For the past three years, I have taught Scripture to our ninth grade religious education classes. Reading the Old Testament, there appeared to be a belief in an afterlife, but what those beliefs are was not clear to me at all. They used terms like “the world to come” and “going to be with our fathers”. There are several passages where people appear to be taken up without dying, like Elijah and Enoch, but it doesn't say where they went. In __________________, it talks about people going to the netherworld. I couldn't help but wonder - if Jewish people believe in an afterlife, why is the Torah so vague and how did their beliefs develop?
The Jewish faith has lacked a central authority that governs doctrine since the disappearance of the Sanhedrin. Therefore, one can not talk about Jewish belief in absolute terms. Jewish theology varies greatly between different groups. For this discussion, the beliefs of the Jewish people will be analyzed through the lens of twenty-first century Catholic doctrine. Thus, it may be prudent to briefly outline the teachings of the Catholic Church with regard to the afterlife.
The Apostle's Creed, which is the oldest profession of Christian belief, declares that Jesus “ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” It also states that “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, which dates from the fourth century C.E., states these points similarly but with slightly more detail. It states that Jesus “will come again in glory to ju...
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...ture: New Interactive Edition Resource Manual. Allen, TX: Tabor Publishing, 1995.
Rich, Tracey R. “Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife.” Judaism 101. 1999. Web. 21 July 2010.
Telushkin, Joseph. “Afterlife.” Jewish Virtual Library. 1991. Web. 21 July 2010.
The New American Bible. Wichita: Devore & Sons, Inc., 1987.
Berenbaum, Michael. "Pittsburgh Platform." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 16. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 190-191. 22 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. ST LEO UNIV. 17 Aug. 2010
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