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Too Much Money and the Afterlife

In a previous post I talked about the very funny satirical dialogue of the second-century pagan Lucian of Samosata, “Voyage to the Underworld” in which an unbelievably wealthy tyrant became incredibly miserable after death, because he realized that all his power, influence, and massive wealth had been stripped from him, and would be, for all eternity, whereas a poor cobbler who had lived a miserably impoverished existence was rather pleased that he no longer would starve and freeze nearly to death ever again. The point of the dialogue is pretty obvious.  If you are deeply attached to the material things of this life, you are courting your own disaster.  That’s not what you should be living for. At about the same time as Lucian was writing an anonymous Christian author produced a book known as the Acts of Thomas.  This is the first legendary account we have of the apostle Thomas, famous for (allegedly) being the first missionary to take the gospel to India.  Unlike the work of Lucian, the account is not meant to [...]

A Satirical Lesson about the Afterlife

One of the things I’m planning to emphasize in my scholarly book on voyages to the afterlife, is that the overarching point of most of these narratives is not only (or even primarily) to reveal what will actually happen to people after they die, but to encourage them to live in certain ways now, while they can.  This is true not only for the Christian accounts but for pagan ones as well. One of the most hilarious authors from Greco-Roman antiquity is Lucian of Samosata, a second-century CE author who wrote numerous satires that we still have, poking fun at philosophers, religious leaders, tyrants, and most anyone who he thought led a ridiculous life or had ridiculous views.  A number of his works portray fictitious journeys to the realms of the dead. One of them is often simply titled “Voyage to the Underworld.”  It is about the stark contrast between a fabulously wealthy tyrant named Megapenthes and a dirt-poor cobbler named Mycillus.  The contrast is not so much between their ultimate fates – they both, [...]

2020-04-03T02:02:21-04:00September 7th, 2017|Afterlife, Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|
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