Sunday, January 21, 2018


Perhaps It Is We Who Are Strange

Peter Brown, The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015), chapter 1 (page number unknown):
Altogether, we are dealing with a notion that causes acute embarrassment to modern persons. Such embarrassment is calculated to make the historian of religion sit up and take notice. Why is it that a way of speaking of the relation between heaven and earth that late antique and medieval Christians took for granted seems so very alien to us? Perhaps it is we who are strange.

Later in the same chapter:
Augustine found himself confronted by exactly the same questions. In order to reassure Laurentius, he took refuge in a trenchant formula. He offered what can best be called a Van Ness diagram of the other world. In this diagram, only in the area of overlap could ritual action by the living be thought to affect the fate of the dead.
I suspect that Van Ness is a mistake for Venn.

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