Evolution of Religious Ideas

This page will collect info about the evolution of ideas (aka theology) held by Hebrew/Judiasm thru Christianity regarding an afterlife.

From Dust to Dust

GENESIS 3:19 – By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The Concept of Sheol

Dr. James Tabor from this video – Job 14:7-10 states how it was then, and then v.13-15 says how it should be. The idea in this passage led to the idea that all go to Sheol until the wrath is past.

Job 7

7 “For there is hope for a tree,
    if it is cut down, that it will sprout again
    and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its root grows old in the earth
    and its stump dies in the ground,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
    and put forth branches like a young plant.
10 But mortals die and are laid low;
    humans expire, and where are they?
11 As waters fail from a lake
    and a river wastes away and dries up,
12 so mortals lie down and do not rise again;
    until the heavens are no more, they will not awake
    or be roused out of their sleep.
13 O that you would hide me in Sheol,
    that you would conceal me until your wrath is past,
    that you would appoint me a set time and remember me!
14 If mortals die, will they live again?
    All the days of my service I would wait
    until my release should come.
15 You would call, and I would answer you;
    you would long for the work of your hands.

Psalms 88

For my soul is full of troubles,
    and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
    I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
    like the slain that lie in the grave,

Psalms 139

Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and night wraps itself around me,”[a]
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

The Concept of Resurrection of the Dead & The Apocalypse

From the 2nd century BCE down through the 1st century CE – “a couple of centuries before Paul and Jesus

The doubting of a protective, compassionate God was being questioned due to the long-term suffering of the Jewish people whom the covenant said he would protect. Slavery under the Persians, then the Babylonians, and then the Romans should not have been happening. The idea developed of the just rising from the dead at the time God would return and deal with the bad guys wrathfully.

From Bart Ehram’s book Peter Paul and Mary Magdalene, page 119. The idea that there would be a future resurrection in which dead bodies were brought back to life came into existence only a couple of centuries before Paul and Jesus. It arose among Jews who were trying to explain how this world could be such a cesspool of suffering, even for the people of God, if God was the one who was ultimately in control of it. Their solution was that God might not seem to be in charge of this world, but he ultimately was, and he would demonstrate his control at the end, when all the forces of evil and the people who sided with them would face judgment for their opposition to God and his purposes—even dead people. At the end of this evil age, the dead would be raised, and those who sided with God would be treated to eternal bliss; those who sided with the powers of evil, and thrived as a result, would be subjected to eternal torment. God would have the last word, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him. We have seen that this was the teaching of Jesus. It was also the belief of other apocalypticists of his day, including Paul.

See Tabor’s Post A Cosmic Messiah Who “Makes Live the Dead” Among the Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments (4Q521)Parallels Between A New Dead Sea Scroll Fragment (4Q521) and the Early New Testament Gospel Tradition

In [Mark 9] line 11 we have a clear reference to the resurrection of the dead. Why is this so significant? Much ink has been spilled over the past few decades discussing whether or not the people who composed the Scrolls believed in the distinctively Jewish doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. We know that various Jewish groups during the Second Temple period disputed over this doctrine of the afterlife. The first references to the idea of the dead being raised occur only in very late portions of the Hebrew Bible (Daniel 12:1-3). It was a doctrine that was emerging in certain Jewish circles from the 2nd century BCE down through the 1st century CE. We see evidence of the dispute reflected in the Apocrypha and in the New Testament (2 Maccabees 12:43-45; 15:11-16; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:6-10).

1st – 2nd Century CE

Post Resurrection Parosia did not arrive and the authors of Matthew, Luke/Acts, and John along with the pseudo-Pauline letters glossed over it or reinterpreted it.

4th Century CE

The Diocletianic Persecution of 303-313 was the most severe persecution of Christians up to that point in history. Diocletian’s first edict commanded churches and holy sites razed to the ground, sacred articles burned, and believers jailed. However, in 313, the Western Roman Emperor Constantine (306–337) legalized Christianity through the Edict of Milan. He granted Christians “the right of open and free observance of their worship.” Wikipedia.

First Council of Nicaea – 325 CE

  • Constantine had invited all 1,800 bishops of the Christian church within the Roman Empire (about 1,000 in the East and 800 in the West), but a smaller and unknown number attended. Eusebius of Caesarea counted more than 250,[16]…The bishops did not come alone; each one had permission to bring with him two priests and three deacons, so the total number in attendance could have been above 1,800. 
  • The main purpose of the Council was to resolve disagreements brought about by the Arian controversy in the Greek-speaking east.[35] A dispute arose from within the Church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in his relationship to the Father: in particular, whether the Son had been ‘begotten’ by the Father from his own being, and therefore having no beginning, or else created out of nothing, and therefore having a beginning.[36] 
  • EASTER – Another result of the Council was an agreement on when to celebrate Easter, the most important feast of the ecclesiastical calendar, decreed in an epistle to the Church of Alexandria in which is simply stated: “We also send you the good news of the settlement concerning the holy pasch, namely that in answer to your prayers this question also has been resolved. All the brethren in the East who have hitherto followed the Jewish practice will henceforth observe the custom of the Romans and of yourselves and of all of us who from ancient times have kept Easter together with you.[40]
  • TrinityThe Council of Nicaea dealt primarily with the issue of the deity of Christ. The term “Trinity” was already in use, with the earliest existing reference being by Theophilus of Antioch (AD 115–181), referring to God, the Logos, and Sophia[131] (Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit was referred to by several Church fathers), though many scholars believe that the way the term was used indicates that it was known previously to his readers.
  • History & Text of the Nicene Creed is here.

Rome adopted Pauline Christianity in the 4th century, defined the Canon, and worked to remove the “heretics” and those who followed Jesus’ teachings.


The Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther and, IMO, when the bible was translated so the common person could read it.


The enlightenment in the late 19th century combined with the apocalyptic fervor beginning with Miller.