Back to my scholarly monograph on Otherworldly Journeys.   I pointed out in previous posts that when scholars became particularly interested in these various accounts in ancient Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian circles, they were particularly intrigued with the question of where the idea came from, that a living person could see the realms of the dead.  I then devoted a couple of posts to exploring why, in the 19th century, this was a matter of such interest.

I don’t at all deny that this question of “origins” is important, but I’m not particularly interested in pursuing myself.   There is already enough of that, for my taste!  I’m interested in other things, and am somewhat surprised that other scholars have not wanted to pursue them at greater length.   My book will not be an exhaustive study of the phenomenon – that would require several books, or, for at least a pretense of comprehensiveness, a book of over 600 pages.  And my days of 600-page books are over.

I will instead be picking my spots and pursuing particular points of interest to me, with a focus on the Christian examples of these journeys/visions in light of others in other cultures.  (Recall: these are called “katabasis” traditions; katabasis is a Greek word that means “going down,” and as a technical term it refers to someone going down to view the underworld, and then coming back to describe it.)

At the outset, in the first chapter, I will probably explore, briefly, four different katabasis traditions from four different cultures:  Homer’s Odyssey, book 11 (Greek); Virgil’s Aeneid, book 6 (Roman); The Testament of Abraham (Jewish); and the Apocalypse of Paul (Christian).   The point of that chapter will be …

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