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Differentiated Fates: Only An Elite View?

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Chapter Summary

The term “immortality” is ambiguous both in ancient texts and in modern scholarly works. In its literal meaning, it denotes life without death, that is, everlasting life. To distinguish “real” immortality from the passive existence, some scholars refer to the “real” immortality as a “positive” or “meaningful” or “beatific” or “real, upward” afterlife. The problem of such definitions is that they exclude the “negative” afterlife, that is, postmortem punishments. In this chapter, the author talks about “personal” afterlife. Regardless of the several descriptions of life after death in literature, scholars tend to minimize their value as useful witnesses to general beliefs. Philosophers and other ancient authors represent only the literate elite and the ideas reflected in their writings should not be generalized. Many scholars claim that, in the overall history of Greek eschatology, the belief in a differentiated fate after death was a minor trend.

Keywords: differentiated fate; Greek eschatology; immortality; literate elite; passive existence; personal afterlife; scholars



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