In our previous post we pondered on the Star Child concept. The query arises, what does become of a human after the physical shell is no more?
Each person on the planet traversing the cosmos is distinct. What happens to that distinctness?
Various religious traditions have given it immortality. The transmigration of the soul recycles the distinctness into other life forms.
The Christian view in many circles advocates the heaven/hell realities. Other Christian traditions are not too certain about human fate after death.
It seems to me that Christianity as defined in the New Testament has two distinct strands. The Gospels depict the Son of Man and his philosophy about the life on this earth and the kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul‘s systematic theology spells out the framework of the young movement with certain doctrinal pillars. The Christian church today is really a reflection of Paul instead of the Nazarene Teacher.
Paul was a Hellenistic Jew. His Old Testament was the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).
Paul’s Hellenistic Judaism was fading as the Jerusalem and other centers of Judaism were seeking to toss off any vestiges of Roman and Greek influences. The zealots wanted to restore the Israel of David and Solomon.
The young movement, founded by the Nazarene Teacher with its deep roots in the traditional Judaism, became the embryonic sac for Hellenistic Judaism. The Hellenistic Jews were reborn into the Way, the Christian movement. Their influence and direction deviated from the simple teachings of the wandering Carpenter from Nazareth.
Paul and other Hellenistic Jews eventually took control of the movement as Gentiles were added by the thousands. The original Apostles focused on their Jewish compatriots as Paul and his followers went to the Roman centers to recruit new converts to the Way.
In Paul’s theology he advocated a number of things not found in the Gospels. One of his basic assumptions was on immortality.
One would assume because of the Hellenistic influences he would have adopted the current belief in the immortality of the soul which pervaded Roman and Jewish societies of his day. His take on immortality is revealed in several texts,
The most startling one, because of the culture of his day, is the following:
“He alone has immortality and lives in light that no one can come near. No human being has ever seen or is able to see him. Honor and eternal power belong to him. Amen.” Common English Bible I Timothy 6:16
The He in the above text refers to Paul’s God, the only Ruler, and the King of kings and Lord of lords who dwells in star light, candela to the nth power. If God only has immortality, then Paul stands in direct opposition to the current belief of his world which gave immortality freely to all.
The Olympian gods depended on doves to bring them ambrosia (ἀμβροσία). Ambrosia was the essential element to ensure immortality for these beings.
Unlike these gods dependent on the rare ambrosia, Paul’s God possessed immortality in its originality. No dependence was necessary.
In other texts Paul speaks of immortality being imputed to the believer at the resurrection of the dead. This seems to harken back to Genesis, the story of origins, where Elohim exiled the man and woman from Eden before they can partake of HaEtz HaChayyim, the tree of life and have immortality.
If humans possessed immortality, then it would not be necessary to bestow it at the resurrection. This is Paul’s reasoning.
In the glorious vision of the Johannine Revelation 22 the tree of life is mentioned as a massive entity spanning the river of life. Rabbinic tradition described the tree of life like a living tower reaching into the clouds which would require a mortal man 500 years to reach the top branches.
What can we conclude from Paul and the Johannine School? Immortality is a gift given to the faithful by God.
Of course many do not subscribe to the notion of immortality. For them life on this earth is all they can expect or hope. They are born, live and die.
For those in religious traditions which believe there is life after the physical shell either on earth reborn or in an empyreal realm, it proffers some hope for the vicissitudes of transitory life. It makes the origins of life a bit less mysterious.
Is Marianne Moore correct in her conclusion to IN DISTRUST OF MERITS,
“Beauty is everlasting and dust is for a time”?
If the beauty of immortality waits after the dust has returned to the cosmos, will the cosmic stream welcome you into its currents of renewing life? Will the effluence of immortality be a reality for humans in the cosmic ocean?
What do you believe? What are your hopes? What do you think? Is all of this just wishing upon a star for fate to grant a dream? Are we just destined to be born, to live and to die, to fade from existence with all our hopes and dreams? All that you were and could have been is lost forever in the dim shadows of that dreamless, eternal sleep?
G. D. Williams © 2013