31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A Weighty Tome,
This review is from: Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion (Hardcover)
Alan F. Segal's book "Life After Death" is my first read of his work, and certainly the most massive book I have read in some time. Considering the sheer scope of the topic Segal has attempted to cover, the size of the book should come as no surprise. However, the physical weight is where the "weightiness" ends.
Now, before you freak out about over 700 pages of text on life after death, it should be emphasised that Segal writes in a very accessible and easy going manner. A few of the words he uses require a dictionary, (at least, I needed one), but the incidence of this was not a burden. Segal keeps you moving and presents a great level of quotation from ancient sources to highlight his points. His manner and style of presentation and discussion are absolutely fantastic.
Segal presents the beliefs of different cultures from a more social viewpoint than anything, and deals with how these beliefs can illustrate what the people thought of about themselves and the world about them. What you end up with is a very interesting discussion not just on life after death, but also some of the political, cultural and social concerns that went into them. This makes for a very well-rounded discussion.
Segal takes you through various cultures and civilisations, and throughout he inter-connects various ideas between them to show how they illustrate each other by contrast or simularity. These cultures include chapters on Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Canaan, Israelite, (broken into various chapters), and much more, including detailed chapters on Christian views and their development through the centuries.
This book is really a great overview of the topic, and it is relatively easy to find from Segal's referencing further material for more specific reading. Segal has done exceptionally well to squeeze such a vast topic into about 750 well-written and dynamic pages.
This book gets a big "thumbs-up" from me. I will certainly be reading more of Segal's work in the future.