How should Luke 16.19­–31 shape our view of heaven and hell?

The story of the rich man and Lazarus appears on first reading to depict a detailed ‘map’ of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, but is this the right way to read it?

First, it is worth noting that the words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ themselves do not occur in the parable. The NT talks about post-mortem life in a range of ways, not all of them easy to reconcile with one another. Perhaps the most controlling one would be the idea of ‘sleep’ as used by Paul in, for example, 1 Cor 15. ‘Heaven’ in the NT mostly appears to refer to the realm of God’s presence, reign and reality, and the central NT hope is not that we will leave the earth to go to heaven, but that God’s realm will come down to the earth (see Rev 21). (See Tom Wright’s Grove booklet for the most accessible exposition of this.)

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Preaching on narrative

Last week I had the interesting experience of preaching on Mark 14–15.15, which covers the anointing at Bethany, Judas agreeing to betray Jesus, the last supper, Gethsemane, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, and Jesus before Pilate. Whew! But I learnt a lot from the experience.

1. This is not the usual way we treat these passages—most of the time I would imagine we aim to preach on each episode in detail. That is one way to read them, but another (and probably more common) way of reading in the early centuries would have been to have heard larger pieces of narrative, and so have a better feel for the whole ‘shape.’ At St Nic’s we have been working through Mark, and

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Is the NT mostly forged?

Attacks on the reliability of the NT have moved in recent years from focussing on the question of historical reliability to the question of how the NT documents were written, handled and included in what was to become ‘Scripture.’ This is because of the continuing discovery of earlier and diverse manuscripts, and the related discipline of textual criticism.

Chief amongst the antagonists has been Bart Ehrman, about whom I wrote here in connection with the BBC’s ‘Beauty of Books‘ which began with a critique of Codex Siniaticus.

Last month, Ehrman’s latest work Forged was published, claiming that the majority of books in the NT were actually written by people other than the ones later attributed to them. Renowned scholar Ben Witherington has written a detailed eight-part critique of Ehrman’s book; links to all parts can be found here at the last one and I include the links at the bottom of the page here. They are really worth reading if you have the time, since they offer a great education in the facts of early Christian writing, and assumptions in the wider first-century world. But I cite his

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