The Problem of the Afterlife
This book tries to survey some of the existing arguments about life ‘after’ death, with chapters on material from Christian tradition (particularly the New Testament and the Early Church) and from the philosophy of religion. It then attempts to reach its own conclusions, drawing on Kant and Barth in order to suggest that death is to be overcome rather than survived.
Chapter Ten The Post-Biblical Period 157
Chapter Ten The Post-Biblical Period Did the end of the apostolic era and the growing (though never final) acceptance of a delayed Parousia lead to any changes in the perception of Christians concerning the ‘intermediate state’? What about the develop- ment of a belief in Purgatory? Did that not mean an ef fective acceptance (in Western but not Eastern Christianity) of the idea of an ‘intermediate state’? This chapter will attempt a (necessarily limited) survey of the post- biblical period. Post-biblical perspectives on the ‘intermediate state’ ‘The history of Christian ref lection on death’, writes Douglas Davies, ‘has, for its greatest part, often dwelt on the themes of heaven and hell as environ- ments of the afterlife, often with deep interest in some transitional stage whether in “soul sleep”, a “spirit prison”, limbo or purgatory’.1 It is impos- sible to cover all the dif ferent ideas concerning this transitional stage in the post-biblical period. However, some of the most important ones can certainly be considered. This chapter will highlight three – firstly the notion of ‘reassemblage’ (though not, strictly speaking, referring to a transitional stage, this provides a useful indication of why a transitional stage might be felt necessary), widely held during the millennium or so after the biblical period, secondly the idea of Purgatory and thirdly the idea of ‘soul sleep’, 1 Douglas Davies, The Theology of Death (London: T. & T. Clark, 2008), p. 75. 158 Chapter Ten a dormant period between death and resurrection which was an interesting bone...
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