteria of authenticity. This book is useful for learning how the criteria of authenticity are applied, and for understanding the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.

Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (HarperCollins, 2012). Describes the historical evidence confirming the existence of Jesus, and addresses a range of mythicist arguments and books, from the scholarly to the populist. This book is useful for learning how the criteria of historicity are applied, understanding the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, and understanding and answering standard mythicist arguments.

Bart D. Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (Harper Collins, 2014). Explains the process by which Jesus became known as God. Whilst agreeing with the scholarly consensus that Jesus did not consider himself divine or teach his followers that he was divine, Ehrman believes that at least some of the early first century Christians (including those who contributed to the New Testament), were already starting to see Jesus as a divine being in some way. This book is useful for learning how later Christians developed the doctrine of the Trinity, and provides excellent evidence that neither Jesus nor his disciples considered him to be divine.

Michael Grant, Jesus. (New York NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977). Very useful as an account of Jesus by a secular professional historian, and still considered a standard work in the field.

Maurice Casey, Jesus of Nazareth an Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching (London; New York: T & T Clark, 2010). Focuses on the language of the gospels to reconstruct the historical Jesus in the context of 1st century Judaism, with a particular emphasis on identifying authentic Aramaic sayings of Jesus behind the Greek text of the gospels. On the basis of this approach, Casey dates Mark’s gospel extremely early (c. 40 CE), earlier than the earliest of Paul’s letters (1 Thessalonians, c. 51 CE). Casey’s Aramaic reconstructions have been recognized as shedding important light on the historical Jesus, even though they have not all been accepted. His very early date for Mark has not been widely accepted, but is considered possible by mainstream scholarship.

Maurice Casey, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? (London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2014). Casey’s last work on the historical Jesus (Casey died in May 2014), addressing specifically the typical mythicist arguments. A strongly worded book, Casey identifies numerous weaknesses in the mythicst case, which he characterizes as a fringe view held almost exclusively by non-scholars, or by a very small number of scholars without directly relevant professional qualifications. This work is useful as a resource for a scholarly consideration of recent mythicist arguments typically found online rather than in print publications.

James G. Crossley, Reading the New Testament: Contemporary Approaches (Routledge, 2010). A valuable work explaining how standard professional historical methodology is applied to New Testament research and the subject of the historical Jesus. Crossley describes the various forms of historical analysis applied to the gospels, and explains in detail the criteria of authenticity used in the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Crossley dates Mark’s gospel to around 35 CE, even earlier than the date proposed by Casey, but although his case for this date has not been accepted, it is still taken seriously by mainstream scholarship and is considered within the bounds of possibility.

R. Joseph Hoffmann, Jesus Outside the Gospels (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1984). Hoffman’s early work on the historical Jesus concluded that very little could be verified about his life, and cast doubt on the authenticity and accuracy of the gospel records. Nevertheless, he concluded in favour of the historicity of Jesus. This book is mainly useful as a contrast to his late work, demonstrating how his views shifted over time.

R. Joseph Hoffmann, Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2010). Edited by Hoffman (who wrote most of the chapters), this book contains essays from atheist members of The Jesus Project, a secular investigation of the historical Jesus which started in 2008 and was terminated in 2009 (despite having been planned to run for five years). The book received mixed reviews from atheists, and even from members of The Jesus Project itself. It is useful as an introduction to typical arguments made against the historicity of Jesus by writers such as Robert Price, Richard Carrier, Frank Zindler, and Robert Eisenman.

Living On The Edge: challenges to faith

September 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Today Christians in the Western world are typically living in a post-Christian society. Christian beliefs are met with skepticism, and people see little reason to believe. Christians are confronted with daily challenges to their faith, and often struggle to understand the relevance of Christianity to modern life.

The book ‘Living On The Edge: challenges to faith‘ (due to be printed in November 2013), addresses those concerns. For an overview of the book, click here.

Mortalism 3: The Medieval Era

January 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Conditional immortality was retained through the late medieval era and early Middle Ages by Jewish commentators such as Isaac of Nineveh[1] [2] (d.700), Abraham Ibn Ezra[3] [4] (1092-1167), Maimonides [5] [6] (1135-1204), and Joseph Albo[7] (1380-1444).

Persian Christian Ab al-Farag Hibat Allah ibn Al-‘Assal, believed souls (though conscious when dead), would not receive final reward or punishment until the resurrection.[8]

Views also changed as purgatory was rejected,[9] and defending the immortal soul from ‘Scripture alone’ proved difficult,[10] with serious consequences.[11]

Notable conditionalists of this era include:

l  -1384: John Wycliffe [12]

l  1490-1527: Michael Sattler[13] [14]

l  1527-1700[15]: Anabaptists[16] [17]

l  1494-1536: William Tyndale[18]

l  1540: Camillo Rentao[19]

l  1500-1545: Matyas Devai[20]

l  1511-1553: Michael Servetus[21]

l  d. 1562: Laelius Socinus[22]

l  1563: Faustus Socinus[23]

l  1565: Polish Brethren[24]

l  1504-1568: Dirk Philips[25]

l  1568: Gregory Paul[26]

l  1570-1800: Socinians[27]

l  1573: John Frith[28]

l  1574: George Schomann[29]

l  1576: Simon Budny[30]

[1] Also known as ‘Isaac the Syrian’, or ‘Isaac Syrus’.

[2] ‘”Isaac,” too, is convinced that the final reward and punishment for human deeds awaits the resurrection (e.g., Bedjan 724.4 from bottom). Then those who died in “peace and quiet” with the lord will find eternal peace (Bedjan 276.15), while sinners will be banished to a darkness far away from God (Bedjan 117f.). Gehenna, the kingdom of the demons (Bedjan 203.4 from bottom), is a place of fire, and on the day of judgment this fire will burst forth from the bodies of the damned (Bedjan 73.4.; 118.3-7). Until the resurrection, the dead must wait in Sheol, which the author seems to imagine as a collective grave (Bedjan 366.3 from bottom; 368.5; 369.4). Some passages in the corpus suggest that the dead continue to act, in Sheol, as they have during life (e.g., Bedjan 90.13; 366.10-18). Others declare that action for good or ill is no longer possible after death (e.g., Bedjan 392.4 from bottom), and even envisage Sheol, before the judgment, as a place of fire ruled over by Satan (Bedjan 93.4f.).’, Daley, ‘The hope of the early church: a handbook of patristic eschatology’, pp. 174-175 (1991).

[3] ‘But Ibn Ezra held that the souls of the wicked perish with their bodies.’, Davidson, ‘The Doctrine of Last Things Contained in the New Testament, Compared With Notions of the Jews and the Statements of Church Creeds’, p. 139 (1882).

[4]The medieval thinker who most approximates Maimonides’ own view is Abraham ibn Ezra (1092–1167). In his commentary to Dan. 12:2, he accepts the notion of a double dying, with the second resurrection remaining totally spiritual.’, Gillman, ‘Death and Afterlife, Judaic Doctrines Of’, in Neusner, ‘The Encyclopedia of Judaism’, volume 1, p. 206 (2000).

[5] ‘Maimonides claims that since the greatest punishment would be to lose one’s immortal soul, the souls of the wicked are destroyed along with their bodies.’, Rudavsky, ‘Maimonides’, p. 105 (2010).

[6]His view posits a theory of a double dying: we die once, we are then resurrected sometime around the coming of the Messiah (which, for Maimonides, is a period independent of and prior to “the age to come”); we then die a second time, and, after that, in the age to come, the souls of the righteous achieve the ultimate reward reserved for souls alone, as he described in Helek. Resurrection and spiritual immortality are both true, but they emerge sequentially.’, Gillman, ‘Death and Afterlife, Judaic Doctrines Of’, in Neusner, ‘The Encyclopedia of Judaism’, volume 1, p. 205 (2000).

[7]Maimonides’ views are reasserted by Joseph Albo (1380–1444) in his Book of Principles.’, ibid., p. 206.

[8] ‘The author advocated the belief that souls, though conscious of their destiny during the period between death and resurrection, enter the final state of blessedness or punishment only after reunion with the body.’, Meinardus, ‘Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity’, p. 59 (2010).

[9] ‘Beliefs and practices relating to the dead represented a thread visibly protruding from the theological and devotional apparel of traditional religion. It did not take long for both defenders and assailants of the old order to understand that if this thread were pulled upon vigorously enough, the entire fabric might start to unravel.’, Marshall, ‘Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England’, p. 47 (2002).

[10] ‘As did Calvin, Martyr took upon himself a Herculean task in trying to uphold the immortality of the soul with a handful of vague New Testament texts (e.g. Luke, 23:43) against the defenders of soul sleep who had a plentiful supply of denials of immortality garnered from the early strata of the Old Testament.’, Donelley, ‘Calvinism and Scholasticism in Vermigli’s doctrine of man and grace’, pp. 99-100 (1976).

[11] ‘Beliefs and practices relating to the dead represented a thread visibly protruding from the theological and devotional apparel of traditional religion. It did not take long for both defenders and assailants of the old order to understand that if this thread were pulled upon vigorously enough, the entire fabric might start to unravel.’, Marshall, ‘Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England’, p. 47 (2002).

[12] ‘During the pre-Reformation period, there seems to be some indication that both Wycliffe and Tyndale taught the doctrine of soul sleep as the answer to the Catholic teachings of purgatory and masses for the dead.’, Morey, ‘Death and the Afterlife’, p. 200 (1984).

[13] ‘He has written at length on psychopannychism, the doctrine of soul sleep, widely held in the sixteenth century by such diverse figures as Camillo Renato, Michael Sattler, and for a while, Martin Luther.’, Williams, Petersen, & Pater (eds.), ‘The contentious triangle: church, state, and university: a festschrift in in Honor of Professor George Huntston Williams’, Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, volume 2, p. (1999).

[14] ‘It appears that Sattler came to hold the doctrine of psychopannychism, or sleep of the soul’, Synder, The life and thought of Michael Sattler’, p. 130 (1984).

[15] Generally accepted date of the Anabaptists’ emergence as a distinctive community, represented by the Schleitheim Confession, a statement of faith written by Swiss Anabaptists at a meeting led by Michael Sattler.

[16] ‘Many who became Anabaptists also believed that the soul is not naturally immortal but “sleeps” between death and the final resurrection. Some affirmed, further, that only the righteous would be resurrected, while the unrighteous would simply remain dead. Many denied hell. The Venice Synod affirmed soul sleep and rejected hell (ibid., pp. 871-72).’, Finger, ‘A contemporary Anabaptist theology: biblical, historical, constructive’, p. 42 (2004).

[17] ‘At a synod of 1550 in Venice, the unorthodox Italian Anabaptists denied the existence of the Devil and hell, as well as the existence of angels, the virgin birth, and the divinity of Christ.’, Russell, ‘Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World’, p. 49 (1990)

[18] ‘The belief that the soul goes to sleep at the death of the body to await eventual resurrection was held by both Martin Luther and William Tyndale’, Watts, ‘The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution’, p. 119 (1985).

[19] ‘The Italian Anabaptist movement has been traced to the leadership of Camillo Renato, a Sicilian scholar who escaped from imminent danger in Italy to settle in southern Switzerland and who, in the 1540s, held the position “that the soul of man is by nature mortal, and dies with the body, to be raised at the last day in another forum, though the souls of the wicked will perish.”’, Simmonds, ‘Milton Studies’, volume 8, p. 193 (1975).

[20]One might add that the sleep of the dead was affirmed by the Hungarian reformer, Matyas-Biro Devay (ca. 1500 – ca. 1545).’, Vauchez, ‘The History of Conditionalism’, Andrews University Seminary Studies (4.2. 198-199), 1966.

[21]Servetus also believed the soul to be but mortal, with immortality bestowed only by the grace of Christ at the resurrection. In other words, he also held to Conditional Immortality.’, ibid., p. 115.

[22]In Poland and Lithuania the mortalist cause was advanced by Laelius Socinus, who left among his papers a work concerning the resurrection, De resurrectione corporum, which, “following Camillo Renato . . . attempted to replace the V Lateran teaching of the natural immortality of the soul”.’, Ball, ‘The Soul Sleepers: Christian Mortalism from Wycliffe to Priestley’, p. 36 (2008).

[23] ‘Faustus himself came to hold the Paduan view of man’s natural mortality and the death of the soul with the body,’, Ball, ‘The Soul Sleepers: Christian Mortalism from Wycliffe to Priestley’, p. 37 (2008).

[24] ‘When Sozzini arrived in Poland, the Polish Brethren already shared many of his beliefs, such as antitrinitarianism, the denial of the literal preexistence of Christ, psychopannychism [soul sleep] and the emphasis on the moral commandments of the Gospel.’, Snobelen, ‘Revelation and Reason: The Development, Rationalization and Influence of Socinianism’, honors thesis, p. 46 (1993).

[25] ‘Resurrection, moreover, would be a future historical event, not simply the soul’s entrance into heaven or hell at death. Soul sleep would apparently precede the resurrection, for this would awaken all people, who had been “at rest from death.”‘, Finger, ‘A contemporary Anabaptist theology: biblical, historical, constructive’, p. 536 (2004).

[26] ‘Gregory Paul had followed Laelius and, since 1568, had taught that the soul, like the body, is mortal, awaiting the resurrection.’, Williams, ‘The Radical Reformation’, p. 739 (1962).

[27] ‘But among philosophers they were perhaps equally notorious for their commitment to the mortalist heresy; this is the doctrine that denies the existence of a naturally immortal soul.’, Jolley, ‘The relation between theology and philosophy’, in Garber & Ayres (eds.), ‘The Cambridge history of seventeenth-century philosophy’, volume 1, p. 383 (2003).

[28] ‘Tracy had looked forward to the ‘resurrection of body and soul’, a phrase that left him open to charges of denying the soul’s immortality. Frith defended him from this, but glossed the phrase to refer to ‘the soule whiche in the meane ceason semeth to lye secret‘. According to the hostile account of Germaine Gardiner, Frith stated during his last imprisonment ‘that he thought no sayntes soule came in heven before the day of dome/but in the meane season reposed hym selfe he wiste not where‘.’, Marshall, ‘Beliefs and the dead in Reformation England’, p. 223 (2002).

[29] ‘…Schomann outlined a number of distinctive beliefs, including believers’ baptism by immersion, psychopannychism, [soul sleep]’, Snobelen, ‘Revelation and Reason: The Development, Rationalization and Influence of Socinianism’, honors thesis, p. 34 (1993).

[30]There is no possible ambiguity, however, with the energetic Simon Budny, the anti-Trintiarian leader in Lithuania and Little Poland, who in 1576 openly advocated a form of thnetopsychism, declaring that the soul was nothing more than the life of the body and had no independent existence.’, Ball, ‘The Soul Sleepers: Christian Mortalism from Wycliffe to Priestley’, p. 37 (2008).

Mortalism 2: Early Christian beliefs

January 29, 2011 4 comments

The earliest post-apostolic Christian confessions of faith[1] do not refer to heaven or hell, but do mention the resurrection. Most writers from the first to the seventh century believed in an immortal soul and eternal torment in hell. [2] [3]

Soul sleep[4] or soul death[5] was occasionally understood to be followed by eternity in heaven or hell subsequent to the resurrection.[6] Conditionalism was preserved by early Christians such as Arnobius, [7] [8] and among Syrian Christians such as Aphrahat,[9] [10] Ephrem,[11] [12] [13] Narsai,[14] [15] and Jacob of Sarug. [16] [17]

Syrian Christianity inherited both soul death and soul sleep[18] [19] [20] [21] [22] from earlier Jewish teaching.[23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28]

[1] The first century ‘Didache’ and the ‘Old Roman Symbol’, which came to be known as the ‘Apostles’ Creed’.

[2]Concerning its nature, many early fathers, including the apologist Justin (Dial 45.4) and the Latin fathers Tertullian (Deres 5ff) and Jerome (cf. Ep 119), assumed a fiery hell.’, Bromiley, ‘Hell’, in Bromiley (ed.), ‘The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia’, volume 2, p. 677 (rev. ed. 1988).

[3] ‘While we freely admit that there are indications that some of the early fathers believed in the final annihilation or salvation of the wicked, it is clear that the majority of fathers believed in a conscious afterlife and eternal punishment.’, Morey, ‘Death and the Afterlife’, p. 60 (1984).

[4] The belief that people still exist in some non-physical form after death, but remain completely unconscious.

[5] The belief that people do not exist at all after death.

[6]Some have believed in the annihilation of the wicked after they should have undergone just punishment proportioned to their sins. This supposition has had a considerable number of advocates. It was maintained, among others, by Arnobius, at the close of the third century, by the Socini, by Dr. Hammond, and by some of the New England divines.’, Alger, ‘The Destiny of the Soul: A Critical History of the Doctrine of  a Future Life’, p. 546 (14th ed. 1889).

[7]The theory of annihilationism in which the wicked pass into nonexistence either at death or the resurrection was first advanced by Arnobius, a 4th-century “Christian” apologist, according to standard reference works such as Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (p. 184).’, Morey, ‘Death and the Afterlife’, p. 199 (1984).

[8] ‘Already in the fourth century Arnobius taught the annihilation of the wicked.’, Hoekama, ‘The Bible and the Future’, p. 266 (1994).

[9] ‘On the subject of the fate of souls after death. Aphrahat insists – as does Ephrem – “that as yet no one has received his reward. For the righteous have not inherited the Kingdom, nor have the wicked gone into torment” (8.22; fc. 20). At present, the dead simply “sleep” in their graves, which are collectively referred to as Sheol, or the underworld. Their capabilities for activity and experience are, apparently, almost non-existent, “for when people die, the animal spirit is buried with the body and sense is taken away from it, but the heavenly spirit they receive [i.e. the Holy Spirit, given in baptism] goes, according to its nature, to Christ” (6.14). Aphrahat, however, seems to ascribe to the dead a kind of anticipatory consciousness of their own future which is akin to dreaming in earthly sleep.’, Daley, ‘The hope of the early church: a handbook of patristic eschatology’, p. 73 (1991).

[10] ‘The wicked will be sent back to Sheol, the real of Death under the world (22.17.24; cf. 6.6), where they will be punished in the measure and the way that their sins deserve – some in “outer darkness,” others in unquenchable fire, others by simple exclusion from the presence of God (22.18-22).’, ibid., p. 73.

[11] ‘Ephrem, too, conceives of the time between our death and the second coming of Jesus as a “sleep,” a period of inactivity in virtually every aspect of human existence. Because his anthropology is more highly developed than Aphrahat’s, and because he is so insistent – in contrast to Bardaisan and other earlier, more dualistic Syriac writers – that the human person needs both body and soul to be functional, Ephrem seems to imagine that this sleep as [sic] deprived even of the “dreaming” Aphrahat mentions. For Ephrem, the soul without the body is “bound,” “paralyzed” (CN 476.6); it is like an embryo in its mother’s womb or like a blind or deaf person: “living, but deprived of word and thought” (HP 8.4-6).’, ibid., p. 74.

[12] ‘Because of his insistence on the positive role of the body in human life and its necessity for a full human existence (e.g., CN 47.4), Ephrem sees eschatological reward and punishment as delayed until the resurrection of the dead. Resurrection will begin when souls are “awakened” from their sleep by the angel’s trumpet and the commanding voice of God (CN 49.16f.).’, ibid., p. 75.

[13] ‘Ephrem’s picture of Gehenna is less detailed and more traditional than his picture of heaven. The damned there seem to suffer most from their awareness that they have lost all hope sharing in beauty and happiness (HP 2.3f.; 7.29).’, ibid., p. 76.

[14] ‘Following in the tradition of Ephrem and Aphrahat, as well as that of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Narsai assumes that the souls of the dead do not receive the reward or punishment for their deeds until they are reunited with their bodies in the resurrection; until then, they must all wait in Sheol, the earthly place of the dead, in a state of conscious but powerless inactivity that Narsai refers to as a “sleep.”‘, ibid., p. 174

[15] ‘The Nestorian Narsai described the soul and the body as a pair of inseperable lovers who could not live the one without the other. From the moment that her lover deserted her, he recounts, nephesh lost her speech and fell into a deep slumber. In spite of this, even in this state of forced inertia, she maintained her essential characteristics: her galloping intellect, her acute judgement, the emotions that open up a view in the world. The reason that all her faculties had ceased to function is that they had no more any purpose to serve, since the body for the sake of which they operated was no longer there. Nephesh recovered her sentience and her speech at the end of time when, together with the body, she rose to give an account for her deeds. Till then she felt no pain or joy. The vague knowledge she had of what was in store for her scarcely disturbed her peaceful sleep.’, Samellas, ‘Death in the eastern Mediterranean (50-600 A.D.): the Christianization of the East: An Interpretation’, Studien Und Text Zu Antike Und Christentum, pp. 56-57 (2002).

[16]His eschatology remains within the Syriac tradition. Thus he speaks often of death in personified terms, as the captor of an enslaved human race or as an insatiable glutton; although Sheol, where the dead now exist, is a dark place of sleep. Jacob also describes the experience of death as a dangerous journey across a sea of fire.’, Daley, ‘The hope of the early church: a handbook of patristic eschatology’, p. 175 (1991).

[17]On the influence of hypnopsychism on the theology of Jacob of Sarug see M. D. Guinan, “Where are the dead? Purgatory and Immediate Retribution in James of Sargu,” in Symposium Syriacum 1972, pp. 546-549.’, Samellas, ‘Death in the eastern Mediterranean (50-600 A.D.): the Christianization of the East: An Interpretation’, Studien Und Text Zu Antike Und Christentum, p. 56 (2002).

[18]The doctrine of the ‘sleep of the soul’ after death, a Syrian tradition held in common with Ephrem, Narsai and others’, Murray, ‘Symbols of church and kingdom: a study in early Syriac tradition’, p. 279 (2006).

[19]In virtually every period of Byzantine history, critical voices denied that the souls of the dead could involve themselves in the affairs of the living or intercede on their behalf in heaven. Based on a more unitive, materialist notion of the self as irreducibly embodied, some thinkers argued that the souls of the dead (sainted or otherwise) were largely inert, having lapsed into a state of cognitive oblivion and psychomotor lethargy, a condition sometimes described as a state of “sleep” in which the soul could only “dream” of its future punishment or heavenly reward. Still others argued for the outright death of the soul, which, they claimed, was mortal and perished with the body, and which would be recreated together with the body only on the day of resurrection.’, Constas, ‘”To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”: The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature’, in Talbot (ed.), ‘Dunbarton Oaks Papers’, No. 55, p. 94 (2001).

[20]Till the end of the sixth century and beyond, Christians in Nisibis and Constantinople, Syria and Arabia adduced Leviticus 17:11 which states that “The soul of the whole flesh is the blood” to argue that the soul after death sank into non-existence, that it lost its sensibility and stayed inert in the grave together with the body.’, Samellas, ‘Death in the eastern Mediterranean (50-600 A.D.): the Christianization of the East: An Interpretation’, Studien Und Text Zu Antike Und Christentum, pp. 55-56 (2002).

[21]others arose in Arabia, putting forward a doctrine foreign to the truth. They said that during the present time the human soul dies and perishes with the body, but that at the time of the resurrection they will be renewed together.’, Eusebius (a contemporary), ‘Ecclesiastical History’ (6.37.1), NPNF2 1:297.

[22] ‘It is unclear if Arabian thnetopsychism [‘soul death’] is related to the Syriac tradition of the soul’s dormition [sleep] espoused by writers like Aphrahat (d. ca. 345), Ephrem (d. 373), and Narsai (d. 502), according to whom the souls of the dead are largely inert, having lapsed into a state of sleep, in which they can only dream of their future reward or punishments.’, Constas, ‘”To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”: The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature’, in Talbot (ed.), ‘Dunbarton Oaks Papers’, No. 55, p. 110 (2001).

[23] ‘In his comments on Aphraates, [Aphrahates, a Syrian Christian sage] Braun suggests that he must have been acquainted with contemporaneous rabbinic teaching as to the condition of the soul and body after death. In much the same vein Redepenning thinks that the ‘heresy of the Arabians,’ which caused the dissension that Origen had to settle, was none other than a bit of Jewish tradition which the Church had taken over, Gavin, ‘The Sleep of the Soul in the Early Syriac Church’, Journal of the American Oriental Society (40.116), 1920.

[24] ‘we can see that its connections are Jewish and perhaps also Persian.’, Murray, ‘Symbols of church and kingdom: a study in early Syriac tradition’, p. 279 (2006).

[25] ‘in VIII.397.15 he [Aphrahat] says ‘our faith teaches us‘ the doctrine of the sleep of the soul after death, which seems to come from various but ultimately Jewish sources‘, ibid., pp. 22-23.

[26] ‘Gouillard notes that variations of thnetopsychism [‘soul death’] and hypnopsychism [‘soul sleep’] existed alongside the views of the official church until the sixth century when they were resoundingly denounced by Eustratios.’, ibid., p. 111.

[27]Thnetopsychism [‘soul death’] continued to challenge the patience and ingenuity of church officials, as evidenced by writers such as John the Deacon, Niketas Stethatos, Philip Monotropos (Dioptra, pp. 210, 220), and Michael Glykas, all of whom are keenly interested in the survival of consciousness and memory among the souls of the departed saints. John the Deacon, for example, attacks those who “dare to say that praying to the saints is like shouting in the ears of the deaf, as if they had drunk from the mythical waters of Oblivion” (line 174).’ ibid., p. 111.

[28] ‘The Syriac tradition of the soul’s “sleep in the dust” (Job 21:26), with its links to the Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic, stands as a corrective to overly Hellenized views of the afterlife, and was canonized at a Nestorian synod in the eighth century (786–787) presided over by Timothy I (d. 823), who rejected anything else as blatant Origenism.’, ibid., p. 111.