A few days ago I gave the opening part of the paper I read at a conference of New Testament scholars a couple of weeks ago, on the accounts of the afterlife in the Christian apocryphal book called Acts of Thomas (an account of Thomas’s missionary adventures in India), one of them involving a near death experienced that revealed the glories of heaven and the other a near death experience of the horrors of hell.

Most of the paper involved contrasting those two visions with comparable journeys to the underworld in earlier, more famous accounts, Homer’s description of Odysseus’s vision of the underworld in Odyssey book 11; Plato’s account of the near death experience of a soldier named Er in the Republic book 10; and Virgil’s discussion of Aeneas’s travels to the realms below in the Aeneid book 6.

I don’t need to describe these other accounts in detail here, since I’ve talked about them already on the blog some months ago; if you want to refresh your memory, they are here:






The basic point of my paper – and indeed, of the scholarly monograph I’m now writing on the topic – is that the Christian versions are very different and meant to attract readers as altogether …

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