Friday, October 05, 2007

Peter, Let Me In: Part 2

Here is Part 2 in my exchange with "montenell" on Jn 3:13 ("No one has ascended into heaven"). See Part 1 here.
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still fuzzy i understand what you're saying phat, but the bible says enoch and elijah were taken to heaven, but it seems like you're saying they werent. now i'm sure some would say that heaven means sky, but it still isnt clear to me yet
If you do a study of OT eschatology and of Jewish eschatological beliefs at the time of Christ, you'll find that the Jews believed that all souls, the righteous and the unrighteous, went to a place called Sheol, or Hades. For the righteous, Hades was a place of happiness and security in "the bosom of Abraham." For the unrighteous, Hades was a place of torment.

Enoch and Elijah were said to go to "heaven" b/c that was their word for the sky and the realm of the stars, and Enoch and Elijah were seen rising up into that space. We have to make sure that we are not imposing our own NT understanding of "heaven" onto the OT. Since we, as Christians, naturally think of heaven as the place of eternal beatitude with God, where we behold his face and worship him forever, it is hard not to apply this connotation to the word "heaven" whenever we read it in the OT. But, the Jews did not understand heaven in that way, and their beliefs about where souls went after death were different from what we believe as Christians who benefit from the Gospel of Christ and his victory over death and Hades.

For more on Sheol/Hades, see the following Protestant bible resources:I hope that helps.
ok i understand where you're going, so that leads me to what happened after they went up into the sky? did they die and then enter paradise(or whatever the good part of the grave was called) ? i know thats not found in the bible and leads to speculation
Well, since this taking up marks the end of their earthly lives, they received their reward after ascending into the heavens. Their reward could only be the "bosom of Abraham" (which is the part of Hades where the righteous dwell), b/c, as far as I can tell from my studies of OT eschatology, they had no conception of anything else but that. The prevalence of Sheol in the OT proves that this is not mere speculation. Plus, it is perennial Christian teaching that the gates of heaven were closed to every soul (b/c of the Fall of Adam) until Jesus Himself made heaven available to us.

Also, so as to anticipate another possible objection, it is true that entrance into Hades is most often seen as a descent, a moving downward, instead of an ascent, or moving upwards. But we have to keep in mind that the examples of Enoch and Elijah are extremely, EXTREMELY rare (as in 2 out of millions). I think that God raised them up into the sky b/c God was understood as looking down on them from the sky. Thus, the Jews would have interpreted the ascent of Enoch and Elijah into the sky as meaning that these two men were particularly Godly men. They "walked with God", and they were very much with Him and in Him throughout their lives.

Pax Christi,


Catholic said...

Great Catholic Website!

phatcatholic said...


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