What is Heaven?
A: Heaven, or the heavens, is a common
cosmological, or transcendent place where beings such as gods, angels, spirits, saints, or venerated ancestors are said to originate, be enthroned, or live.
According to the beliefs of some religions, heavenly beings can do what?
A: Descend to earth or incarnate, and earthly beings can ascend to heaven in the afterlife, or in exceptional cases enter heaven alive.
Heaven is often described as a "higher place", the holiest place, a Paradise, in contrast to what?
A: To hell or the Underworld or the "low places", and universally or conditionally accessible by earthly beings according to various standards of divinity, goodness, piety, faith, or other virtues or right beliefs or simply the will of God.
Some believe in the possibility of a what?
A: A heaven on Earth in a World to Come.
Another belief is in an axis mundi or world tree which connects what?
A: The heavens, the terrestrial world, and the underworld.
In Indian religions, heaven is considered as Svarga loka, and the soul is again subjected to what?
A: Rebirth in different living forms according to its karma.
This cycle can be broken after a soul achieves what?
A: Moksha or Nirvana.
Any place of existence, either of humans, souls or deities, outside the tangible world (heaven, hell, or other) is referred to as what?
The modern English word heaven is derived from what?
A: The earlier (Middle English) heven (attested 1159); this in turn was developed from the previous Old English form heofon.
By about 1000, heofon was being used in reference to what?
A: The Christianized "place where God dwells", but originally, it had signified "sky, firmament" (e.g. in Beowulf, c. 725).
The ancient Mesopotamians regarded the sky as a series of domes (usually three, but sometimes seven) covering what?
A: The flat earth.
Each dome was made of a different kind of what?
A: Precious stone.
The lowest dome of heaven was made of what?
A: Jasper and was the home of the stars.
The middle dome of heaven was made of what?
A: Saggilmut stone and was the abode of the Igigi.
What was the highest and outermost dome of heaven made of?
A: Luludānītu stone and was personified as An, the god of the sky.
The celestial bodies were equated with what?
A: Specific deities.
The planet Venus was believed to be what?
A: Inanna, the goddess of love, sex, and
The sun was her brother Utu, the god of what?
A: Justice, and the moon was their father Nanna.
In ancient Near Eastern cultures in general and in
Mesopotamia in particular, humans had little to no what?
A: Access to the divine realm.
Heaven and earth were separated by their very nature; humans could see and be affected by elements of the lower heaven, such as stars and storms, but ordinary mortals could not go to heaven because it was what?
A: The abode of the gods alone.
After a person died, his or her soul went to where?
A: Kur (later known as Irkalla), a dark shadowy underworld, located deep below the surface of the earth.
All souls went to the same afterlife, and a person's actions during life had what impact on how he would be treated in the world to come?
Nonetheless, funerary evidence indicates that some people believed what?
A: That Inanna had the power to bestow special favors upon her devotees in the afterlife.
Despite the separation between heaven and earth, humans sought access to the gods through what?
A: Oracles and omens.
The gods were believed to live in heaven, but also in their temples, which were seen as what?
A: The channels of communication between earth and heaven, which allowed mortal access to the gods.
The ancient Hittites believed that some deities lived in Heaven, while others lived where?
A: In remote places on earth, such as mountains, where humans had little access.
In the Middle Hittite myths, heaven is the abode of whom?
A: The gods.
In the Song of Kumarbi, Alalu was king in heaven for how long before giving birth to his son, Anu?
A: Nine years.
Anu was himself overthrown by whom?
A: His son, Kumarbi.
As in ancient Near Eastern cultures, in the Hebrew
Bible, the universe is commonly divided into what two realms?
A: Heaven (šāmayim) and earth (’ereṣ).
The structure of heaven itself is never fully described in what?
A: The Hebrew Bible.
The fact that the Hebrew word šāmayim is plural has been interpreted by scholars as an indication that the ancient Israelites envisioned the heavens as having what?
A: Multiple layers, much like the ancient Mesopotamians.
This reading is also supported by the use of what phrase in verses such as Deteronomy 10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, and 2 Chronicles 2:6 and 6:18?
A: "Heaven of heavens".
In line with the typical view of most Near Eastern cultures, the Hebrew Bible depicts heaven as what?
A: A place that is inaccessible to humans.
Although some prophets are occasionally granted temporary visionary access to heaven, such as in 1 Kings 22:19-23, Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6, and Isaiah 6, they hear only what?
A: God's deliberations concerning the earth and learn nothing of what heaven is like.
There is almost no mention in the Hebrew Bible of heaven as a possible what?
A: Afterlife destination for human beings, who are instead described as "resting" in Sheol (Genesis 25:7-9, Deuteronomy 34:6, 1 Kings 2:10).
The God of the Israelites is described as ruling what?
A: Both heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19 22 24:3, Psalm 146:6).
Other passages, such as 1 Kings 8:27 state what?
A: That even the vastness of heaven cannot contain God's majesty.
A number of passages throughout the Hebrew Bible indicate that heaven and earth will one day what?
A: Come to an end (Psalm 102:26-27, Isaiah 13:5, 14:26, 24:18, 51:6, Jeremiah 4:23-28, and Zephaniah 1:2-3 and 18).
This view is paralleled in other ancient Near Eastern cultures, which also regarded heaven and earth as what?
A: Vulnerable and subject to dissolution.
The Hebrew Bible differs from other ancient Near Eastern cultures in that it portrays the God of Israel as what?
A: Independent of creation and unthreatened by its potential destruction.
Because most of the Hebrew Bible concerns the God of Israel's relationship with his people, most of the events described in it take place where?
A: On earth, not in heaven.
The Deuteronomistic source, Deuteronomistic History, and Priestly source all portray the Temple in Jerusalem as what?
A: The sole channel of communication between earth and heaven.
During the period of the Second Temple (c. 515 BC – 70 AD), the Jewish people lived under the rule of first the Persian Achaemenid Empire, then the
Greek kingdoms of the Diadochi, and finally whom?
A: The Roman Empire.
Their culture was profoundly influenced by whom?
A:The peoples who ruled them.
Consequently, their views on existence after death were profoundly shaped by the ideas of whom?
A: The Persians, Greeks, and Romans.
The idea of the immortality of the soul is derived from Greek philosophy and the idea of the resurrection of the dead is derived from what?
A: Persian cosmology.
By the early first century AD, these two seemingly incompatible ideas were often what?
A: Conflated by Jewish thinkers.
The Jews also inherited from the Persians, Greeks, and Romans what idea?
A: The idea that the human soul originates in the divine realm and seeks to return there.
The idea that a human soul belongs in heaven and that the earth is merely a temporary abode in which the soul is tested to prove its worthiness became increasingly popular during what period?
A: The Hellenistic period (323 – 31 BC).
Gradually, some Jews began to adopt the idea of heaven as the eternal home of whom?
A: The righteous dead.
Descriptions of heaven in the New Testament are more fully developed than those in the Old Testament, but are still what?
A: Generally vague.
As in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, God is described as the ruler of heaven and earth, but his power over the earth is what?
A: Challenged by Satan.
Sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels of Mark and Luke speak of the what?
A: The Kingdom of God.
The Gospel of Matthew more commonly uses what term?
A: The Kingdom of Heaven.
Both phrases have exactly the same meaning, but why did the author of the Gospel of Matthew change the name "Kingdom of God" to "Kingdom of Heaven" in most instances?
A: Because it was the more acceptable phrase in his own cultural and religious context in the late first century.
Modern scholars agree that the Kingdom of God was an essential part of what?
A: The teachings of the historical
In spite of this, none of the gospels ever record Jesus as having what?
A: Explained exactly what the phrase "Kingdom of God" means.
What is the most likely explanation for this apparent omission?
A: That the Kingdom of God was a commonly understood concept that required no explanation.
Jews in Judea during the early first century believed that God reigns what?
A: Eternally in Heaven, but many also believed that God would eventually establish his kingdom on earth as well.
This belief is referenced in the first petition of what?
A: The Lord's Prayer, taught by Jesus to his disciples and recorded in both Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2: "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Because God's Kingdom was believed to be superior to any human kingdom, this meant that God would necessarily do what?
A: Drive out the Romans, who ruled Judea, and establish his own direct rule over the Jewish people.
In the teachings of the historical Jesus, people are expected to prepare for what?
A: The coming of the Kingdom of God by living moral lives.
Jesus also taught that, in the Kingdom of Heaven, there would be a reversal of what?
A: A reversal of roles in which "the last will be first and the first will be last" (Mark 10:31, Matthew 19:30, Matthew 20:16, and Luke 13:30).
Traditionally, Christianity has taught that heaven is the location of what?
A: The throne of God as well as the holy angels, although this is in varying degrees considered metaphorical.
The resurrected Jesus is said to have ascended to heaven where he now does what?
A: Sits at the Right Hand of God and will return to earth in the Second Coming.
Various people have been said to have entered heaven while still alive, including whom?
A: Enoch, Elijah and Jesus himself, after his resurrection.
According to Roman Catholic teaching, Mary, mother of Jesus, is also said to have been assumed into heaven and is titled what?
A: The Queen of Heaven.