Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion
A magisterial work of social history, Life After Death illuminates the many different ways ancient civilizations grappled with the question of what exactly happens to us after we die.
In a masterful exploration of how Western civilizations have defined the afterlife, Alan F. Segal weaves together biblical and literary scholarship, sociology, history, and philosophy. A renowned scholar, Segal examines the maps of the afterlife found in Western religious texts and reveals not only what various cultures believed but how their notions reflected their societies’ realities and ideals, and why those beliefs changed over time. He maintains that the afterlife is the mirror in which a society arranges its concept of the self. The composition process for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam begins in grief and ends in the victory of the self over death.
Arguing that in every religious tradition the afterlife represents the ultimate reward for the good, Segal combines historical and anthropological data with insights gleaned from religious and philosophical writings to explain the following mysteries: why the Egyptians insisted on an afterlife in heaven, while the body was embalmed in a tomb on earth; why the Babylonians viewed the dead as living in underground prisons; why the Hebrews remained silent about life after death during the period of the First Temple, yet embraced it in the Second Temple period (534 B.C.E. –70 C.E.); and why Christianity placed the afterlife in the center of its belief system. He discusses the inner dialogues and arguments within Judaism and Christianity, showing the underlying dynamic behind them, as well as the ideas that mark the differences between the two religions. In a thoughtful examination of the influence of biblical views of heaven and martyrdom on Islamic beliefs, he offers a fascinating perspective on the current troubling rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
In tracing the organic, historical relationships between sacred texts and communities of belief and comparing the visions of life after death that have emerged throughout history, Segal sheds a bright, revealing light on the intimate connections between notions of the afterlife, the societies that produced them, and the individual’s search for the ultimate meaning of life on earth.
From the Hardcover edition.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Adapa afterlife ancient angels apocalyptic apocalypticism ascent Augustine Ba‘al believe Bible Biblical body Canaanite century Christ Christian church consciousness context cult culture Daniel Dead Sea Scrolls death depiction described divine doctrine early earth Egypt Egyptian Enkidu Enoch Epic evidence evil experience faith ﬁrst ﬂesh fundamentalist Gilgamesh Gnostic God’s gods Gospel Greek heaven heavenly Hebrew Hebrew Bible hell Hellenistic human immortality interpretation Isaiah Islam Israel Israelite Jesus Jewish mysticism Jews Josephus journey Judaism king literature living Lord Maccabees martyrdom martyrs means Mesopotamia Messiah Mishnah moral Muslim myth narrative notion Osiris passage Paul Persian person pharaoh Philo philosophical Plato prophecy prophets punishment Qumran Rabbinic religion religious resurrection revelation reward righteous RISC ritual Roman salvation scholars Scripture seems social soul spirit stars story suggests Temple Testament texts theurgy thought tion tomb tradition trans transcendent transformation Ugarit understand University Press vision word Zoroastrian