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A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence [Paperback]

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Item description for A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence by Jeffrey Burton Russell...

Well-known for his historical accounts of Satan and hell, Jeffrey Burton Russell here explores the brighter side of eternity: heaven. Dispensing with the cliche images of goodness that can make even heaven seem unbearable, the author stimulates our imagination with a history of how the joy of paradise has been conceived by writers, philosophers, and artists for whom heaven was an imminent reality. Russell not only explores concepts found among the ancient Jews, Greeks, and Romans as well as early and medieval Christians, but also addresses the intellectual problems heaven poses: how does time "pass" in eternity? is heaven a place or a state? who is in and who is not? what happens to the body and soul between death and Judgment Day? Russell stresses that the best way to approach the logic-defying concept of a place occupying neither space nor time is through poetry and paradox, and through the visions of such mystics as Bernard, Julian of Norwich, and Eckhart.

After the Revelation of Saint John the Divine, the most sublime and encompassing portrait of heaven to date has come not from a theologian but from a poet--Dante Alighieri in his "Divine Comedy." Russell's history of heaven culminates in a lively analysis of how Dante described the glories of the indescribable. The unsurpassed images of light, movement, and community that Dante uses so skillfully to convey the presence of God are rooted in the Jewish picture of heaven as a garden or court and in the Greek picture of the Elysian Fields.

Using current scholarly insights together with a vast store of knowledge gathered from the past, Russell takes the idea of heaven as valid and important in itself--something to be understood from the point of view of those believing in it. His very use of language immerses us in the thoughts of those who have sought heaven and provides rich material for contemplation.

Citations And Professional Reviews
A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence by Jeffrey Burton Russell has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Christianity Today - 06/01/2003 page 41

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Princeton University Press
Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.13" Width: 6.05" Height: 0.62"
Weight:   0.82 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 3, 1999
Publisher   Princeton University Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0691006849  
ISBN13  9780691006840  

Availability  77 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 22, 2016 03:41.
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More About Jeffrey Burton Russell

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JEFFREY BURTON RUSSELL is Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has contributed numerous articles to scholarly journals and reference volumes and is the author of 16 other books on medieval history, the history of religion, and intellectual history, including "A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence" (1997).

Jeffrey Burton Russell currently resides in the state of California.

Jeffrey Burton Russell has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Cistercian Studies
  2. Cornell Paperbacks

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Fiction & Poetry > Poetry
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Eschatology
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

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Reviews - What do customers think about A History of Heaven?

A perfectly rapturous lecture series  Jan 13, 2008
Russell seems to lecture in a rapture of joy on the subject of heaven. While explaining the history of spiritual dreams he remains perfectly scholarly, but thrilled by his subject. We see him before the class, proclaiming humanity's ultimate visions of life:

"Heaven is the state of being in which all are united in love with one another and with God. It is an agapé, a love feast. Whenever less than the whole world is loved, with all the creatures in it, whenever anyone or anything is excluded from love, the result is isolation and retreat from heaven. Heaven is the community of those whom God loves and who love God." (p. 5)

The lighter side of Jeffrey Russell  Oct 2, 2004
Many people are familiar with Russell's publications on Evil i.e. the Devil, so I was extremely interested in his thoughts on the lighter side of evil. His previous books focused on Christian attitudes and this book is no exception. It is a superb account. The book culminates in the works of Dante, which is no surprise, esp. if you have read his previous books. Although I enjoyed his books on evil, it is nice to know he also contemplates on good.
Focuses only on the Christian Account of Heaven  Jun 5, 2004
A History of Heaven by Jeffrey Burton Russell, takes a decidedly Christian approach to the idea of heaven, and its evolution through the ages - up until the writing of Dante, where he says, all things consummate were consociated and reworded into the current popular picture of heaven. Buying the book, I was expecting it to be a survey and evolutionary look at heaven and the idea of paradisiacal afterlife from Neanderthal to present societies, but instead it turned out to take a definite Christian approach. The author mentions in passing the ideas of Islam and Judaism, but informs the reader he knowledge of these cultures is limited so he will maintain his focus on the Christian Ideal. It is a great reader for those interested in the early Church and it's ideas on Heaven, including some speculative origins, but it is not a true "history" of heaven, limited only to the Christian Theology as well as the period 200BCE to about 1500CE. A good reader nonetheless.

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