What Jewish denominations believe in an afterlife?

It appears there is a judgement of the world to come but that doesn't specify if there is an afterlife or not. This question makes me think Judaism traditionally doesn't. This question states Orthodox Jews do.

  • 1
    Could you please flesh out the body of your question with more explanation of what you're looking for and why? What makes you think that any Jewish denominations believe in an afterlife? What makes you think that only some do, and not all? Please edit to clarify.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 15:55
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    Belief in an afterlife is consistent with Reconstructionist Judaism. While I don't think it's "required" (however one might mean that), it's generally supported. Also reincarnation, though fewer people might believe.
    – Cyn
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 19:49
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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/47936 judaism.stackexchange.com/q/23376
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 17:08

1 Answer 1


See Wikipedia - Jewish eschatology

Until the late modern era, the standard Jewish belief was that after one dies, one's immortal soul joins God in the world to come while one's body decomposes. At the end of days, God will recompose one's body, place within it one's immortal soul, and that person will stand before God in judgement. The idea of a messianic age has a prominent place in Jewish thought, and is incorporated as part of the end of days. Jewish philosophers from medieval times to the present day have emphasized the soul's immortality.

Medieval rabbinical views

While all classic rabbinic sources discuss the afterlife, the classic Medieval scholars dispute the nature of existence in the "End of Days" after the messianic period. While Maimonides describes an entirely spiritual existence for souls, which he calls "disembodied intellects," Nahmanides discusses an intensely spiritual existence on Earth, where spirituality and physicality are merged. Both agree that life after death is as Maimonides describes the "End of Days." This existence entails an extremely heightened understanding of and connection to the Divine Presence. This view is shared by all classic rabbinic scholars.

In contemporary Judaism

Irving Greenberg

Irving Greenberg, representing a Modern Orthodox viewpoint, describes the afterlife as a central Jewish teaching, deriving from the belief in reward and punishment. According to Greenberg, suffering Medieval Jews emphasized the World to Come as a counterpoint to the difficulties of this life, while early Jewish modernizers portrayed Judaism as interested only in this world as a counterpoint to "otherworldly" Christianity. Greenberg sees each of these views as leading to an undesired extreme - overemphasizing the afterlife leads to asceticism, while devaluing the afterlife deprives Jews of the consolation of eternal life and justice - and calls for a synthesis, in which Jews can work to perfect this world, while also recognizing the immortality of the soul.

Conservative Judaism both affirms belief in the world beyond (as referenced in the Amidah and Maimonides' Thirteen Precepts of Faith) while recognizing that human understanding is limited and we cannot know exactly what the world beyond consists of.

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism affirm belief in the afterlife, though they downplay the theological implications in favor of emphasizing the importance of the "here and now," as opposed to reward and punishment.

The quoted Wikipedia article says

In the late Second Temple period, beliefs about the ultimate fate of the individual were diverse. The Essenes believed in the immortality of the soul, but the Pharisees and Sadducees, apparently, did not.[37].

“Pharisaic beliefs became the foundational, liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism.”. It is therefore surprising that the Wikipedia article asserts that the Pharisees did not believe in the immortality of the soul.

This article says that

In the afterlife, the Pharisees believed that the evil would be punished for their sins and the good be rewarded and so acted accordingly. The Sadducees by contrast “dismissed the idea of a soul living after death and punishment in the next world.”

This article too points out Josephus held that

the Pharisees, the Jewish sect that founded rabbinic Judaism to which Paul once belonged, believed in reincarnation. He writes that the Pharisees believed the souls of evil men are punished after death.


The Sadducees rejected all Persian concepts such as resurrection, angels, or spirits. The Sadducees did not emphasize life after death at all …

I conclude that the Sadducees did not believe in the immortality of the soul while the Pharisees did.

So it seems that most Jewish denominations believe in the afterlife; the Sadducees did not believe in the afterlife.


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