Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence

Article excerpt

A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence. By Jeffrey Burton Russell. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1997. Pp. xv, 220. $24.95.) In his preface Jeffrey Burton Russell states that he hopes "this present book will be a prolegomenon to a detailed, multivolume study of heaven" (p. xv), a study that all medievalists who admire his careful research and lucid style must eagerly await. Until then, the present volume provides a taste of what is to come in the form of an introduction for the general reader to "the human concept of heaven" (p. 3). Although Russell displays, as expected, a wide command of the sources, the book limits its scholarly apparatus to a mere forty-four footnotes, although it includes a healthy bibliography (pp. 191-210).

A History of Heaven follows the structure of Russell's four highly respected studies of evil-The Devil, Satan, Lucifer, and Mephistopheles-by being organized chronologically. After a conceptual first chapter,"Understanding Heaven," it moves rather quickly in a series of short chapters through classical and Jewish views (chap. 2), early Christian theology (chap. 3), the influence of Greek concepts of the body and soul (chap. 4), eastern and western Christian theologians (chap. 5), monastic spirituality (chap. 6), otherworld journeys (chap. 7), scholastic notions (chaps. 8, 9), mysticism (chap. 10), and Dante (chaps. 11,12). Chapter 13,"Hearing the Silence," provides a short conclusion.

Not surprisingly, such a quick survey does not provide much opportunity for original contributions to scholarship. But this deficiency is more than balanced by numerous personal insights and a series of fascinating comments. Russell explains that "This book is a personal as well as historical statement. I believe in the Christian concept of heaven, not in the sense that this concept can fully or exclusively represent a reality that is beyond all human imagination and understanding, but in the sense that it, like other traditions, opens toward that reality. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.