What happens after we die? Is there a “heaven?” Is there a “hell?” If so, what does either of these look like?
The historical development of these ideas is the subject of Bart Ehrman’s Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. Bart Ehrman is perhaps the world’s best known critic of evangelical Christian faith, having grown up in the evangelical world until he deconverted out of it in graduate school. His New York Times best selling Misquoting Jesus has made him one of most widely read biblical scholars in our day at the popular level, sought after by the media almost every time a major story arises within Christianity.
With such a title, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife really peaked my interest. As you will read in this review, I really got into it and made dozens of notes. For over the past few years during the COVID pandemic, I have known of several friends who died of the disease, some of whom were at a relatively young age. I, myself, had a close brush with death about four years ago, after an automobile slammed into my bicycle on a busy road, throwing me back into the driver’s windshield. Thankfully, the only major injury I had was a concussion, that knocked me out cold for about an hour. The paramedics told me that I could have easily died, if the driver had hit me at a higher rate of speed. So, the topic of the afterlife is pretty pertinent to me, a lot more urgent than when I was a teenager, when I thought I was invulnerable to death.