The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Epigraphic Evidence for early Christian views of the afterlife?


Hi Friends,

I was wondering if anybody knows if there is any epigraphic evidence from the first 400 years of the church that describes Christian beliefs on the afterlife? I know there are some that describe prayer for the dead. Does anyone know who are the top specialists in the field, something more recent than Hanson?


Well…you can’t get much earlier than the apostle Paul on the subject. The emphasis was on the resurrection. Paul wrote, in effect, that unless there is a resurrection, we may as well eat, drink, and be merry, for there would be nothing more.

…If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. (1Corinthians 15:32 ASV)

I have found that other early Christian writers throughout the centuries who wrote of the afterlife also indicated the resurrection to be the all-important aspect of the afterlife.

Later, when the idea of going to heaven immediately after death caught on, “resurrection” was redefined to mean the “soul” or “spirit” being raised immediately after death or continuing to live through death, and going to heaven right away.

I recall attending two funerals in one day. In the morning, the speaker at the funeral said, “Mr. H will live again!” When he said that a kind of thrill went through my being. It seemed to be a glorious truth!

In the afternoon, the speaker at the funeral said, “Mrs. K did not die. She just walked through a door.”
To me this did not sound like a statement that described reality. It sounded like a fairy tale.


Here’s an allegedly more modern day epitaph that has a few slight variants to it going around…

Here lies the body of Solomon Peas, under the sod and under the trees; Peas in not here, only his pod, Peas has shelled out and gone home to God.


Not exactly what I was looking for, but it at least earned a chuckle…:slight_smile: