In this short thread I’m trying to explain the difference between a trade book for a general audience and an academic book for scholars, through example.  In my  previous post I gave the beginning couple of pages of my trade book with Simon and Schuster, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife.

The academic book coming out on April 5 is not covering the same material but is dealing with a related aspect of it, and at a much deeper level.  The book does not pursue the question of where the ideas of heaven and hell came from (the topic of the trade book), but rather explores narrated journeys to the realms of the dead in a range of ancient texts.   The book is called Journeys to Heaven and Hell in the Early Christian Tradition (Yale University Press).

You can get some basic sense of the different levels of the two books by comparing the way they begin.  So, in contrast with the trade book from yesterday, here is the academic book.

(Again: Please don’t worry about typos or other kinds of mistakes: this is simply a typed out version that hasn’t been copy-edited)


Scholars have paid surprisingly little attention to the “journeys to the afterlife” in the early Christian tradition.[i]  The oldest surviving account is the Apocalypse of Peter, first circulated in the early part of the second century; the most famous is the late-fourth-century Apocalypse of Paul, probably known to Dante.  Important as well are two Near Death Experiences narrated in the Acts of Thomas and Christ’s “Descent to Hell” in the Gospel of Nicodemus, one of the most theologically influential narratives from outside the biblical canon.  All these visits of the living to the realms of the dead informed Christian imagination and played significant roles in Christian theology, ethics, and evangelism.  It is difficult to explain their relatively sparse treatment.

My study

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