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Ancient Christian Understandings of Death and the Afterlife

Haley McDonough
Haley McDonough
Faculty Adviser(s)

Understandings of death and the afterlife have proved to be a point of controversy and concern for both early followers of Christ and modern Christians. The Gospels and New Testament letters attributed to Paul have historically served as a major reference point for believers who are seeking answers regarding their own death and for biblical scholars who are interested in studying ancient understandings of death and the afterlife. Two main issues were explored throughout the course of this study on biblical interpretations of death and the afterlife. The first issue of interest includes questions regarding the nature of the resurrected body which not only reveals essential aspects of the Christian afterlife but also reveals what ancient Christians thought were essential aspects of the human self. The second issue includes questions regarding the immediacy of life after death and reveals important insights about how ancient Christians viewed death itself. Through a close literary comparative analysis of the Gospels and New Testament Letters attributed to Paul, this study attempts to unravel ancient Christian understandings of the nature of the resurrected body and whether life after death occurs only at the last judgment or if life after death begins immediately upon the death of an individual.   


Haley McDonough is a senior at Salem College graduating with a dual degree in Religious Studies and Biochemistry. She aspires to pursue a career in Dentistry. She lives in Kernersville, North Carolina and enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and pets in her free time.