Inventing Hell: Dante, the Bible and Eternal Torment

Inventing Hell: Dante, the Bible and Eternal Torment

by Jon M. Sweeney
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Hell: The word means terror, darkness, and eternal separation from God. Some people think the Bible is clear about hell, but what if they're mistaken?

With gripping narrative and solid scholarship, Sweeney charts hell's "evolution" from the Old Testament underworld Sheol, through history and literature, to the greatest influencer of all: Dante's Inferno…  See more details below

Overview

Hell: The word means terror, darkness, and eternal separation from God. Some people think the Bible is clear about hell, but what if they're mistaken?

With gripping narrative and solid scholarship, Sweeney charts hell's "evolution" from the Old Testament underworld Sheol, through history and literature, to the greatest influencer of all: Dante's Inferno. He reveals how the modern idea of hell is based mostly on Dante's imaginative genius-but in the process, he offers a more constructive understanding of the afterlife than ever before.

Disturbing and enthralling, Sweeney will forever alter what we think happens to us after we die-and more importantly, he will make us reconsider how we live.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
06/01/2014
Independent scholar Sweeney (The Pope Who Quit) concludes this enjoyable little romp through Dante's epic Inferno by saying, "Dante would be pleased if we still feared his vision of Hell." Sweeney creatively argues that the Inferno is the first place where the rather imprecise vision of hell presented in the Bible is fleshed out. "Cleverly using Virgil and lots of funky myth," he writes, "Dante is the one who made eternal punishment exotic and real, as well as Christian." His approach is thematic and popular rather than scholarly and deconstructive. As points of comparison, he notes how the works of Homer, Plato, the Old Testament, the Qur'an, and even Aristotle and Cicero might have helped inform Dante's fleshed-out, more sinister vision of hell. For example, his comparison of the legendary roots of Holy Saturday to the Hades narratives of Odysseus and Orpheus is engaging and provocative, if a little irreverent. VERDICT While there is nothing fresh here for religious scholars, Sweeney offers a bit of fun for spiritual and historical seekers.—Sandra Collins, Byzantine Catholic Seminary Lib., Pittsburgh
Publishers Weekly
05/12/2014
Descending into the infernos of mythology, biblical stories, and history, Sweeney (The Pope Who Quit) becomes our Virgil, ably and cannily leading readers through the circles that culminate in the picture of Hell invented by Dante and that Christianity, and western culture, has long embraced. In a humorous voice that sometimes overreaches (“But if you’re asking such questions, don’t be such a ninny!”), he leads us through the concepts of the afterlife that existed before Dante that are found in Virgil and Plato, Islam and ancient Judaism, and various medieval apocalyptic sources, showing the lack of agreement among Christians about Hell prior to Dante. Yet Sweeney persuasively argues that in the 21st century we should read Dante not for his terror-filled allegory of Hell—we have enough of our own hells, according to Sweeney—but because Dante’s Inferno reveals the “pernicious effects of sin on human beings” and encourages examination of life’s most pressing questions in the process of making meaning in life. (June)
From the Publisher
"Sweeney becomes our Virgil, ably and cannily leading readers through the circles that culminate in the picture of Hell invented by Dante and that Christianity, and western culture, has long embraced."—Publishers Weekly"

An inquisitive and theologically relevant conversation starter about the difficulty of tracking myths' migrations across cultures and about their ability to spawn new myths for pondering the unknowable."—The Christian Century"

Jon Sweeney succeeds in giving historical and literary backup to what many of us have concluded theologically: If God is presented as one who actually tortures those who do not like him, we have a God who does not 'practice what he preaches!'"


Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation"

I don't recommend a stay in hell. But I highly recommend this book on it!"—James Martin, SJ, author, Jesus: A Pilgrimage"

Beguiling and totally delicious...solidly crafted and deadly serious. Sweeney has taken on one of the most convoluted and dangerous areas of theology and deftly shown not only its ideational history, but also its human ramifications. His scholarship is impeccable and his sense of humor ubiquitous. Dante himself would have loved this one!"—Phyllis Tickle, author, The Age of the Spirit"

I don't recommend a stay in hell. But I highly recommend this book on it!"—James Martin, SJ, author, Jesus: A Pilgrimage"

Clear and engaging... How refreshing to read a book which recognizes that fear does not inspire morality and no one faith is given the key to paradise. In fact, it's heavenly!"—Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Director of Religion, Butler University"

If you let Jon Sweeney be your tour guide to Hell, you'll love the journey. You'll learn a lot about what you thought was in the Bible, but isn't, and about what you thought you knew about Hell, but now need to rethink. Jon's writing is a delight on every page."—Brian D. McLaren, author, We Make the Road by Walking"

Far from a dry, academic discourse INVENTING HELL makes for great reading. The book reveals the little known confluence of theology, culture, and literature that has shaped our notions of the afterlife. Every minister, priest, rabbi, and sheikh needs to read this book, and so do we all."—Rabbi David Zaslow, author, Jesus: First-Century Rabbi

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455582235
Publisher:
FaithWords
Publication date:
06/17/2014
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
682,427
File size:
942 KB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Jon M. Sweeney is an independent scholar, culture critic, and popular speaker with 25 years of experience in spirituality trade publishing. Raised a fundamentalist Protestant, today Jon is a Catholic who prefers a monastic-style practice.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >