- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 28, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195152301
- ISBN-13: 978-0195152302
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.1 x 6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Early History of Heaven
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From Library Journal
Wright (Near Eastern studies, Univ. of Arizona) here delves into the origin and early development of Jewish and Christian thought about heaven and whether humans can go there. Examining ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman cultural contexts, biblical and extrabiblical texts, and archaeological findings, he explores a diversity of Jewish and Christian views about the cosmos and the afterlife. He accords the beliefs reflected in the Old and New Testament minority status and portrays them as a tool used by the religious elite (responsible for the final form of the canon) to control the masses and guard their own power and privilege. A number of Wright's statements regarding the wielding of heaven (and hell) as implements of compliance are polemical, making his work seem unbalanced, and since many of his sources are not in English, most general readers will be unable to evaluate his case. But he provides a more in-depth look at this period than Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang (Heaven: A History) or Jeffrey Burton Russell (A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence). Recommended for academic libraries only.
-Craig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
"This well organized volume synthesizes a large corpus of technical scholarship, making it an eminently useful work."--Choice
"Authoritative, well written, and carefully documented."--Church & Synagogue Libraries
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Top Customer Reviews
My only regret is that I didn't have his book through the thirty-five years I served as a parish pastor. It would have been an invaluable teaching resource. I envy anyone who hasn't yet read it. A treasure awaits!
There are times when Wright asserts that something is the case without verifying this claim through primary documentation or rational argumentation. For instance, on page 52, Wright avers:
"The Bible is thus a curated artifact--it contains a selective account of history and a biased religious perspective."
That is a pretty strong claim to make when the information that precedes or follows this asseveration neither substantiates nor supports this claim. Nor do I think this statement was necessary in view of his subject matter. Of course, what Wright says here is not really new for those of us acquainted with historical-critical literature. But if historical critics of the Bible are going to apply their own standards of rigor and proof consistently, then they must not employ ipse dixit and expect readers to accept their claims or even entertain them without accompanying substantial proof.
Wright also claims that the early Christians thought of heaven as an exclusive club (page 196). He subsequently quotes Acts 4:12 to support the argument that some early Christians thought that only those who believe in Jesus shall be favored with a heavenly afterlife. Whether some or all Christians believed that faith in Jesus was a prerequisite for experiencing heavenly bliss, the text in Acts 4:12 does not lend credence to Wright's argument. In my opinion, he fails to be analytic here. In other words, his conclusions clearly go beyond what the evidence (in this case Acts 4:12) suggests. Wright's allusion to Acts 4:12 might have stood if he would at least have offered a mini-exegesis of Acts 4:12; but he did not.
Despite these quibbles, I enjoyed reading Wright's monograph.