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

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0385422994
ISBN-10: 0385422997
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Product Details

  • File Size: 2598 KB
  • Print Length: 882 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385422997
  • Publisher: Image (June 9, 2010)
  • Publication Date: June 23, 2010
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003F3PKMW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,199 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover
Humans are, so far as we know, the only animal that concerns itself with what happens to us after we die. We don't even like to use the word die, we say passed away, crossed the river Jordan, or other terms. ==A major aspect of western religion is defining life after death. And in this monumental work, the origin and evolution of afterlife thoughts are traced. He begins with the Egyptions, where a life after death theology began to be developed. He thoroughly examines other early cultures such as Mesopotamia, Canaan, Greece, etc.

Finally he gets into the big three of western religions, first he covers Jewish views (Dr. Segal is a professor of Jewish studies at Columbia). Christian views come largely from Paul (Dr. Segal wrote a definitive book on Paul.) and the Gospels. For Islam, of course the Qur'an and some of the more modern writings are used.

In spite of the books large size (about 730 pages of text plus 150 pages of notes) it is fascinating enough and well written enough that it is relatively easy reading.
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Format: Hardcover
For many Christians, recitation of the Apostles' Creed is a rote part of Sunday morning's liturgy. And most worshipers more than likely routinely repeat phrases they've repeated Sunday after Sunday without giving much or any thought to what they're saying. "Resurrection of the dead" I suspect is one of those affirmations that roll politely off the tongue while conveniently by-passing the gray matter. My hunch is that people assume they're making a belief statement about the resurrection of Jesus not their own physical, corporeal resurrection.

Segal's book picks up where Oscar Cullman left off and goes into exhaustive and fascinating detail as to how the idea of an afterlife came to be in the Western world. Cullman's little book (Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead) is must reading. In less than a hundred pages, Cullman details the differences between the pagan notion of an immortal soul and the Jewish/Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead--real bodies being raised in the last days. Life After Death begins with those same pagans and then offers an extremely well-documented history of various religion's views of the afterlife. This is not an afternoon read.

What I found most fascinating about Segal's book was the way he demonstrated the connection between the different philosophical ideas and the religious belief system(s) that inherited or appropriated its predecessor. One must make a leap of faith at times with his connections (no proof can be made that an early Christian said, "Plato's Phaedra makes sense to me!"), but the bridges he makes are convincing and cited with care. Gnosticism is but one compelling example of such a connection.

Apart from the historical aspect, one may ask, "So what? What difference does it make?
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Format: Hardcover
Alan Segal's tour de force is in the French tradition of the "longue duree" approach to social history. "Life After Death" follows the late Phillippe Aries's magisterial "The Hour Of Our Death" back in the 1980s but where it differs from its predecessor is its not concerned so much with the "ars moriendi," the so called art of dying as it is with how Western religions and philosophies have dealt with the hereafter down through the ages. At nearly 800 pages its an exhaustive treatment on a subject people have speculated on since the dawn of civilization and when you finish it, its clear most of mankind will never be reconciled to the notion this life is all there is. Highly recommended reading.
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