Content in the Bible has an historical aspect, influenced by actual events, and even older myths such as the myth of creation created by the Ancient Sumerians and the Epic of Galgamesh, which also has a great flood similar to that of Noah.
One of the truths of the Hebrew Bible, what we refer to as the Old Testament, is that the Jews originally did not believe in an after life. This is a history that many people, particularly those who live a truly Christian life and follow the Bible, either fail to admit or, more likely, are never taught. It's as though this is a past many believed was best forgotten.
The truth is that the traditional Jewish view is that "everything ends with death. There is no surviving soul, no afterlife; life can be characterized as journey from 'dust to dust.' For this reason there were in Israel no known death cults and no vivid conception of life after death." That is according to Plinio Prioreschin in his book "A history of medicine." (volume I, page 505)
Surely Prioreschi may simply be a non-Christian pent on posing doubt on the Church, however I don't think so. I likewise believe knowledge of the truth, an accurate past, does not alter one's ability to believe in God. I think the best example of that is what happened in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I think we can have an accurate view of history, an accurate view of the universe, and still believe in God. Truth and Religion can live side by side.
You can believe in evolution and still believe in God. Truly you know there is too much evidence to support evolution to deny it. The same can be said of the Big Bang Theory of the start of earth. And that the Earth was created in seven days, a myth that goes back to Ancient Mesopotamia, is not an accurate representation of reality. Adam had a wife before Eve according to most interpretations of the Bible, and her name was Lilith. She was evil, and hence we have the Lulluby to pray each night to prevent her from taking each child (hence, an early knowledge in infant death syndrome).
So the truth can be known and we can still believe. So when I say the Jewish didn't believe in an Afterlife I'm not saying I'm an atheist. I Believe. I BELIEVE! Yet I still believe in the truth. I still believe in the truth. I believe history. I believe facts. I believe science. I believe that even quotes in the Bible itself support this.
Consider the following that prove the Bible understands the afterlife:
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust... and the earth shall cast out the dead. (Isaiah 28:19)However, we must understand that the first quote comes from Daniel, which is a late addition to the Bible. The second is open to speculation.
The original Jewish view is that God gives us life and then upon death it is taken away, given back to the earth, hence the phrase "dust to dust."
Now consider the following:
Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake. For in death there is no rememberence of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks. (Psalms 6 4:5)Consider the following quote by Prioreschi (page 506):
Some passages of the Bible have been interpreted as meaning that death is the separation of body and soul. For example, in Genesis 35:18, it is said that when Rachel died her soul departed: "And it came to pass as her soul was departing, (for she died) that..."; in I Kings 17:21, Elijah, praying for the life of the widow's son, cried: "O Lord, my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul return into him again;" in Ecclesiastes 12:7 it is said: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
While these passages could indicate that, indeed, death is a separation of the body from the soul, if the words translated as "sould" or "spirit" are instead translated as "life" or "last breath" or "life breath", then the meaning of the above changes completely in this respect. Concerning Rachel's soul departing, the New American Bible reads: "With her last breath - for she was at the point of death - she." I Kings 17:21 and Ecclesiastes 12:7 also have a different meaning in The New American Bible, which reads respecitvely: "O Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child" and "And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it." (Prioreschi, page 507)The following also refers to the traditional Jewish view of life, soul, ends with death:
Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works... Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave wither thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9: 7-10This view, as Prioreschi notes, was unique among ancient religions, and it did pose a problem. Many people complained that this view rewarded evil. If you were evil in this life, and you were good in this life, the evil person was never punished and the good never rewarded. Consider the following:
...I saw the prosperity of the wicket.. They are not in trouble as other men.. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish... Behold these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. (Psalms, 73: 3,5,7,12)
Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgements: Wherefore doth the way of teh wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy and deal very treacherously? Thou has planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit... (Jeremiah 12: 1-2)This problem enticed the Church to change the view, and thus eternal life was given to the group as opposed to the individual. The group, the Jewish people as a unit, would have eternal life.
Consider the following:
I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and built up thy throne to all generations. (Psallms 89: 3-4)
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: they throne shall be established for ever. (II Samuel 7:16)
I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and thy shall inherit it for ever. (Exodus 32: 13)This encouraged the group to work together, to stay together, regardless of how strong life was. This unique view allowed the Jewish community to survive even when they were reduced to nothing. This allowed them to stay together even when they were held captive for years under the Egyptians, and allowed a man like Moses to walk them away from Ramses II, accross the sea, across a desert, to become near death, and to survive and finally find the land of the Jews.
In this way God will not punish the wicked individual, he will only punish the group, and he does from time to time. Yet he rewards the Jewish people for their good works. And he states that only the Jews will get to Heaven, only those who believe in Him. And in this way he rewards those who Believe.
So when Jeremiah asked, "Wherefore doth the way of teh wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy and deal very treacherously?" The Lord answers:
"But the Lord thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed." (Deuteronomy 7:23)
For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. (Isaiah 60:12
But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 12:17)Prioreschi notes "the Jews, throughout the millennia, have identified individual immortality with the immortality of the group. The fear of death was assuaged not with the thought "I will live forever in the after life," but with "my people shall live forever in this world." For them, there shall be no end of the world, no day of judgement, no Dies irae,The chosen people shall exist for ever and ever. This belief, deeply rooted in the Jewish ethos, no only explains the survival of the Judaic faith, but also the incredible resilience of the Jews as an ethnic group. In spite of persecutions, oppression, attempted exterminations, that have tormented for millennia, the Jews have survived. When any other ethnic group would have given up its identity and resigned itself to absorption, they upheld the faith of their fathers who exchanged their personal immortality for the immortality of the group."
This view, thus, effected the endurance of the Ancient Jewish people and still affects us to this day as we continue to believe in their God, whose values continue to be inculcated on our society. Every study I've ever seen on the subject shows that people who believe in God, those who worship him, are more healthier, more successful, and happier than those who don't.