Monday, February 05, 2007

BOOK REVIEW at Bryn Mawr Classical Review:
Leif Carlsson, Round Trips to Heaven: Otherworldly Travelers in Early Judaism and Christianity. Lund Studies in History of Religions, 19. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2004. Pp. 398. ISBN 91-22-02106-X. $99.50.

Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus, Hilpoltstein (

Word count: 1686 words

This is the printed version of Leif Carlsson's dissertation prepared under the auspices of his adviser, Tord Olsson (Professor of Comparative Religion), at Lund University, Sweden. Carlsson (C.) addresses a common topic for the period between 200 B.C.E. to 200 C.E., one which is only partly correctly expressed by 'Round Trips to Heaven', because he also deals with other kinds of 'otherworldly' trips to locations that are often everything but heavenly. Basically, this monograph consists of two books in one volume: the first comprises heavenly journey texts that may be denominated as 'Old Testament Pseudepigraphy' (with the exception of 2Corinthians 12:1-5) according to the title of the classical two volumes edited by James H. Charlesworth and published in 1983, while the second is exclusively dedicated to 3Baruch ('A Journey into Death's Waiting Room') and could have formed a book on its own. Everybody who is interested in apocalyptic literature in general and in the specific motif of 'heavenly journeys' in particular will get a sound introduction to the most relevant texts. Profound knowledge in this field of research is not required, because the texts are presented in English only (except 2Corinthians and 3Baruch) and supplemented with introductory sections. Be that as it may and apart from some methodological inconsistencies, Carlsson's study is a significant contribution to the discussion of otherworldly trips in the Jewish and Christian literature of the period of time addressed.

The review also mentions the online Arbeitshilfen für das Studium der Pseudepigraphen, which I had not seen before. It looks pretty useful, but it seems not to have been updated since April of 2003 and so is getting out of date.

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