The Judgment of the Dead: the Dawn of Man's Moral Consciousness

S.G.F. Brandon shows how the idea of a posthumous moral judgment, when the sheep will be divided from the goats, is deeply rooted in our cultural history.

“After death, judgment.” That this brief minatory statement does not sound strange in our secularist society attests the continuing influence of Christian tradition. Whatever the nature of one’s personal convictions, the idea that all men after death have to face divine judgment is generally familiar because it was, and is, an integral part of Christian belief.

But the idea is not peculiar to Christianity; it occurs in other religions, some of them far older than Christianity—indeed older than Judaism from which Christianity stemmed. The idea, however, although powerfully affective, is not self-evident. To trace its origins and early evolution is worthwhile, not only for its intrinsic interest, but because it affords valuable insight into the history of ethics and human behaviour.

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