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The History of Hell Paperback – October 13, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st Harvest ed edition (October 13, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156001373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156001373
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an arresting journey through the netherworld, Playboy fiction editor Turner explores the landscape and dynamics of Hell as envisioned by writers, artists, theologians and thinkers from Plato and Augustine to Milton, Calvin, Byron and T. S. Eliot. Starting with the worlds of the dead of the Sumerians, Egyptians, Zoroastrians, Greeks, Romans and Jews, Turner moves on to the sketchy biblical basis for Christian Hell and its increasing importance in thinking about the afterlife. After the fact of Hell was settled, it was up to writers like Bede, Gregory the Great and most of all Dante to give the graphic descriptions of an infernal region where the wicked endure torments. Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire poured cold water on the idea of Hell, yet, as Turner shows, Hell, far from disappearing in the 20th century, has been one of its central metaphors. Scores of intriguing black-and-white plates reveal how Bosch, Giotto, William Blake, Michelangelo, Rodin and others have shaped popular images of the underworld. Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Turner, the fiction editor of Playboy magazine, takes the reader on more of a geographical than a theological tour of hell. She begins her examination of the concept of hell in ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean societies, tracing its evolution into that held by the Christian Church. She considers the devil such a complex subject that he remains peripheral to her discussion. The study emphasizes the depiction of hell by such artists as Virgil, Dante, Michelangelo, Milton, and Blake and the bewildering assortment of hells within the history of Christianity. Turner remains alert to the humor lurking behind many depictions of hell, such as in medieval mystery plays. Her scholarship is thorough but not obtrusive. Suitable for informed lay readers.
- Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It was a very interesting read.
cswong
I purchased this book decades ago.
grace williams
The illustrations are outstanding.
Jack M Pyle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Will Errickson on February 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
A beautifully illustrated work of witty, perceptive and wide-ranging scholarship, Turner presents a multi-faceted Hell that one can't help but be drawn to. The chapters are fairly short and readable--this is no heavy, dry academic tome, although you'd have to be a complete bore to make this subject anything less than fascinating--at least for me. There's not much of hell at all in the Bible; most of our perceptions of hell were indeed formed by Milton and Dante and other works outside the Christian biblical canon. Turner concentrates on how images of the infernal place have changed over centuries, and how our philosophies of what is human, what is good, etc. change and adapt. She's a sharp, insightful writer, although I suspect her sometimes irreverent, agnostic tone may turn off some readers. I could be wrong though! I recommend this along with Jeffrey Burton Russell's "Prince of Darkness" (perhaps the single best book on the Devil himself, from 1988); Paul Carus' "The Devil"; and Lauren Paine's "The Hierarchy of Hell." Together these books are a long gaze into the abyss....
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Matthew S. Schweitzer on December 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Alice Turner's "History of Hell", while a seemingly glossy coffetable book, turns out, in fact, to be a well written introduction to the history and mythology of the Underworld as it appears throughout many cultures and religions over the past 5000 years.
The book begins with the earliest recorded tradtions of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Egyptians and their ideas of the afterlife and the Underworld and how these notions greatly influenced later cultures and religions like Ancient Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christiantiy, and Islam. She relates the traditions of the Greco-Roman Underworld and all the attendant gods and goddesses and how it is with Greek and Roman literature that the Infernal regions begin to grow in prominence. It is however in Chritianity that the notion of an Infernal Underworld of pain, torture, and enternal suffering for sinners and evil-doers comes to the real forefront. Christianity is the only religion that seems to place such heavy emphasis on the existence of a place of eternal damnation, where demons torture the souls of the deceased and the Devil presides over all. Turner examines the literature of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Milton, and others, as the myths of Hell grow and change over time to become the popular notion we still hold today of Hell as a place of fire, brimstone, and torment, as well as the effect of art in the common perceptions of Hell. It is quite an intersting fact that while we should aspire to the paradise of Heaven, it is the Inferno that continues, after all this time, to fascinate and captivate our imaginations.
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65 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Davenport on January 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
The subject matter on this book is, by nature, rather on the dark side. I had to take it in small doses because it can be depressing to focus heavily on this sort of thing. On the other hand, it was well researched, thorough, and highly-informative.

Where I think Ms. Turner lost some direction is in her conclusion that Christianity teaches the doctrine of a fiery, burning hell. Yes, I know - many churches in Christendom do teach this as a doctrine - and most Bible translations translate the original language words 'hades', 'Gehenna', and 'sheol' as "Hell" or "Hellfire". but with careful (and honest) research, it becomes apparent that Bible translators (Not the bible writers)have been heavily influenced by paganism and writers such as Dante (1265 to 1321 AD).

Consider, for example one of the Greek words translated as "Hellfire": 'Gehenna' This is the Greek spelling of the Hebrew, "ge-Hinnom", or the "Valley of Hinnom". This valley, located southwest of Jerusalem, takes its name from a man, whose name was Hinnom and his sons who apparently came to own this property. It was in this valley that wicked kings, Ahaz and Manasseh sacrificed their children in the fire as an offering to Baal (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6). Of this practice, God said, "To burn their sons and their daughters with fire, which I did not command, nor did it come up on My heart." (Jeremiah 7:31). In this valley, these kings also practiced witchcraft, sorcery, divination, and also built up "high places" in worship of false Gods. Later, Josiah had parts of this valley polluted to render it unfit for any such practices in the future. In Jesus' day, the Valley of Hinnom was being used as a garbage dump.

There is a curious anomaly however, that seems to affect many, if not most translations of the Bible.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dubious Disciple on January 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is not a new book; I dug it from my shelves just to write this review. It's not a scholarly-looking book; the oversize cover, glossy pages, and color pictures on every other page make it look more like a children's book than a theological treatise. It's not the work of a notable scholar; Ms. Turner is better known for her fiction and as an editor for Playboy. So what is this review doing on my blog today?

Against all odds, this is an important book about an important topic. Is it Alice's fault that she manages to turn it into a fun read as well?

The History of Hell begins at the beginning, with the earliest religious beliefs of an underworld. You'll explore the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Zoroastrianism. You'll move forward in time to the Greek understanding of Hades, the Platonic description of Hell, and the Hebrew teachings of Sheol. As these ideas merge into one, you begin to see glimpses of today's Christian version of Hell emerging.

In time, Purgatory arrives. Christian ideas continue to evolve through the centuries, giving birth to artwork and stories like Dante's Inferno, as imaginations let loose. Satan, once destined to chains in a dark netherworld transforms before your eyes into an evil taskmaster. Now, trident in hand, he gleefully tortures lost souls in a lake of fire forever and ever, amen.

You continue to travel through the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, through the 19th century, and on into today's time, as Hell continues to evolve. Why is this journey important? Why put yourself through Hell? Because, as Christians, it's vitally important to our spiritual well-being to understand that we have made our own version of Hell.
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