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Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion

Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion

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.

Introduction: The Undiscover’d Country

Part I: The Climate of Immortality

Chapter 1: Egypt

Chapter 2: Mesopotamia and Canaan

Chapter 3: The First Temple Period in Israel

Part II: From Climate to the Self

Chapter 4: Iranian Views of the Afterlife and Ascent to the Heavens

Chapter 5: Greek and Classical Views of Life After Death and Ascent to the Heavens

Chapter 6: Second Temple Judaism: The Rise of a Beatific Afterlife in the Bible

Part III: Visions of Resurrection and the Immortality of the Soul

Chapter 7: Apocalypticism and Millenarianism: The Social Backgrounds to the Martyrdoms in Daniel and Qumran

Chapter 8: Religiously Interpreted States of Consciousness: Prophecy, Self-Consciousness, and Life After Death

Chapter 9: Sectarian Life in New Testament Times

Part IV: The Path to Modern Views of the Afterlife

Chapter 10: Paul’s Vision of the Afterlife

Chapter 11: The Gospels in Contrast to Paul’s Writings

Chapter 12: The Pseudepigraphic Literature

Chapter 13: The Church Fathers and Their Opponents

Chapter 14: The Early Rabbis

Chapter 15: Islam and the Afterlife: Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Fundamentalism

Afterword: Immortal Longings

Notes

Bibliography